I had a friend who invited me to a dinner party with 5 other girls. I was looking forward to it. These are good friends I enjoy very much.
Turned out, my son got a cold and I couldn’t come. No biggie.
But what stopped me in my tracks was my conversation with the friend who’d invited me to her house. We talked the following week and she said they’d had fun, but they’d missed me. Normal talk.
Then she said “I feel bad mentioning this, but there was a teensy tiny part of me that was relieved when you couldn’t come.”
“Yeah, I love having you over and I know, 100%, that you never, ever care about what my house looks like, but knowing you’re coming makes ME look at my own house and wonder if it’s tidy enough. I start to see things through your eyes and I just didn’t feel that my house met your Penelope standard.”
She didn’t mean to hurt me when she said this. She’s a GOOD friend who has been with me through thick and thin. She loves, understands and accepts me completely, Penelope-ness and all. I know this at a very deep level.
And yet, she’d told me the truth: she’d been slightly relieved when I wasn’t coming to the dinner party.
And you know what? I got it. I understood what she was saying.
My whole adult life, I’ve had people tell me similar things. Things like “Oh, please don’t ever drop by my house unexpectedly. I’d be MORTIFIED for you to see it.” Or “I’d have to clean for 3 days before I’d be ok with you coming over.”
While I understand what they’re saying, I’m left with the fact that I am somehow, totally unintentionally, giving off a vibe that I feel everyone’s home should be 100% perfectly neat and tidy all the time. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. MY home isn’t neat and tidy 100% of the time.
But, it IS 95% of the time and that’s what they know. They know my Penelope traits are naturally ingrained and that disorder makes me itch. I write an entire website about it, how can I blame them for thinking that my standards for my own space are ones I’d hold others to in theirs?
The fundamental misunderstanding is that I don’t. I am perfectly comfortable in homes of all kinds. Big, small, tidy, cluttered. All I ever care about is spending time with my friends. I don’t go around secretly doing the “white glove” test on people’s bookshelves and judging them for keeping piles of mail on a kitchen counter. I know in my heart that I don’t do that or even THINK about doing it.
But how do I convince non-Penelopes of this duality in my personality? That I can need my space to be a certain way, but be totally ok with the natural state of theirs? I haven’t solved this riddle yet. All I can do is continue to be as authentic as I can in every situation. What they do with it from there has to be on their end. I can’t control it.
If I’m being authentic, though, I wonder how many things I’m not being invited to for this very reason.