Over the weekend a friend sent me a link to the New York Times article “Finding Satisfaction in Second Best.” It’s a compelling interview with Debra Spar about her new book “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.”
Debra Spar is endorsing a concept called “Satisficing” or settling for second best. The argument is that second best is often pretty damn good. We don’t have to be the best at everything. In fact, we can’t and it’s bound to end in misery. So yay! Be exceptional without being the best!
Who wants to be the best at making themselves crazy? Well… me.
I want to be the best Ciaran I can be. The thinnest, prettiest, healthiest, wealthiest, best entertaining, best decorating, most well traveled, most well read, most financially savvy, cleanest eating and best housekeeping version of Ciaran.
Excuse me as I cast on some hand spun yarn for a sweater I probably won’t finish.
This is the problem. I really can’t research, conceive, plan and do it all. Like Debra Spar I’ve given up on several of my aspirations. I will never be a room mom again. I didn’t even join the PTSO at one of my four kids’ schools this year. I’m not-so-secretly relieved my kids aren’t sporty so I don’t have to go to games and practices on top of all the other crap I do. I forfeit and “Surrender Dorothy” when it comes to my drumstick shaped thighs.
Does second best me = #FAIL?
It’s hard to accept second best, particularly when you’re not second best to some celebrity with a spectacular support system. It’s worst when you are second best to some unrealistic time-and-money-are-no-object projection of yourself.
So why are we so driven? Are magazines making us crazy or do we do it to ourselves?
Debra points a finger at the magazines. Not just the oft criticized women’s magazines that promise us thinner! sexier! richer! now! on a monthly basis. She’s taking exception with shelter magazines as well. The quest for perfection is not limited to personhood. It’s your home, your diet, your vacation, your everything.
Men’s magazines, she suggested, aren’t pushing this same call to perfection.
This made me wonder. I’m a magazine addict. I see right through the headlines in the beauty rags and read them anyways. It never occurred to me that House Beautiful was possibly giving me a complex. And I’ve never examined the headlines on men’s mags. So I headed to the supermarket checkout where my first revelation was huge, and yet not shocking. Practically all the magazines on sale WERE women’s magazines.
The men’s mags definitely had a different vibe. Compare and see!
I may have to settle for second best Ciaran, but something still makes me keep dreaming of and striving for the first place me. Scroll through to see which magazines I ended up coming home to cuddle up and satisfice with.