As one of the most average people on the entire planet, I’m not naturally very good at anything in particular (I’m not giving you the special nod, nor, if you’ll recall, have I even demonstrated the nod for you, so I assure you, this is still not that time). I’m not saying that there’s nothing that I’m good at at all. I’m just saying that I didn’t come into this world loaded up with natural talents. I’m not a singer or a dancer or a musician of any kind. I took all kinds of lessons and classes in all kinds of things growing up, and I could certainly be taught, to an extent, but there was always a point where the teaching of the basics ended and skill and desire to improve had to pick up and take it from there and, yeah… no. I was a fairly well rounded high school student who then settled happily into the nice and flat college student and adult you know from a sort of distance today.
No, but seriously, I wasn’t good at any of those things, especially since I was forced to continue to engage in them long past the time when my interest for them ran out and I still can’t really figure out the parental motivation behind that. I can definitely see sticking with dance or a sport or whatever through a season or a year that had already started, but to be signed up again and again to the point that I was showing up for classes dressed in jeans and apathy? And for my entire high school career, my electives were filled with music and language, which is fine, for college and all, but my school offered a ridiculous amount of other more interesting electives, which caused me to double up my schedule as a senior for absolutely no reason other than FUNSIES (it didn’t end well), and on top of that, I was terrible at my selected instrument and I took five years of Russian. Ask me how much conversational Russian I’m speaking these days. This is where I’d say “none” in Russian, except I don’t know how. (Telling me how in the comments won’t go over well. I do know how. That’s not the POINT.)
The point is, not everyone is born good at things, or even one thing, or just gets good at whatever they end up doing, but that doesn’t doom you to a life of not being good at anything, ever. There was that lady on YouTube, that one who decided she wanted to learn how to dance, except she couldn’t dance? (Oh, casual dancing, that’s another thing I can’t do. Well, I can. I can totally dance. I dance party around my house at LEAST once a weekday. Minimum. So it’s not a matter of not being able to dance. It’s a matter of, if some other people were to observe me doing it, would they also call what I was doing dancing? MAKES YOU THINK. Hope you wore your waders because I am getting DEEP.)
Anyway, she couldn’t dance at all, but she wanted to be a person who knew how to dance. So she decided to just learn. And she videoed herself over the course of a year as she taught herself a dance routine, and at the end of the time, she did the whole routine, and there she was. Dancing. She wanted to learn to do it, so she learned, and then she could do it.
When Phil and I first moved in together, I couldn’t cook. I mean, at all. I never really thought of myself as a person who didn’t know how to cook, because I’d always been pretty reasonably successful in following a recipe, but baking some cakes, making scrambled eggs, and Kraft mac & cheese a bunch of times while you’re in college is not the same thing as being faced with cooking entire meals for two people the majority of the evenings every single week. And when faced with that, hey, guess what, no. No, I could not do that. Like, at all. The first night I cooked dinner for us when we moved in together, through a weird set of circumstances, we had my sister’s boyfriend visiting from Pennsylvania for a job interview, and I made baked ziti and frozen garlic bread and it was good, and I think Phil got his hopes up, or at least, kept his hopes where they were. But I soon slapped his hopes ALL AROUND.
Holy crap. I tried. I tried so hard. I don’t know why it was so hard. I don’t know why I didn’t know how to do things I kind of just assumed I would know how to do. I didn’t know how to bake potatoes. I didn’t know how to make rice without my rice maker (WHICH GOT UNPACKED WITH HASTE). I didn’t know how to make any eggs other than scrambled. At least every second or third meal I cooked went straight into the trash. We ate take out and fast food and frozen meals a lot to SAVE money because of how much food I ruined. But I could make baked ziti, so I would. And then I’d try three other things, and one would be okay, one would be edible-ish, and one would go in the trash. And then I’d make baked ziti again, and Phil would make burgers. And I’d try another round of new recipes. And soon I had two things I could cook – baked ziti and fried rice. We ate those a lot between things I tried and the things that were less successful didn’t go into the trash as much as they got eaten and then we said, “maybe we don’t have that one ever again.” And then I learned how to make Deeleeshoos Noodles! And over the course of years – YEARS – because Phil and I have lived together since March of 2009, I’ve gotten to where I have maybe 8 or so TOTAL recipes that I know I can make for absolute sure. There are other things I can do okay, or I am still fussing with. And over that time, there are more types of recipes and foods that I’m willing to throw into the meal plan and give a shot. And it’s been a while since an entire dinner went right into the trash.
