To perfection

“Grilled to perfection”…..”baked to perfection”…..”framed to perfection”…..”cut to perfection”…..oh my goodness! Really? I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this, but it seems that everywhere you look someone is touting the perfection of their steak, their haircuts, their cupcakes, their cleaning services. You name it and you’ll find someone out there is trying to convince us that their product is perfect.

Ok, first, I have to ask….what do all these people have against adverbs ending in “ly?” I get that these can be overused, but why avoid them entirely? Will people somehow think less of the taste of your cupcakes if you describe them as “perfectly baked morsels of velvety chocolate cake” rather than “chocolate cupcakes baked to perfection?” I don’t entirely understand why, but the phrase “to perfection” just annoys me. Which brings me to my second question, how did we end up deciding that so many things have been done “to perfection” anyway?

According to Merriam-Webster, “perfection” means flawless, possessing unsurpassable excellence or even being saintly.  While I can appreciate someone displaying confidence in their own abilities, there is simply no way the cupcakes or the haircuts or the steaks are flawless nor unsurpassable in their excellence, let alone saintly. (Sorry, talking about less than saintly chocolate cupcakes has, of course, caused my mind to wander over to devil’s food cake….completely distracted…..ok, I’m back now.)

I understand that I have “a thing” about the words “to perfection.” However, I believe this drive to describe so many things as perfect says something not entirely humorous about our society. I wonder whether the years of focusing on building self-esteem by giving everyone a trophy for participating are resulting in our decreasing understanding of what unsurpassable excellence truly looks like. I wonder whether our overuse of “to perfection” is a symptom of our collectively decreasing vocabulary and reading skills and, therefore, also our increasingly limited ability to describe how we experience life. I also wonder whether our overuse of “to perfection” is a result of marketing inundation. Perhaps only something declared flawless can hope to break through the cacophony of marketing noise and grab enough attention to sell, whether it’s a product or a political candidate.

This makes me think of a game we played as kids that went something like this. First kid, “I’m so strong, I can carry my little sister and she weighs 20 pounds.” To which the second kind replies, “that’s nothing. I’m so strong I can carry 100 pounds.” First kid, “well, I can carry 100 million pounds.” The second kid then wins with the ultimate argument, “well, I can carry to infinity pounds!” The kids didn’t have to know what infinity actually means. They understood that you can’t get any bigger than infinity. “To perfection” seems like the grown up version of “to infinity,” it’s the ultimate argument winner. The down side, of course, is that if we begin to believe that even ordinary things are flawless, we may no longer be able to acknowledge or even recognize when there’s still room for improvement.

Time, and other fantasies

I am an eternal optimist when it comes to time, which I like to believe has an elastic quality allowing it to stretch and cover more than it looks like it should be able to at first glance. I have long harbored a fantastical picture of life in which there is time for everything I want and need to do, where my to do list is maintained in a constant state of “everything-ticked-off-at-the-end-of-each-day” perfection, where I rise with grace to process the impacts of every pain I experience without missing a step or pausing for breath. Like I said….fantastical.

Reality is somewhat different. In reality there is never enough time for me to complete everything that needs to be done, let alone pursue everything that interests me. My to do list is generally out-of-control, with deadlines and due dates regularly pushed back beyond all recognition. As for processing the impacts of the painful experiences of life, I have missed more than one step while gasping for emotional air as I recovered from one of life’s punches to my solar plexus. Which is going the long way around to say the last three months have been filled with more life than I could wrap my arms around and one of the results has been nothing posted here during that time. I’m happy to say life is returning to its more typical chaotic rhythm and I will be posting again going forward.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program…..

Things I’ve learned about Canada since I married a Canadian….

Two and a half years ago I married a Canadian. Sounds like an introduction made at a twelve step meeting, doesn’t it? I’d visited Canada on several occasions, even had Canadian friends. However, in the past 30 months I’ve had a crash course in all things Canadian and discovered there is some truth to the stereotypes, but there are also some very unexpected things. Here are a few highlights of what I’ve learned….so far:

  • Canadians really do say “eh” at the end of sentences, making the statements sound like questions. For example, “We’ve really had a lot of rain this spring, eh?” (Which illustrates a second thing I’ve learned, Canadians talk about the weather…..frequently!)
  • Where America has Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football and even Football Night in America, there is really only one show that compares in Canada. You guessed it…..Hockey Night in Canada. There’s even a theme song that is sung by everyone attending a hockey game. I kid you not, the lyrics start out “The good old hockey game, it’s the best game you can name.” (I couldn’t make that up.)
  • Unlike America where football is primarily contained within about 6-7 months of the year, it doesn’t matter what season of the year it is, EVERY night is hockey night in Canada. Plus, at least once a week, year-round, there is a Sports Section page one story on something pertaining to hockey…..year-round! Never underestimate the importance of hockey in Canada.
  • Americans can learn something from Canadians when it comes to respecting the culture and beliefs of others. (Technically speaking, I already knew this was true. I’ve just seen more first-hand evidence to support this over the last two years.)
  • Canada supplies more oil to the United States than any other country in the world, contrary to popular American attitudes regarding Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
  • Canadians have a love affair with choral music. Every area of the country is represented by multiple, highly talented choirs and choral groups. There’s even a weekly radio broadcast every Sunday on CBC2 that’s solely devoted to choral music! Fantastic!!
  • Canadians believe poutine is gourmet food (for the uninitiated, poutine consists of fries topped with cheese curds and covered in gravy….seriously). OK, gourmet may be stretching it…..but there are restaurants serving truffle poutine, breakfast poutine, smoked meat poutine, and the list goes on. They’re very proud of poutine.
  • At least once a week Canadian families sit down to a meal of Kraft Dinner. In the States it’s known as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Urban legend has it that it’s the only meal Wayne Gretzky knows how to make without assistance. (The fact that urban legends have developed around Wayne Gretzky just proves that, with apologies to Jackie Gleason, in Canada Gretzky will always be “the Great One” given his prowess in hockey. Notice how everything comes back to hockey?)
  • There are more raccoons living in the city of Toronto than there are people! I’m not sure what this means. However, watching one rummaging through the garbage bin at a commuter train station to get the McDonald’s castoffs left both Tim and I doubled over laughing.
  • For the most part being part of a curling team is really just an excuse to socialize with your friends. That doesn’t mean, however, that Canadians aren’t serious about supporting their curling teams, particularly when Olympic gold is on the line.
  • Parliamentary politics are just as entertaining as the two-party American kind.
  • Most mail carriers in Canada are women. Apparently this developed during WWII when so many men were away fighting.
  • Canadians will say “I’m sorry” even if YOU bumped into THEM.
  • Where Americans prioritize “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Canadians value “peace, order and good government”……which probably explains some of the differences in culture between the two countries, and why Canadians are universally described as “very nice people.”