I’ve always enjoyed my life porn: Sunset, Real Simple, Pottery Barn’s catalog. I cancel plans on the day that Ikea’s annual idea book arrives. At points in my life, even the Dixieline Lumber circular or that one catalog full of drapey clothes and Buddha-themed wall plaques has scratched my itch. And now there’s Pinterest, a life-porn superstore to deliver endless amounts of whatever kink gets you off: flower arrangements, up-cycled dresses, deck designs, pickles.
This life porn, over the years, has taught me many important things. For example, a recent issue of Sunset magazine informed me that any good camping trip should have its own signature cocktail, preferably one involving craft bourbon only available via mail-order from a small town in Oregon. I had been bumbling through life, thinking that a six-pack of beer cooled in the river was a legitimate camping beverage, but now I know better.
“Well-dressed,” for most of my life, simply meant that none of my unmentionables were visible to the general public, and my shoes matched each other. No more, my friends. Now I understand that the round-toe nude-colored ballet flats in my closet shorten my legs and thus must immediately be replaced with pointy-toed nude-colored ballet flats. Thank you, (ironically-named) Real Simple. The illusion of 0.5 extra centimeters of leg length has immeasurably changed my life.
Of course, there are my freckles, which after 40, suffered a painful re-branding as “age spots.” Luckily, by following a strict regimen of only five steps involving a chemistry lab of ingredients, I can reduce and possibly eliminate their appearance. It is likely that no one will recognize me without my “age spots,” but it is clearly important or there wouldn’t be a four-page spread.
Without life porn, I would have no idea that each electronic device in our house is a Typhoid Mary-in-waiting. Once I recovered from the image of some poor grad student tasked with calculating the number of “fecal matter” molecules flung into the air by each toilet flush, I realized how frighteningly germ-ridden we are. I immediately resolved to spend the required two hours per week cleaning my devices, instead of, like, reading a novel or walking on the beach or any of that lazy, self-indulgent leisure stuff.
Once, and I’m not proud of this, I met friends for a picnic and brought a random grab bag of items already in my fridge. You know, half a carton of cherry tomatoes, tortilla chips and partially eaten hummus. But after a review of my life porn, I realized that—at the very least—pressed vegan banh mi was in order if I didn’t want to bring my portable smoker and recreate a West Coast-inspired clambake on picnic tables made of reclaimed barn siding and lit by customized luminaria. Silly me. I simply brought an old beach towel to sit on.
The problem is that the pictures in these magazines and catalogs are so pretty and shiny. I desperately want my life to be like that, all throw-pillows-arranged-
Of course I want to transport myself into that photo of a carefully cast multiracial group eating smoked duck and drinking something involving grapefruit and rosemary in a meadow back-lit by a perfect sunset.
But it’s an illusion, right? A Disney princess story for grown-ups. Sure, I could make my life look like that if I quit my job, gave up all other hobbies and kicked out the three mess-making humans with whom I live. But my job has its rewards, I like my hobbies, and I’m somewhat attached to those three humans. And it is utterly exhausting to make a half-assed attempt at recreating the perfection I see on Pinterest in the spare moments left over from what actually matters in my life.
So I’m trying to break up with relentless life-improvement. Like any good 12-stepper or Buddhist, I’m starting at the beginning, with acknowledging the problem: My life porn keeps me on this weirdly compelling hamster wheel of doing and wanting and buying in pursuit of unreachable perfection, and it doesn’t make me happy.
Now I just have to figure out the next steps, which I’ll think about as soon as I finish the fire-roasted poblano sauce for the enchiladas that I saw on this food blog that looked perfect for tonight’s dinner guests.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.