I don’t usually read magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living or Good Housekeeping. I have nothing against them. They’re fun, they’re just not my thing.
Yesterday, however, I was stuck in a small dental waiting room a few feet from a television blaring one of those supremely annoying shows where a rich couple fret over whether to spend $450000 on this luxury home or that one. I buried my nose in magazines to get away from the angst.
I learned three things from the magazines. First of all, I’m a slob. I knew this already, but I didn’t know the extent. I had no idea that Christmas decorations are not only supposed to match each other, but the general decor of the room as well. Every year, Rosie and I cut out snowflakes and paper angels to tape in the window, cut colorful construction paper strips for paper chains in the doorway, and buy a few strands of Dollar Tree’s tackiest fuzzy tinsel garlands for the banister; then we lug out the tree and cover it in candy canes and a hodgepodge of keepsake souvenir ornaments and homemade crafts. This is wrong. What we’re supposed to do is have a neutral-toned living room with white walls and taupe rugs, so that the lush gem tones of our specially purchased coordinated ornaments don’t overpower the “pop” of the emerald-green sofa. I didn’t know sofas were supposed to “pop;” generally, when I think of popping associated with sofas, I think of springs popping through the upholstery, and having to go to the thrift store for a new one. But that’s because I’m a slob. Sofas have to pop, walls have to be neutral, and Christmas ornaments have to match. Don’t say I never taught you anything.
Secondly, I’m a bad cook. I’ve chronicled my culinary efforts before, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. But every year Rosie and I look up a bunch of recipes from Gluten Free on a Shoestring and make two to four different kinds of cookie, and they do taste quite good. We ice the sugar cookies with store-bought icing and sprinkles, save all the broken and ugly ones to eat ourselves, and bring a plate of the few pretty ones to the Friendship Room. That’s wrong. We’re supposed to make innovative, amusing and stunningly picturesque pastries for our “holiday entertaining,” most of them should involve feta cheese, and none should have store-bought icing or sprinkles.
I also don’t see anything in the magazines about spending Christmas evening downtown caroling for the fire fighters and shut-ins with the Friendship Room, but it sounds like brilliant fun and, chronic fatigue permitting, I think I’m going to try to do it. If you’re in Steubenville or the surrounding area, join us!
I also learned from the magazines that people who decorate and cook properly for Christmas are miserably sad all the time. There were ads for antidepressant medication every several pages. I remember from the magazines at Rose’s pediatrician’s office that parenting magazines always have ads for birth control and children’s ADHD medicine, and that made a certain amount of sense to me. But housekeeping and decorating magazines are full of ads for antidepressants and stronger drugs to combine with your antidepressants to make them work faster. If the advertising in magazines is any indication, being an extravagant, perfectionistic decorator and hostess makes people sad.
I can believe it does– there, in the waiting room, trying not to listen to dissatisfied rich people obsess over houses, reading about expensive decor and popping sofas, I was getting pretty sad myself.
Obviously, all kidding aside, there’s a huge difference between miserable and actual clinical depression. If you really think you have a medical condition, don’t come to bloggers for advice, seek qualified help and do what it takes to get better. You didn’t come down with a mental health struggle because you care too much about the wrong things and you shouldn’t beat yourself up with worrying that you did. That’s a whole other ball of wax.
But I’m really getting the impression that pouring extravagant amounts of money and effort into having luxurious homes, impeccable decor and perfect Christmas parties makes people miserable. The people on television were miserable, I was miserable just thinking about it, no one in the magazine seemed to be having fun either.
I don’t think we’re supposed to do it.
Being hospitable is important. Putting effort into making a party or holiday special for guests is a good thing, and even a virtue– as long as you’d be even more lavish for the poor guest who couldn’t pay you back than for the comfortable guest you’re trying to impress. Knowing how to keep a nice, tasteful home that’s comfortable and welcoming for everyone living there is an important skill– as long as you’re also making provision for people who don’t have the means to do the same in their own homes. Treating yourself and your family is normal, and good for you– as long as you also treat people who can’t afford treats. It’s all right to have nice things, as long as you share with those who don’t have nice things. The right amount to share, is a bit more than you can comfortably afford. Give til it hurts.
But no matter how much time, skill and money you have at your disposal, I honestly don’t think you should pour that much of it into making yourself, your holidays and all your surroundings pampered and perfect. Perfection isn’t achievable in this world anyway, so the quest for it is necessarily going to be unending. Unending quests are tiresome, and they’ll make you miserable.
The first step to happiness just might be putting down the magazine, having an ugly sprinkle cookie and allowing yourself to do Christmas wrong.
(image via Pixabay)