2010-12-16 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Less than perfect, but somehow just right

My friend Lucy says choices can be overwhelming. We shopped together recently at a high-end fabric store, sifting through the reams of white fabric, letting the silks and chiffons trail between our fingers. Lucy tested the heft of a gauzy cream organza, checking its opacity against the light. She’s having her wedding dress tailor-made, and she wants it to be perfect.

“If I just had to choose the fabric, that would be one thing,” Lucy said. “But the pattern, too? It’s too much. I can’t decide.”

I looked across the store at the options rolled into bricks of fabric, and I knew she was right. With all the possible combinations of color and style and weight — plus the cut and length of the dress itself — I worried that she’d ever get it right.

Later, when Lucy ran off to a cake-tasting appointment, I ducked into a coffee shop for caffeine and a reprieve from wedding insanity.

I sat at a table by the window where I could watch the pre- Christmas crowd stream past. There, too, was an overwhelming variety of choices.

Like many women, I have trouble lining up my looks and personality with the women around me. Who is prettier? Funnier? Smarter? And which combination is most appealing?

The barista brought over my coffee, and I cupped the mug in my hands as I watched people walk by. I thought about earlier shopping excursions, about a trip long ago to a pottery store in rural North Carolina. The trees around the shop had been cut down for the kiln and the earth dug for the clay to make pottery trays and goblets. I wanted something — a mug or a teacup, maybe — a token to remember the moment, the trip into the mountains, the feeling of being in that isolated place. I wanted something pretty to show my friends, something that would document my good taste.

There were so many options. Mugs with handles and others shaped like small bowls; glazes in cool blues and greens, others in matte earth tones. I held them all. What felt like hundreds of pottery pieces passed through my hands until I found the one that fit just right. It had a subtle glaze, with none of the brightness I’d imagined I’d choose. It was bigger than I’d anticipated, bulky, even, without the sleek lines or dainty craftsmanship I thought I liked. But it

suited me somehow, and I knew from the moment I held it that we were a good fit.

I think of that piece of pottery when I am out with my friends, in bars or restaurants, or even walking the streets. I see so many other women who are beautiful and stylish, and I wonder how men can ever make the perfect choice.

But perhaps I have it all wrong. The search is not for perfection — for the perfect coffee cup, the perfect wedding dress or even the perfect mate. The search is for something that feels right. We might all do well to remember that, even as we compare ourselves to those who seem more perfect than us. 

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