Last year, right before Evangeline was born, I wrote a post in praise of the Pioneer Woman blog. Nine months pregnant in the dead middle of winter, with the Steelers in the playoffs, I found myself drawn to many of her more fat-laden meals. Jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon? Sign me up. Roast beef squashed between two pieces of Texas toast, then smothered in provolone cheese? No complaints from this pregnant lady. I probably composed the post I wrote while licking fat off my fingers and patting my belly in full satisfaction.
At the time, it seemed as though whatever question I had, PW could answer. Sometimes it still seems that way – recently I had the best broccoli cheese soup I had ever tasted and I grew a little obsessed with finding the perfect recipe and sure enough, that very day, PW posted one. I haven’t made it yet but I’m still waiting for real winter to show up.
Sometime after I wrote the post and after Evangeline was born S. pointed out an article in the New Yorker profiling PW. It’s a fascinating piece that provided significant insight into how both PW and her husband manage her personal brand. I didn’t find it a particularly surprising article…that she and her husband must have money was obvious, given her style of living…that she makes significant income from her brand didn’t surprise me either. What did take me back – and this will show just how naive I am in the world of blogging – is the fact that the pioneer woman photo shops her photos. This seriously never occurred to me before…that any woman would use photo shop to punch up the pink in her daughter’s cheek, or make the orange of a sunset, well, more orange.
It didn’t bother me that PW and her husband are financially well-off – lots of people have money. It didn’t bother me that she’s probably a bit more business savvy than her blog would lead you to believe – I am probably a bit more business savvy than you would think. But photoshopping her pictures? And, if PW is photoshopping her pictures, are the other mom bloggers I read doing the same thing?
It turns out, yes. It also turns out that I have been living under the proverbial rock for not realizing that the lives these mothers share with us are polished and punched up and selectively chosen to create their own personal brand, whether they realize it or not.
I shouldn’t have a problem with this. More power to any momma who can find the time to photo shop her photos (confession 1 – I haven’t yet printed out a single picture of Evangeline’s first year, for framing or otherwise). I also don’t tend to be overly critical of the mommy blogging boom that has erupted across the internet in the last decade – again, by any means necessary. But for some reason the perfecting of photos really gets to me. I think it’s because I doubt how much value this really brings to the table…I mean, does nobody’s kid ever look like this:
(confession 2 – I have two outfits I wear all the time when I’m not at work…either leggings with a long shirt S. calls my “eighties shirt” or jeans with a white fishermen sweater – both are tucked into the tall green rainboots that I wear all. the. time.)
I guess maybe this whole photoshopping thing makes sense…maybe it means that not everybody is busy perfectly appointing their parlors or whipping up batches of lemon merengue pie…instead they are putting a their ideal persona forward…who they would like to be verses who they really are. I can’t be the only one with a toy corner that looks like this:
Tilt your head to the left…you’ll get the idea. I can’t even get this picture to rotate properly.
I guess if I really had to pinpoint why this semi-fabrication bothers me, it’s probably because I’m envious of the lives put forth in these photographs, but it is an envy that is motivating rather than harmful. The truth is I want to create a beautiful home, a fashionable wardrobe and lovely meals but that kind of domesticity is something I’ve always struggled with. In my reasonable moments I understand that S. and I have made great strides with our house, from upgrading all of the electric to new windows to a complete redo of Evangeline’s room, and yet I still feel frustrated that the living room isn’t cozy, the dining room isn’t glamorous. Say what you will about the importance of these things in the scheme of life but to me, having a comfortable and nice-looking home is important – I just can never seem to find the time to prioritize it. In a way I find comfort in the house and mothering blogs I read when the authors seem to have it naturally all together, from finding the right skinney jeans and flats to featuring the latest thing to do with wild mushrooms. I like the idea that some women out there manage to pull together fashion and house and home and motherhood and wifedom in one glamorous, easy-breezy package, without photoshop.
Yep, I’m naive.
I am embarking on what I am thinking of as a year-long adventure with my house. This is not a resolution but rather a promise I decided to make to myself late last fall. I think one of my downfalls is an unwillingness, at times, to put the work that is necessary for the results I seek. Oh, I don’t do this at work or as a mother or, I don’t think, as a wife – I work very very hard at all of those things. But in terms of having the kind of house I want? I get lazy, sometimes. So I’ve decided to really commit to working on the house and seeing what I am able to achieve, and not leave everything up to S. (something I can be very guilty of at times). I started slow this month – the only goal I set was to get an estimate on air duct cleaning and select a month to have a service come do it – done and done. I managed to push beyond that goal and even went shopping, purchasing a new comforter and sheets and blankets for our bed (those items hadn’t been replaced in at least five years, but I find it difficult to spend money on luxury for S. and me – I can’t say why this is) . The task, even the washing and making up of the bed, wasn’t as loathsome as I thought it would be amd the reward? Well, the reward was a toasty warm and pretty to look at bed in the middle of a house under rehabilitation. Spend money on your beds, people. It’s an incredibly quick win.
I’m looking forward to documenting the work I do on the house in this space, and I’ve decided to make this promise – whatever I am able to do in terms of creating a better home for my family, I will write about it here. And the photos won’t be photoshopped or altered or made to look like something they aren’t – they will just reflect the life we live in Pittsburgh, good bedding, bad flooring and all.