Monday, February 11, 2008

No Pretense

Glinda writes:

About 15 years ago, I got plain tired of having the house just so when company came. Richard and I were busy with our careers and lifestyles which always seemed to demand more than we could give. There simply wasn't time for such games.

You know what I mean: cleaning the house for them, cleaning the house so that it looks like no one lives there, having all the material colors and styles someone else says we need. Having all that material stuff meant we needed to work more to pay for it. It was good for economic development but not so good for people who were already tired. Overall, in preparation for company, I felt like I was getting ready for a home inspection rather than a visit with friends we cared about and we thought cared about us. Were they coming to visit us or our house? I was not sure if all this chatter in my head was universally held or just the monkey mind of my programmed female brain.

Melanie was gone by this time, so it was up to Richard and me to work this through. Perhaps I should say "me" since I seemed to fret more about these things. These are some of the things that I/we tried: We would dine out with friends rather than dine in. The restaurants were usually too loud, too quiet, or too impersonal for us to engage in a meaningful conversation with those we cared about. We had Bernice, who saved us for a while with routine cleaning every Wednesday morning. We reduced the times people would come over. That really wasn't the idea. When we did have them over, I turned down the lights and used candles at dinner. They thought I had created ambience. I thought I was so smart.

With all the trumped up talk of women having 2 careers, who was to manage the house? Richard did help. I thought about hiring someone fulltime but with tongue in cheek, I would have encouraged her (or him) to have a career outside the home. Then we would need to hire someone else to take care of the house for the 3 of us. In the middle of all of this, I still yearned to have special friends share this place we called home.

I quit.

At the time, we had some very dear friends with whom we adored getting together. I suggested another option to Anne and Steve Kelsch: "No Pretense." What that meant was that our 2 families would get together without pretense. They would come to our house to visit "us", not our house. We would do the same. Anne and Steve agreed. We had a plan.

With this little mantra as our guide, the tension just dropped away. This little experiment was so successful, it spilled over fully into other parts of my life. I was more accepting of the fact that I did not have a perfect house and I could not be a perfect me. I loved getting together with those I love and without the intrusion of some impossible material standard.

Is that not what relationships are supposed to be? Is that not what our lives are supposed to be? How could I even think of going to another's house with anything less?

Should you come for a visit, Dear Friend, or should I come instead to your house, "No Pretense" will be a basis of our interaction, at least from my end. If you desire something different, we may not be getting together much, but that's okay. For me, I am not going back. I am at peace with these things. Life is simpler, richer, and much more fun.

How, Dear Reader, do you sit with these things?

Afterward: As I come to a pause after clicking away at these keys, my family always asks what I have been writing. Richard smiled at this one. He shared that in the early 90s, he had written in the margin of his cherished copy of Thoreau's Walden that when he has his own cabin someday, he wanted a plaque outside the door: "Please leave your pretenses at the door."

Continuing with our family check-in time, I asked Melanie where she stood with "pretenses". She laughed, put her foot on the table and pulled up the pant leg to show a naturally hairy leg. Her Mom (that would be me) is grateful that each generation of our family seems to be coming to these things a little quicker than me.

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