The Problem With Perfect

By Heather Labbe

Most mornings I spend between 3 to 33 minutes applying eyeliner. 

My friend Taylor is to blame for this new habit, as before she introduced me to the necessity of this extra step, my makeup routine consisted of under eye concealer, blemish cover and mascara.

But several months ago, Taylor made it her business to up my game and from that day to this, I have been chasing the elusive “perfect” eyeliner application – and when I say elusive, I mean never going to happen!

Try as I may, every day I settle for some stage of acceptable with regard to my eyeliner and get on with my day, checking and re-checking to make sure that what was intended to make me look more awake, has not turned into an extra eyebrow located in the middle of my wonky eyelid.


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Yesterday afternoon I decided to take aquick shower and treat myself, and my teenage daughters, to the $5 Tuesday movie at our local theater.  Time was limited, but teenagers can be cruel when you go out in public with them, so I decided to put on some makeup.  Settling into my new routine, but focused more on efficient use of time than application, I picked up the eyeliner and then it happened: absolutely perfect lines of liquid black eyeliner on both eyes!

Without shame, I admit that I couldn’t stop looking at myself in the mirror; what a magical transformation!  I finally understood why Taylor had been so adamant that I needed to add this superfluous step to my daily regime. The flawless lines created the effect of larger, more youthful eyes and it was a thing of power and poetry. Immediately, the dread of attempting to reproduce the same miracle the next morning began to settle in.

The next day, just as I suspected, after twenty-ish minutes of pointed concentration, and at least one complete re-start, I have settled for good enough in regards to my eyeliner and a nagging sense of melancholy as to my appearance. 

The bigger problem is deciding what to do about tomorrow, and Friday, and this weekend, and all the days that are sure to follow with less than perfect eye makeup, and white shirts with grease spots, sinks with dishes, burnt pancakes, words that came out wrong, the 45 minute workout cut 40 minutes short, bungled travel plans, misunderstood intentions, unraveling relationships; in a word: imperfection. 

Most of my date nights with my husband are ordinary, but over a twenty four year marriage, there have been a few magical encounters.  Dates that simply happened without over-planning or excessive expectation, both of us content with each other’s company and the experience at hand.  As soon as the experience is ended (sometimes, as it’s still unfolding) the angst of holding onto the moment or re-creating it settles in. 


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I can’t help but wonder if more often than not, the perfect only happens when we stop trying to manufacture or even expect it.  Could the miracle of perfection be found in the acceptance that there is merit in the attempt and knowing that intention is at least as important as execution?

Those around me know that I am fond of admonishing “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” but I may be guilty of only applying this to situations that do not require me to expand my notion of acceptance for a good faith effort, instead of perfection. 

Perhaps it’s time to revel in the loving intentions of the people and events that make up my daily life, accepting the miracle of perfection for the rare moments they are.

Today, I have three eyebrows. Not exactly perfect, but damn, my hair looks good!