I’ve got this sort-of friend. Every time we’re together, catching up over a swift skinny decaf latte (kill me, I’ve become that person), I’m spellbound by her ritual self-adoration. She starts by twirling her endlessly long blonde hair around a professionally manicured nail, (in Essie’s Ballet Slippers, the quintessential non-offensive pale pink,) before moving on to massaging cream into her elegant hands in precise, languid strokes.
A minute skips by, and she’s checking that her crimson lipstick is Marilyn perfect - it is, even after we’ve eaten and mine is all over my face in homage to The Joker. And I’m still sat here, in case you were wondering, as she does all this – using our lunch as a pit stop for her beautifying, before fluttering off to her next friend-appointment.
With her outer perfection so utterly enamoring, I’m truly convinced her life is an idyllic mélange of perfection and beauty too. How can that not be the case for somebody who is perpetually ‘summer-ready’? I haven’t been ready for summer my entire life - it always seems to take me by surprise, every year. And I’d bet my entire collection of Lenore comics, that she’s never had to do the early morning shave-your-legs-in-the-sink-thing, seconds before leaving the house. (Please tell me somebody else has done that? I’m on a limb here, literally.)
I can’t help but be envious of her vanity – I want to be that kind of person that perfection comes easily to. Rather than the kind that creates a perfectly drawn in eyebrow, then smears it all across her face with a hand within the hour. So I’ve taken to watching her, out of the corner of my eye. Devouring the way she is in every miniscule detail – taking notes in my mind on how to be flawless. She’s an actress, performing on demand, when the admiring gaze – be it male or female – is cast her way. She flashes her mesmerizingly hollow eyes, giggles at opportune moments, uses every flirtatious move made; orchestrated with needlepoint precision.
The unbearable comparison was starting to get to me. It’s like being at a wedding. It’s someone else’s big expensive day; but you end up thinking entirely about yourself, in a bullet-fire of self-doubt (Am I settling? Will I ever get married? Is that really an ice sculpture of the couple or have I sent myself batshit crazy with this crippling inner monologue?) That was until the moment I saw that her self-obsession had tipped over into every area of her life.
She excused herself for a moment to cancel an evening with friends to spray tan and go to power-plates. Her downtrodden boyfriend rang and she spoke to him like a mere annoyance, a thorn in her otherwise-perfect day. As a dribble of coffee licks down the side of my cup, my so-called friend explains her 10-year plan for botox and fillers (her exact words) and I feel her mesmerizing spell beginning to splinter. In that sliver of a moment, the antithesis to her visage is revealed.
Suddenly, the idea of perfection, the one thing I’ve been inwardly coveting my whole life, doesn’t seem quite such an attractive prospect as just, being.