Well, last week, all the fish went into the trash, but that’s because I forgot it was defrosting. I forget a lot of things lately. It’s not my fault.
In 2009, I could definitely not cook. I am not saying I developed a deep love for and interest in cooking, so I decided to learn how, but I did have a need to learn how to cook, so I just kept cooking and cooking and cooking and I guess I kind of know how now. I’m not very good at it. (It’s still not that time.) I make a few things that, as a family (that’s Phil and I, Penelope only eats carbs), we really enjoy. I feel like Penny is probably going to grow up having a few weirdo favorites that “mom made” or “the way mom made” that won’t really match with the way the rest of the world eats things (you know, well) that will be a kind of comfort food sort of thing, or requested recipe, maybe, not because it’s any good objectively, but because we eat it often and it’s just the way I make it. I don’t think that eight things is an especially large rotation of recipes, but it’s not my whole rotation. Every grocery shopping trip, I usually plan 7 – 9 dinners. At least 2 or 3 will be totally new and Phil will be WELL WARNED that any potential failure is on the recipe. A couple more might be ones we’ve only tried once or twice. Others we’ve had a few times or are Phil requests. Even those we’ve had a bunch of times are not immune to my standard kitchen “… whoops. EVERYTHING’S FINE!”
This is the key to my best cooking that took me about two years to figure out: NEVER tell Phil what went wrong. When I tell him, he can taste it, and dinner is ruined. If I don’t tell him what I did wrong, or what I think I did wrong, or what might taste off, or what steps from the recipe I changed, he never has any idea.
Even though I’ve been working on this for a long time, and even though I have come very far and the starting line is barely a dot waaaaay back there, I look at the dinners some of my friends post regularly – just weeknight dinners – and I’m just, whoa. Whoa. So beyond me. But I’m not discouraged or anything. For one, we’re all just feeding our families some food. For two, I’ve been working on my cooking skills and plodding along and making notable improvement over time, so if I want it to, there’s no reason that can’t continue. If I want to cook dinners as nice as the ones I see online, then I can keep working at my own skills. Someone being naturally talented or, for whatever reason or through whatever method, already talented, doesn’t crowd out my ability to develop a similar skill set if I’d like to dedicate the time to doing so. Unless it’s for, maybe, singing or something. I don’t think I could dedicate enough time, ever.
THE POINT OF THIS IS, I’m not very good at doing makeup, but I want to be. I don’t feel like this is a singing/dancing/instrument skill, but more of a that lady who taught herself to dance/teaching yourself to cook/I didn’t write a third example skill. So I do my makeup a lot. Sometimes if I’m just going to the bathroom, I stop at the mirror to do my eyebrows, even if I’m not wearing any other makeup and not going anywhere that day. I read a lot of makeup blogs. I look up video tutorials on specific products I have or specific looks/skills I want to work on. I wear a full face of makeup to Target.
Sometimes I practice eyebrows after I take my sleeping medicine but before I fall asleep and hope I remember to wash my face before I pass out, so as not to surprise myself into an sudden pants-pee in the morning if I don’t happen to remember how angry and eyebrow-vengeful I got trying to make them match the night before.
Eyebrow? Why one so good, one so sad, eyebrow?
Just like with cooking, I’m getting better. I really am. It’s noticeable to me and sometimes people have even mentioned my makeup to me, which obviously makes me happy, just like compliments on anything else someone had put so much time into would. Don’t compliment me on that sentence, I didn’t put any time into it, and it would mean nothing to me.
I don’t mean this whole screed as a long setup about how makeup is for everyone, and how even if you feel intimidated by it, you too can can become a total pro. Take it from Boldbrow McHalfsies up there. No, I am not saying that at all. Not that it’s not true, I don’t know what you’re capable of doing if you set your mind to it. Honestly, it keeps me up at night and I don’t want to think about it any more.
No, actually, it was all about this.
Before I got in bed tonight (I’m typing this in bed, post-sleeping pills, pre-sleep, standard eyebrows), I washed my face, removing all my makeup from the day, and walked into the playroom where Phil had his back to me, playing a video game.
I said, “I can always tell these days when I feel like my makeup is on point, because not only am I in a better mood in general, but after I wash my face, I look in the mirror and I’m like, ‘Waaauuugghghhh!'”
He nods distractedly with his back still to me.
“No, Buddy*, look at me.”
So he turns around, kind of impatiently, and he looks at me and involuntarily goes, “Waauughh!”**