Attention Women: You’re Being Scanned!

I call it the once over. It’s an art perfected by women of all ages. I’ve actually seen little girls as young as three doing it in the grocery store and at birthdays. I don’t know when we learn it, but we all do. I’ve decided it’s one of the few instincts left in human beings, as I have never personally seen an animal do this to another animal. But it is also peculiar to little girls and it is imprinted on them as clearly as their Mary Janes. It’s a quick flick of the eyes. Swipe—it’s done. Well, guys do it, too, but it’s not the same, is it?

When you’re the “scanee” on the receiving end, it’s like an ultra fast body scan. It’s as if you had been blown through a metal detector or an x-ray machine, at a speed (literally) of the blink of an eye. Nothing is quite as penetrating or quite as disarming when you’re on the receiving end. You can almost feel it.

Meanwhile, as the scanner, one’s goal is to attain the most detailed level of examination without getting caught: You have to perform the scan so the victim doesn’t see you doing it. But your target knows—she feels it just as you feel it when it’s done to you. So, you try to pretend you’re not, and she tries to pretend she’s not. Sometimes, though, the worst thing happens. Your eyes lock on the other woman’s eyes, your timing just right or just wrong, so that her down-and-up scan and your down-and-up scan coincide exactly, and you’re both caught in the act. You each look away, sometimes blushing lightly, pretending you hadn’t been doing what you were doing, although your hand might as well be shoulder length in the cookie jar. It’s a time-honored contest—a battle of speed and cunning. You try to take in as much as you can as quickly as you can before she sees you’re looking. She’s doing the same thing, and the game is afoot.

What are we looking for? Shoe styles, fabric colors, nail color, skirt length, stocking runs, unbuttoned buttons, falling hems, fashion statements, style gaffs. We look for hair color, hairdos, and grey hairs. We look at jewelry and accessories: scarves, belts, glasses, and purses. We look to see if they match or not, if they’re name brands or rip-offs. We are curious and catty all at the same time. The problem is, sometimes you don’t know whether she’s looking because you look good, or because you look horrible. “Did I wear the wrong thing?” always runs through your panicked mind. You look down to make sure you have the same color shoes on.

It’s fun, it’s mean, it’s a game, it’s war. It’s all of those things. Just don’t get caught. It’s embarrassing.

Deadlines

Deadlines are the lines drawn in the sand, the air, and on calendars. They are imaginary lines past which one should not go, or you’ll die.  Die of what?  Failure? Disappointment? Losing a job? Not answering a need? Shame?

Deadlines are a form of communication.  “I need this by noon so we can move forward on the project.”

There should be no room for negotiation in a deadline. There is no room for negotiation in death, is there? So why do people push up against deadlines by crushing the work to be done up against the wall of the deadline?  To see if it will move?  Will it give in like a loose door, or an unsure mother or father?  Kids know this instinctively. Will the rules change if we keep ignoring them? Will Mom and Dad change their minds? Will my manager forget? Will the rule/deadline go away in the rush of life?

photodune-1687970-precious-time-concept-clock-mSome of us use faraway deadlines like beacons for purposeful activity, plotting steps from A to B in the final goal to arrive at Point Z.  Others of us assume that there’s still plenty of time and that there’s no use getting all excited — nothing can be gained by starting too early, they say.  It wastes time to start too soon, they say.  Besides, working under the pressure of a close deadline works in in their favor, they think, as in, “I work better because I’m more focused if time is short.”

Oh? What if your computer breaks? What if the electricity goes out? What if you get sick? What if?

I like deadlines. I like setting up a meeting… it gives me a deadline. I like to be early, to have room and time to make one last pass, one final reading, a once over to see if I left a sponge in the abdomen of my patient before they wake up. (I wanted to see if you were paying attention!)

There’s the Leonard Bernstein quote to throw in here, too. “To achieve great things two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” I think that’s the reason deadlines are SO important.  Somewhere along the creative lines of life, the concept of not quite enough time leads us to finality. If we didn’t have deadlines, we would continue to fix, trim, and self-edit until nothing ever, ever was produced. “Perfect is the enemy of good,” as they say. Someone has to say those two wonderful words, “It’s done!”

I like the pressure and excitement of a looming deadline, but sometimes, just sometimes, I procrastinate… to feel that teeny rush. Shucks. My cover is blown.

I write about the things that I would like to do better—largely because I’m not perfect. See my recent blog on “Perfect” if you’re so inclined. Meanwhile, I have a deadline.

“Perfect”

You’ve heard the word: Perfect. You’ll hear people saying it everywhere as you go through your day. Trust me. Everyone is saying the word. And quite frankly, it scares me.

