Those of you who are newly-wed or soon-to-be, take a moment to look around your home. It is no doubt stocked with brand new towels, pots and pans, furniture, dishes, and bedding that kind friends and family have bought you or you and your beloved have bought together. There may be a new coat of paint on the walls, a clean rug under foot, a lovely blanket over the arm of a sofa in a way that looks casually thrown but is in fact neatly styled. Things are just the way you like them, shiny and new.
Take a good look. Take some pictures. Bask in the Pottery-Barn-like-beauty. Because it won't last. In 10 years, you will be living in filth and chaos. And this is how it will happen.
Year One--Your perfect beloved will break some dishes while trying to wash them. It also turns out he has an annoying habit of leaving change lying around and never throws away receipts. But that is neither here nor there. It also turns out he doesn't know what a coaster is. (Clarification: I am seriously not talking about Kevin. I have used generic annoying things as a stand-in for things about Kevin that are annoying, in that they don't exist. There is nothing annoying about Kevin.) Your coffee table now bears the insignia of the coffee cup Olympics. A klutzy friend will spill a glass of red wine on the rug. Someone will grab one of your white Turkish towels to clean it up.
Year Two--Maybe you get a dog, maybe he eats some tupperware. Or maybe you just have friends who never return the tupperware. Some of it gets melted in the dishwasher or microwave. Regardless of how it happens, you soon have 3 lids and 2 containers of tupperware, none of which goes together. Also, your non-stick pan coating starts to peel regardless of how fancy the brand. You have to throw it out and you buy cheap Target stuff because you don't cook anyway and you are saving for dog obedience school. Also, the hangers in your closet are now all those cheap wire dry cleaner hangers. It's not clear what happened to the other hangers, but they have clearly moved on.
Year Three--your white bedding is now brown. Which is fine, you never make your bed anyway and the throw pillows for it are always underneath it. It bothers you that your bedroom no longer looks like a magazine, but you have to leave the house at 6 am for your new job, so it is what it is. The walls of your house now have a millions scuffs and chips and things from people recklessly kicking their shoes off. All the baseboards and corners of every room have a thin film of grime and lint. Your sofa at this point bears the unmistakable marks of hosting numerous picnics. Also, you now have 4 kinds of glasses in your cabinets, none of which match.
Year Four--Hurricane Katrina hits your location, flooding your house with raw sewage and all manner of disgusting filth. Just kidding, you have a child, which is worse. You can get insurance money for Katrina and fix things up in time, whereas with a child, your house will never be clean again. Despite your firm declaration that your hone will not be littered with baby items, there are in fact bouncy chairs, swings, play gyms, diapers and stuffed toys every 3 feet. At first you try to buy things that match your decor, but then you just say Trump It, the garish zebra striped exersaucer with the blinking fluorescent lights entertains the child 3.2 minutes longer, and that's definitely worth it.
Year Five--As your child begins walking, you start losing control of where the items in your house reside. You will find stuffed animals in your oven, hopefully before preheating it. You will find your blowdryer in the bottom of a dress up bin. You will find cups of coagulated, molded, rancid milk between couch cushions. None your upholstered furniture is the color it was when you bought it. You can no longer remember what color it was, and you can't really say what color it is now. It is the color of all the colors mixed together or all the foods mixed together and vomited up. Your dining room table is bedazzled. You can't see out of your windows for the finger smudge. Also, all your cups are now ones acquired from Happy Meals. Also, your walls are covered in stickers.
Year Six--Well, you done lost your mind and had another kid. Why would you ever do that. Because you done lost your mind, that's why. In rare quiet moments, you can audibly hear your house begging you to PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. Or is that your own soul. It's hard to tell and kind of doesn't matter because there's nothing you can do for either one. So. Now you get to start all over from the beginning with the ugly exersaucers and spit up and poop. Meanwhile, your older child continues to grow in assertiveness, mobility, and artistic expression. That child now wants to paint and cook and attempt to clean in a way that is not cleaning. Also, your bathroom rug is now completely mildewed.
Years Seven and Eight--These are the years when your oldest child develops their own social life. They start going places without you--school, Sunday School, sports events and birthday parties--and they start acquiring things at those places and bringing those things into your house without your permission. Your house is now a junkyard of drawings, popsicle-stick sculptures, plastic tops, and fake tattoos. You spend 75% of your time sorting through things and making agonizing decisions about what is trash and what is not and how you might dispose of all the things without anyone realizing it. 75% of your home is covered with the stuff you were unable to dispose of without someone noticing and having an annyeurism.
Year Nine--Now you have entered a new, horrible phase that can be described with one word: LEGOS. Which are very fun. They are also very small and disperse like dandelion seeds in stiff wind. Your entire home is infested with them, like lice in the the hair of a girl with very thick, very curly, very dark hair. You find them ground up in your garbage disposal, in the gear shift of your car, in pockets of clothes that have been washed, dried and put away, in pillow cases and shoes and bathtub drains and light sockets and in your ears and between your toes and worse. Also, you have two kids attending birthday parties and getting the horrible favor bags.
Year Ten--The dismantling of your once-pristine home is now complete. There is not a single item or surface in the entire place that is truly clean and unchipped, unbroken, unscratched, unscathed or otherwise bearing any resemblance to what it was when first acquired. Even your own underwear is disgusting, we won't go into all the reasons why, but it doesn't matter. Nothing can stand pure and undefiled in this place. And it's not like it doesn't bother you. You are highly bothered. But you are resigned to the reality that it is easier to just lay down and take it than to try to order and clean a house while it is being ravaged by a tornado.
There are forces of entropy in the world, my friends. Things that were once new and perfect decay and get dirty and fall apart and unravel and get overgrown and break and get jumbled unless carefully maintained. Cars. Gardens. Faces. Muscle tone. Panty Hose. Language skills. Relationships. Book shelves. Eyebrows. Democracies. I wish that once you achieved something or cleaned something or set something right or got it where you wanted it to be that it would stay that way, even just for a year or two. The maintenance of life can be overwhelming. Then you add a couple kids and it's like the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace or being put into a wood chipper. Or flying at hyperspace speed into a wood chipper.
Some people spend their entire existence trying to beat back every inch of chaos and they end up on an HGTV show. Other people just say Trump the Whole Thing and do nothing to beat it back and they end up on a TLC show. Most of us fall in the middle, and my own strategy--in addition to medication--is to spend the bulk of my time maintaining what is truly valuable and/or what I enjoy maintaining. My marriage and my physical health are at the top of this list. With the rest of it--to include my house--I try to do a little bit every day, but then to let it go. Sometimes I survey the chaos, take in every imperfection, and practice doing nothing at all about it. I can feel the anxiety creep up, the sheer panic that everything is falling apart around me and it's on me to keep it together or....or...or...or What? Will the smudged windows and chipped dishes harm us? Will the expanding lines on my face rob me of value? Will the realization of my spouse's imperfections make me unable to love him? Will the meaning of my life be measured by how organized my closets are? And on the flip side, would a Pottery Barn house or a cellulite-free butt or a husband who throws away all his receipts make my life appreciably better or my worth more?
However, I truly do believe that I would be happier with some ankle definition. I will never know, because, tragically, that is the one thing a plastic surgeon can do nothing about, but I think it might make a difference.