I like to think I'm immune to most advertising. The latest gadget? No, thank you. Half the time I don't fully know how to operate the ones I've got. A new car? Hell no. We're counting down the days until we can pay off the two that we already have. Occasionally a well-timed McAllister's commercial during football season has influenced our lunch plans, but that's about it.
But there's more.
No, the advertising that gets me isn't advertising as such. Instead, it's the Facebook posts, Instagram shapshots and Pinterest posts of acquaintances showcasing their perfectly decorated and impeccably tidy home. I saw a blog post from an acquaintance in my sorority who frequently posts about decorating her home. I took a look, and wow. Who has white everything in their home? White walls, white sofa, white pillows and curtains and picture frames and vases. All that white in my home would make me feel like I was living in a mental institution. And yes, some days I may need to be there, but I don't need my living room to announce that to the world.
So it's advertising, yes, but a more insidious kind, a more dangerous kind. It's not promoting consumption; it's promoting comparison. It's not selling a product, it's selling a lifestyle. But lifestyles can't be bought - and I'm so over it. I look at those photos and wonder why the hell I can't get my house to look like that, and I'm so tired of it.
Do these women (for they are, indeed, mostly women) in these perfect houses have actual, real, living, breathing male husbands? Because I do. And with absolutely zero malice and full respect, I'll say that just as I do, B makes messes. Used drinking glasses land on the counter rather than in the dishwasher. Socks don't always make it into the laundry basket. Invariably a sloppy meal leads to new stains on a freshly laundered tablecloth. White furniture? Seriously?!
But I wouldn't trade B for ANY man on this earth, much less one of the Stepford husbands that some women of my age apparently have. And I'm certainly not going to tiptoe around my own home, petrified of ruining the magazine-spread look. Who lives like that?
Not us. And not the people we love, either. A group of five of us here in Greenville, nicknamed "The Murmurers" frequently meet at the home of one couple. A year or so ago we met at their condo for an evening of food, fellowship, and, well, wine. Said couple has three absolutely beautiful children, and their toys were scattered around the living room. The wife sighed and said, "My mother would kill me if she knew I had people over with the house looking like this."
Like what, exactly? Like people actually live there? Like three kind, funny, and adorable children are engaged in the important business of being kids? Like they, as a family, actually dare to be real? Their house is one of my very favorite to visit. I can wear (and have worn) pajamas over to their house, and no one bats an eye. I can accept a glass of red wine or a cup of coffee without worrying I'll ruin a kazillion-dollar sofa. I can take my shoes off, sit on the floor, and play with their darling 18-month-old. That comment has stuck with me for a few years now, because in my opinion they have one of the warmest, homiest homes I've ever had the pleasure to visit. That's what I want our new home to be.
I don't want a sofa so pristine that guests (or us!) are scared to sit down, much less relax with a glass of wine. I don't want decorations so fussy that people tiptoe around our house like a museum. I don't want the perfectly coordinated decor that looks great on Instagram photos but has absolutely zero soul, personality, or connection to who we are.
Side note: I still believe in minimalism and less "stuff." I'm not suggesting you run out and buy a bunch of new crap. In fact, you (and us, too) could probably stand to get rid of a bunch of stuff. I suppose my point is that you shouldn't ever feel bad because you don't have the latest and greatest (and most expensive) Pottery Barn sofa, or because your rug, curtains, comforter, bed skirt, and knickknacks on the bedside table aren't from the same "collection." Be eclectic - just with less.
And yes, I want to paint and buy a king bed and a new comforter. But that's because I want to make our new home ours, not because I want to make it somebody else's definition of perfect. And I might want some curtains, but I also I want our old, extremely comfy sofa with a few random spots on it. I want "nose art" on the bottom half of the glass door. I want the bright orange and purple Clemson fleece blanket made for B by his mother and grandmother. I want our slightly chipped wine cabinet, the old butcher-block table and hutch from my childhood, and my late grandmother's two bookcases full to bursting with the fruits of my endless book acquisition. None of this matches. I don't care. I want real. I want us.
And I want you with me. Say yes to authenticity. Just say no to comparison, guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and jealousy. It's a time-suck and energy-suck. Those of you whom I know are reading this (aka, relatives and friends), you are more than worthy. Take back your house. Take back your life. Embrace your real life, because it's what I love you for.
A good designer can create a Pinterest-worthy house, but it takes a good person - an authentic person - to create a home. Be that person. Post pictures of YOUR real home to whatever social media you prefer (I'm an Instagram gal, myself), with the hashtag #realisthenewperfect. Let's start a movement, and use social media for good. Let's be real.