I thought it was just a coincidence at first. Someone at a local store said it—then someone else. A little while after that, I asked a coworker if I had done something correctly, and she said yes, “Perfect.” Then in the next breath she said, “But you forgot to do this other part.”

It struck me at that moment as I replied to her, “Then, it was NOT perfect.” And it wasn’t.

I hear my kids say the word. I started to hear their friends say it. Still, I was in my own “backyard,” so it was continuing to be a local event. The next day, I was talking to someone toll free, back East. I heard THE WORD. “Perfect,” he said. And I knew the infection had spread.

The reason I call it an infection is exactly what happened when I had clearly made a mistake at my work, but was told what I had done was perfect. It wasn’t perfect, darn it. As I look at grade inflation in our schools, and as I continue to see that our California students are becoming less and less able to read and do math, and as our tax dollars to repair this damage become higher and higher, I wonder if the casual use of this simple word has caused the problem or if rather, it is a reflection of the problem. We are expecting less because our common perception of perfection has been tainted.

Webster’s II defines the word as follows:

Perfect (pûr′fikt) adj. 1. Lacking nothing essential to the whole: complete of its nature or kind. 2. Being in a state of undiminished or highest excellence: flawless 3. Completely adept or talented in a certain field or area; 4. Completely reproducing or corresponding to a type or original: exact; 5. Thorough: complete; 6. Undiluted, pure; 7. Excellent and delightful in all respects.

Evidently, I’m a traditionalist from the looks of Webster’s continuation:

usage: Traditionalists consider perfect to be an absolute term and therefore reject its use with modifiers of degree such as more or less. Nonetheless such usage is entirely acceptable, esp. when perfect is used in the sense of excellent in all respects.. . .as in A more perfect example could not be found.”

But I feel cheated. Am I missing something or do I see from the above that even Webster’s waffles on the concept?

The problem as I see it is that we think we see perfection every day. The media has made it possible for us to hear Pavarotti, see Tiger Woods, experience a clever movie like “Toy Story” or “Monsters, Inc.,” and make us believe that the end result, perfection, is within our reach, and easy to attain. The world experiences a shortened end-result kind of view, and it seems that especially kids of today have no concept of the hours, days, weeks, months and years of discipline and practice and work that it takes to approach, much less achieve, perfection. And the schools let kids believe that:

1)     … they are becoming closer to perfect. (Why wouldn’t they think that? Their grades are higher. How is it, then, that many kids are “dumber?”)

2 )    … if the children don’t achieve perfection, they can’t enjoy an activity. At a very young age, some kids are kept from playing sports if they aren’t “good.” Equally, they are not allowed to lose. In fact, soccer games are not scored these days for little kids, because someone didn’t want their child to experience losing. WHAT? Maybe if you don’t lose, then you can pretend you’re perfect? (!)

Here’s an example. A friend of mine attended an art seminar. He’s just learning and is not an artist by profession, but he wanted to enjoy it as a thoroughly escapist experience from his normal work. He was flanked at his worktable by professional artists. His work was clearly rudimentary in comparison, but it didn’t matter. He was enjoying the experience and was not expecting perfection. No one there said his work was perfect. It wasn’t. He knew it; they knew it. But in the vernacular of the day, someone might have said. “Wow!  That’s perfect!” Further, that he was there as a non-professional surprised everyone in the room. Can we enjoy things for what they are and not even strive for perfection?

There really is no such thing as perfection. Ask any artist, musician, athlete, writer, scientist or any professional you want. They will never have reached it if they are worth their salt. The artist could have always “painted those clouds to look just a little more real.” The musician, having not even missed a note, could have “played that passage just a tiny bit better.” A scratch golfer could always have “done a little better on that last hole.”   So there is no perfection in the world. Therefore, the word perfect is only an idea, a concept, a goal, an objective, an ethereal, wonderful target to strive to reach, but not to be used lightly in a casual, offhand manner as it is today. This article, as an example, is not perfect, but it says what I want to say, and is worth writing for that reason. It’s not perfect, dammit, but I felt strongly that society’s current notion of perfection had to be explored.

Next time you hear yourself say “perfect”(and I know you’ll do it), stop yourself and ask if it really is or not. Obviously, it can’t be, as there is no perfection. Instead substitute “That’s fine,” or “That’s sufficient, okay, adequate, or passable.” Or try:

“That works.”

“That’ll do.” (as in “That’ll do, Pig” from the movie Babe)

“That makes sense.”

“That works for me.”

“That’s good.”

Any of these makes the other person feel that although it (whatever “it” is) might be great, there is room for just a little bit more. Because there always is.