Once again, a new year looms — and once again, I look back and realize that I haven’t achieved half the things I set out to over the past 12 months (or the past 10 years, for that matter). When my college recently sent me an alumni questionnaire asking for a list of significant accomplishments since graduation, I wrote, “I’ve finally gotten my hair all one length.”
I guess that probably sounds kind of shallow to anyone who didn’t attend the same college I did. Our seal read: “Doctrina lux mentis.” We all thought that meant, “Where appearances still count.”
It’s just hard to compete when you have my kind of overachieving friends. In the past year, I’ve known people who’ve become doctors, finished a novel (writing one, that is, not reading one), gone back to graduate school, run the Boston Marathon, painted a masterpiece, and written songs that would melt your heart — all in the span of 365 days. It kinda puts this whole hair thing into (really unflattering) perspective.
So the new year dawns — and, with it, an enormous amount of pressure for people like me who always need something to complain about. There’s something about the whole concept of a clean slate that compels one to take stock.
So mostly, I spend my time worrying about trivial things, because it keeps my mind off the big stuff — such as the suspicion that maybe I’m wasting my life.
Like I have this idle fear that somewhere locked inside my brain is the cure for cancer, but I can’t find it, having diverted the requisite intellectual resources remembering the lyrics to old Kansas songs: “Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man / though my mind could think I still was a mad man / I hear the voices when I’m dreaming …”
You get the idea.
Then I worry about what would happen if someone decided to make a movie of my life (not a documentary, mind you, but a major motion picture). My biggest fears are: (1) I’ll have no input on the soundtrack. It won’t be Johnny Cash or Lyle Lovett; instead they’ll play that syrupy R.E.M. “Everybody Hurts” song every time something sad happens to me. And (2) my “love interest” won’t be Warren Beatty or Tommy Lee Jones — it’ll be Jerry Stiller (George Costanza’s screaming, red-faced father on Seinfeld and now, inexplicably, the star of his own sitcom).
And then there’s omnipresent, multimedia mogul Martha Stewart — recognized as one of the world’s richest women. What are we going to do about her? It’s not her fault that she’s an obsessive-compulsive Stepford wife. And I’m sure that, in her mind, none of this is personal. Before she came along, though, I used to think I gave a pretty decent party — everyone seemed to get enough to eat and drink and have someone to talk to. Then here comes Martha to ruin my life. At a casual get-together, she makes blinis to order, grows all the flowers for the centerpiece, and sends everyone home with pine cones hand-dipped in gold she mined in the back yard. Thanks.
Unable to compete, I simply lowered my standards. Now I give parties where I’m just relieved when no one throws up in the ficus. And do you really want to know how mean-spirited I am about all this? All I can think is, “Well, at least her husband left her.”
In a world where Martha Stewarts are allowed to live, breathe, spawn and proliferate, it’s hard to improve oneself in any meaningful fashion. The only thing I can say for sure is, I’m not going to cut my hair. This all-one-length thing may not mean much to the rest of the world, but at least I have priorities.