The picture of Prince George with his sister Princess Charlotte is a perfectly poised image. It reminds me of a picture that I carry of my grandson at the same age in the same position holding his baby sister. The difference is that while Prince George is spotlessly clean and well groomed, my grandson who was prepped for the picture to be spotlessly clean, had managed to sneak a piece of chocolate and pop it into his mouth right before the click of the camera. The camera captured the tell-tell sign of chocolate dripping down the side of his mouth. Needless to say, the photo was rejected for its “imperfection”. It remains one of my favorite photographs. It captures the impish features of a 2 year old who, much as he was awed by a baby sister who looked more like a cabbage patch doll, thought that it was just as okay to be eating a piece of chocolate at the same time. Perfect for him…imperfect for the parents.
Among the many pieces of furniture that I have in my home which have been handed down to me from my parents’ home are two foot stools. They are bow legged with scratches and scuff marks, and the original two tone wood stain gloss varnish has faded to an almost matte finish. They are my favorite piece of furniture. Not because they are lovely, with their beautifully proportioned carvings of figurines on their short legs. They are my favorite because of the scuffs from the generation of children in our families standing on them, using them as table tops, and placing on them their plates of food. They are my favorite because they have indentations from the hard-pressed lettering of kids who didn’t like homework, and from kids who over eagerly learned to use crayons. They have edges that are scratched from kids who used them as building blocks and drove matchbox cars under, on and around them. Now my grandchildren use them to stand on and reach for things, among other uses that go undetected. I treasure these stools not in spite of their imperfections, but because of them. The imperfections are what make them attractive.
As a girl who grew up with women magazines that created an entire culture of perfection-based exploits, I now find myself wiser to the messages that these magazines promote in order to sell products. Buy this product to look more beautiful; use this to hide blemishes; add sexy satin shine to naturally dull hair; do this to attract perfect guys; do that to stimulate more responses; liposuction for a perfect body; laser treat sagging skin for the perfect glow; even low libido? We can fix that too. In other words, every product assumes I am flawed and promises to bring me closer to perfection. Don’t misunderstand. I have no issue with using products that will aid in overall appearance or performance, but I do have a problem with the presupposition that I am (or you are) flawed. That my imperfections are seen as faulty or that they are problems that need fixing is the premise I argue against. It is our uniqueness that makes us desirable, intriguing and beautiful beings. There is no perfection. There are imperfections that personalize our lives.
This leads me to the realization that it is the imperfections, the dents and potholes, the misadventures that bring memories flooding back: I will remember taking the wrong train to find myself among the sheep herders’ wagon; or a flat tire as the best part of a miserable trip. I won’t forget strangers finding us a place to stay when we were so very, very lost; or an honest mistake in a restaurant that left us well fed but with a lesson learned. I will recall getting soaked on the way to the theater in an unexpected summer rainstorm; or a burst of childish laughter in the seriousness of a situation; even our heads bumping as they moved toward a kiss. These are imperfections that punctuate life and flood the memories each with a story to tell.
When we talk of loved ones who have come into our lives, who have made an impression and who are now missed, what is it about them that we recall with a fondness that brings a smile or laughter or a shake of the head? Not their perfections but their quirky look, their ethnic features, the gap between their teeth that caused a whistle as they said your name, their lopsided smile, a double chin that jiggled as they laughed, their wrinkled forehead, a lifting of one eyebrow, bushy eyebrows, pursing of thin lips…need I say more? We are defined, not in a bad way, by our imperfections. They are reminders that we are all in this together, scuffed, dented, scratched yet beautifully carved, naturally bold…perfect imperfections.