“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
[Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996]”
― Nora Ephron
As a child, I tried to please to gain my mother’s attention. I colored meticulously in the lines and got straight A’s. As a teen, I strove to have a perfect body but did not have good material to work with. As hard as I tried, I was not beautiful nor popular. It all was for naught. Trying to be perfect did not curry affection.
Around 40 years-old I had had enough of being a perfectionist. It was making me miserable. I decided if you can’t be perfect, strive to be interesting. I started breaking free by doing small acts of rebellion. It began with my artwork…..
I quit practicing calligraphy. Making perfectly proportioned letters gave way to altered, skewed forms. I gave up working on the wheel in ceramics shunning symmetry for wonky, sometimes smooshed, handbuilt pieces. The female figure became a lovely opportunity to distort and exaggerate. There are often holes where breasts should be, with huge hips & thighs going counter to what our culture celebrates.
I avoid drawing straight lines preferring to make them wavy or zigzagged.
When I began teaching (I started late), I changed the Ms. in my name to Mz. Pass. When students questioned that choice I responded that I really liked the letter Z. It was a horribly underused letter of the alphabet and I thought it worked better in this application. That explanation seemed to satisfy their 6th-grade minds.
I use a “coffee name” at Starbuck’s or equivalent when I order. This habit started out since no one could seem to write or pronounce my name correctly. Zelda became my alias but I am having so much fun having a different name I am considering trying on others for size. Olivia or maybe Ophelia?
My latest is leaving the gender and marital status blank on forms when possible. For race I check “other.”
These small acts might seem ridiculous to some, but for myself, a recovering perfectionist, they are oddly liberating. I am always on the lookout for other creative ways to break the rules. For more on my crusade against perfection go to my post, “Escaping Perfection.”
In the meantime, remember…If you can’t be perfect, strive to be interesting.
You’ll be so much happier!