Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Life More Ordinary

by Merry Gordon

Confession time:  I spend a lot of time trying to be the perfect Mormon mommy. No, scratch that—I spend a lot of time trying to look like the perfect Mormon mommy. Especially online. And the thing is, lots of us do. We’re writers, storytellers by nature. We selfie and app, we filter and curate…we embellish.

Hey, it’s not dishonesty.

It’s enhancement. Just “improving the shining moments,” as it were. All good writers edit, right?

Maybe it starts with untagging yourself in a picture so people won’t see—gasp!—dirty laundry on the floor behind you. And then it’s a reconstructed “candid” shot when the first one didn’t come out quite right. Suddenly we’re cranking up the exposure on already brilliant sunsets because magazines or Mommy Wars or whatever you want to blame it on has made us think some airbrushed Technicolor day-glo fiction is better than real life.

The poet John Keats once wrote, “Truth is beauty, beauty truth.”

Why did we stop believing that?

The whole foods lifestyle is taking over every fridge in America, but it’s like our virtual selves never got the memo. The less processed our food, the more processed our self-narrative.

Only in this age is it possible to sip an organic smoothie with one hand and use the other hand to run the angled shots you took of yourself drinking it through six effects to make your eyes pop, three filters to make the smoothie look a little less puce and your skin a little more tan, and a collage frame to edit out your messy kitchen countertop:  #natural!


It’s not that I don’t believe in putting my best self forward, and I’m not saying social media’s a bad thing*. There’s nothing wrong with using it in place of the journal I’m supposed to be keeping to chronicle life. But if I’m being honest, I’m hardly as pulled together as my profile persona would have you think. You see the cleaned-up 1%...and I worry I’m forgetting to enjoy the gorgeous ordinariness in the not-for-social media moments that make up the other 99% of my world.

Case in point:  that staged toddler birthday cake pic with lo-fi vintage party hats border is great. When I post that one, it seems representative. I look like Super Mommy, Supreme Goddess of All Things Pinterest, and you’ll never know that it was all of a nanosecond in my frenzied day. It’s a wittily-hashtagged pseudo-memory.

What you don’t see is the belly laughter twenty minutes post-photo op when I wrestled my little boy to the ground and picked the cakesnot** out of his hair (and then dug the crumbs out of my bra for the next hour).

That’s the good stuff. It’s not pretty, but it’s real.

No, I’m not breaking up with Instagram. But just for kicks, maybe I’ll try to live in the raw a little more. The off-camera. The unedited rough-rough-draft version of me. Because that’s beautiful too.


*Except Snapchat. Look, I teach high school. I get how kids think. No app that tells thirteen-year-olds they can take guilt-free incriminating pictures because their photos will self-destruct is a good idea. But I’ll save that for another post.

**As any parent will tell you, this is a thing. Try not to think about it too much.


  1. Merry, I loved every bit of this and found myself chuckling many times. What a great reminder! I am an amateur photographer. I love photography but I spent about a year away from my real camera because it seemed so convenient to use Instagram (and it is; and I still use it). What I found out is when I am looking through the lens of a real camera--with no expectation of immediately sharing it with all my Facebook friends--I tend to see the truth more clearly and to focus on the beauty that is naturally inherent in life. It's time for me to take a deep breath and step out of my virtual reality for a bit.

    1. Thanks, Becky! It was, as always, a reminder that I needed more than anyone, and I'm glad you can relate.

  2. This is awesome, Merry. I love this message! We need to overcome our fear of being real in our writing, whether we are writing fiction or typing a status on social media.

  3. I love that you used the word “curate” to describe this phenomenon. Yes, I curate my life via Facebook.

    "The less processed our food, the more processed our self-narrative.” <-- That might be one of the most profound things I’ve read all year. Man, how did that happen, anyway??

    As I’ve gotten older I have tried very hard to not worry so much about what other people think of me. I realized about 2 years ago that I was buying into the whole "blogger mom" lifestyle and I realized that I wasn’t doing myself (or anybody else I know) any favors. While I try to keep my Facebook uplifting and positive, and I do adjust my photos because I appreciate a well-composed and lighted photograph, I always mix in a dose of humor and I don’t stress about getting that “perfect shot.” I make sure I keep my photos and video at a bare minimum when it comes to events, and try to take only the pictures that will serve to augment the memories of the people who were there and tell the story to the people who wished they could be there but were unable to make it.

    I have realized that the people I love most in my life are those people who keep it real. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of Mormon mommies around me who do just that- they are awesome women who juggle a lot and do it completely ungracefully but always with a smile on their face! And they are the ones who remind me it’s okay to just be me.

    Really awesome post today, Merry. Sharing!

  4. Nikki, thank you! And KaseyQ, thanks as well! I totally get what you're saying. It gets hard (for me, anyway) to draw the line between preserving and curating sometimes. I thank God for all the ungraceful jugglers out there who have shown me how to keep it real and pull it together at the same time.

  5. Thank you for making me laugh on this cold afternoon it felt good

  6. Oh my heavens, I love this so much.



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