In my coursework studying creative nonfiction, my classmates and I often discuss what is “truth” and how frequently “truth” gets wiggled in order to create a good narrative arc, or pretty prose. It’s kind of a fascinating question. I have recently been disappointed to learn that some of my favorite writers have blatantly made things up in order to create a good story. It seems like everyone does it – creative nonfiction is NOT journalism, so whether it is allowed in this genre is a great, debatable issue.
Ultimately, it’s all about the narrative. And narrative is a malleable beast.
And that’s how I get to be a domestic goddess.
Last week this happened:
I was home alone but it was Saturday night. I did not have a single soul in this blessed city who wanted to hang out with me all weekend.
I was feeling blue. I couldn’t shake the heart crunch of a break up. It wasn’t a particularly serious relationship, but I was wallowing.
I was swamped with work but my blueness was making my mind run in circles rather than towards productivity. I was procrastinating.
My baking, usually something I’m reasonably good at, did not go smoothly. First, I didn’t read the recipe carefully and mixed the flour and sugar. I was not supposed to do that. If you have ever tried to separate out grains of sugar and flour once they have been mixed – well, you’re a better man than I. I just dumped it in the trash, wasting over 3 cups of good product. I didn’t have *quite* enough butter – damn you, metric system, I was about 20 grams off. I tried to realign things to use margarine instead but I didn’t have quite enough of that either. I decided it would be fine.
It was not fine.
I then tried to soften the butter in the oven (I live in a house without a microwave, and don’t get me started on it). The butter melted way faster than I expected, making is liquid-y instead of soft.
All this added up to create some cookies of mass destruction. You could bruise people with those cookies if you had a good throwing arm or a slingshot.
I unscrewed (yes, unscrewed) a bottle of wine and proceeded to drink the entire thing. Drunk and alone on a Saturday night.
I listened to the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” musical soundtrack and sang along to every word. This is possibly the reason I’m single.
I called a friend and whinged at her about my sadface problems.
So that’s the “truth” of what happened.
But with a little bit of editing:
I was home alone, a rare blessing in my house of three where someone is always around and using the communal space.
I poured myself a glass of red wine and blasted my iPod, another rare treat when you share living space. I belted along at the top of my lungs while I turned on the oven and warmed up the kitchen. I baked sugar cookies, perfect for dunking in a cup of milky tea.
While home for Christmas, I only got see see my childhood best friend briefly, so I called her up – it’s so cheap to add international minutes to my mobile phone. We caught up in an edifying, deeply satisfying way. I love knowing no matter how long we go without talking, we can always pick up the phone and talk like we still converse daily. She will always be a part of my life.
In that version, I overcame an obstacle and succeeded in having an excellent night, embracing my domesticity and some me-time. If my life were a chick flick, I’d probably add the baking mishaps back in for a bit of endearing, slapstick humor.
And the cookies did genuinely taste good, they were just very, very hard.
Both versions are true. But the tone of each is pretty different. It’s all about shaping the narrative. Which is another way of saying it is all a matter of perspective.
Which is another way of saying fake it till you make it.
I am a domestic goddess. Come, drink wine and eat cookies with me.