Monday, March 2, 2009

Your Cuteness Quotient

I have had several conversations recently with people who feel like their lives are not turning out quite the way they had planned.  These conversations reminded me of this revelation I had, compliments of Oprah.
Quite a number of years ago, I saw an Oprah show in which your “cuteness quotient” was discussed.  This topic (while not exactly on the level of global warming or the effects of transfatty foods on our arteries) was revelational.  The main speaker and Oprah were lamenting the many ways that they, over the years, had tried to imitate someone else’s "cuteness", often unsuccessfully .  They might have seen a particular outfit or hairstyle that looked great on someone else, only to have it look ridiculous on themselves because they did not take into account their particular body or hair type.  They talked about the importance of realizing what, exactly, YOU have to work with, and making the most of it…finding YOUR “Cuteness Quotient”.
It reminded me of a friend of mine who confessed to really REALLY wanting a Farah hairstyle, back in the day.  This friend has naturally curly dark hair so on her, the “Farah” hair (which she painstakingly curled every morning with her curling iron) more closely resembled a couple of fat links of bratwursts on either side of her head than the long blonde flowing mane of gorgeous locks belonging to any of Charlie’s Angles.   When she came to accept the fact that her hair was never going to look like Farah’s, her cuteness quotient began to rise.  She has beautiful curly hair and is no longer in denial about that.
For me, this Oprah revelation meant (among a huge list of things) that I needed to accept the fact that I was never, ever going to be curvy in any way shape or form, and I needed to stop wearing the padded bras once and for all.  My goal became keeping my stomach smaller than my chest, so at least I looked like I had some resemblance of a chest-area, and ‘go with it’.  It was liberating!  It took my attention off of what I wanted to do to be like everybody else and helped me to see that being uniquely me was not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing.  I can only work with what I’ve got.
As I have listened to these friends of mine recently talk about their lives, and how they are not turning out like they had envisioned them, I thought about that Oprah show, and realized that there is some equivalent form of the “Cuteness Quotient”, but for our lives.  We sometimes spend a lot of time trying to take on the image or style of someone else’s life.  For me, I had this combination of the Waltons, the Cleavers, and Jeannie, that I thought I could try to replicate in order to create this ideal family and life.  The Walton children all got along and stayed out of trouble – mine did not.  June Cleaver was always dressed nice, had great manners, and was ready at a moment’s notice to host her husband’s boss – not me.  Jeannie was built great, had time for fun, traipsed around in sexy outfits, and kept a spotless house – I never mastered that simultaneously…and that body?  Forgiddabouddit!
Many of us will never have the Norman Rockwell holidays, or the blissful harmony of the Brady Bunch in our blended families.  More often than not the mischief our kids get into is not solved in a 30-minute block of time that concludes with the good ol’ dad waxing philosophically about the struggles of growing up, while the kids sit at his knee totally enthralled with his depths of wisdom.  Rarely do I find my husband and me, Mike-and-Carol-Brady-style, relaxing in bed in the evening, him reading the paper while I read my novel, talking about how great it was that we could coolly divert a crisis involving the children and keep our maid towing the line all at the same time.
The reality of life is that the holidays often bring stresses of unattainable expectations and memories of failures past.  That gift we searched and searched for is not met with the enthusiasm that we were sure it would guarantee, and we get pissed.   Getting the kids prepared for life sometimes involves major screw-ups on the parts of the kids as well as the parents that can be difficult, and at times impossible to reverse.  And sometimes we find ourselves alone to figure it all out.  It stinks.  None of that makes for a very good TV show.
If you are feeling like things are a huge disappointment for you, maybe you need to reevaluate your life-quotient.  There is absolutely no way to change your past.  You can’t go back.  All you can do is move forward from this point on.  Look at your life as if you are examining yourself naked in a full-length mirror.  Take in all of the sags and wrinkles and blemishes…everything.  Realize that this thing that you see in front of you is what you have to work with and own it.  You can’t trade it in anymore than you can trade your coarse curly hair for someone else’s baby-fine straight hair.  You can’t trade it in anymore than you can trade being 5’2” for being 6’1”.  It can’t happen.  You can’t trade the person who gave birth to you for a different model.  You can’t trade your childhood for someone else’s.  It is what it is, even if it is very, very difficult.   It is up to you to make the most of what you have from this point on, and understand that it most likely will not look like anyone else’s life.  When you realize that, you will see your quotient start to rise…

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