On being a Virgo

It’s not easy being a Virgo. For starters,  you are either the very youngest or the very oldest in the school year, and it scars you for life either way. Secondly, everyone in the world except other Virgos fall so far below your exacting standards, it’s hard to like them. Thirdly, you never get a decent birthday party because everyone is either still on holiday or just got back and has forgotten about your big day.

But the worst thing about being a Virgo is the self imposed rule that you must be Perfect. All. The. Time.

Failure is not an option.

This applies to work, relationships, home maintenance, alphabetising of DVDs/CDs, wardrobe organisation, spice racks, cushions sofas, picture straightening, to-do lists, pet care, parenting, exercising, holding parties, dressing oneself, and anything else you can think of. Unless you can do it fastest, best, first, most, longest – don’t do it at all. 

Of late, I have been a terrible traitor to the cause. I have attended at least two social occasions with a hole in my tights and no manicure. The cous cous in the cupboard is in tupperware without a label.  There are three different piles of filing that need to be done and I haven’t posted my March birthday cards off yet. A lightbulb is out in the living room and the new sofa is sitting off-centre to the rug. In general, the house has been left to its own devices due to a couple of disastrous, time poor months on my part, and the disorganisation is beginning to show. But my Virgoan hackles are up, spying offending pockets of chaos which I am slowly eradicating over a series of late nights when my husband is away so he is not subjected to my anally retentive tidying activities. I have boxed my son’s old clothes in size order (with price lists) ready for a baby sale. The playroom has had a reshuffle and there is now a strict door policy in place regarding the useless bits of junk my son and husband think a)might be fun to play with, b) will come in handy one day c) should be placed on the shelf because the bin was too far to walk to. I have organised the suitcases so they fit in order of size into the under-stairs cupboard. I have reinstated my shoe wardrobe, which fell by the wayside a few years back when for some reason I felt my t-shirts needed the space. A couple of midnight shifts and the result is shoetopia, complete with photos of each pair to assist with search and selection. You would have got a photo but I haven’t finished colour coordinating the boxes yet.

But everyone, even a Virgo, needs a place of respite. Somewhere where the pressure for straight lines, right angles and colour coordination isn’t so intense, where we can release our inner slob and let it all hang out. You might be fooled into thinking it’s my study, but this is just a room I haven’t got to yet. No, the study is a controlled environment that will take a limited amount of time to put to rights. The real nugget, the secret dust magnet, the water bottle harbouring, crisp packet festering, Virgoan underworld is… my car.

Keeping my car clean has never been a strong point. My first car, an x-reg Mini, was probably the cleanest car I ever had, because there wasn’t enough real estate inside to sustain much in the way of a trash ecosystem. The Astra that took me through my college years, on the other hand, was a pit, the very model of a student car. If you were lucky enough to get a lift, you first had to tackle the EU mountain of empty fag packets that littered the rear footwells (thanks, friends) before possibly being attacked by any number of cassette tapes, essay papers and old McDonalds takeout. The person who stole it and wrote it off in Lewisham car park c. 1996 probably died of toxic shock. Serves them right. Pick a tidy car next time, suckers.

In the late 90s, my car reflected the vaguely chaotic state of my early twenties. I had a couple of flirtations with Ford Fiestas, where the back seat was reserved for sleeping bags, spare knickers, a toolkit and a picnic blanket, various phone chargers and any number of items that ended up in there when I moved house for the 142nd time and never took them inside. Two KAs and another Mini later, and the evidence of wedding event organisation began to pile up in the rubble whilst the boot was handed over to recycled shopping bags and a yoga mat in case of emergencies.

Finally, twenty three years on, I have reached the pinnacle of my car ownership in the form of a RAV4. It is the place where mess goes to die. I offer you a peek into my undercover life as a slob…if you look hard enough you’ll see the yoga mat is still there, just in case.

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The back seat and boot of the car, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Lost Things

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The passenger footwell. Yes that is an old band aid.

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Evidence of my many post-supermarket trip ‘treats’, tucked neatly into the side pocket of the driver’s side.
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And a broken umbrella and activity book, just in case my passenger needs some light entertainment, or very poor shelter from ‘all’ the rain.

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Nobody’s perfect all of the time

I am a Virgo. It’s important to me that you know that. Virgos, as a rule, take their star sign very seriously – probably more seriously than is acceptable in modern day society – and expect you to take it seriously as well. That they are a Virgo. They couldn’t really give a hoot what you are. Unless you are a Virgo too.

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How Virgoans see the world  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m pretty certain Virgos come across as some of the most irritating people on the planet. We are the picture-straighteners of the world, the perfectionists, the hyper-critical, overly-logical, self-analyzing, right-angled, alphabetising, colour co-ordinating junkies of the human race. Black is black and white is white and there is officially no such thing as grey. ‘Change’ is a dirty word unless it has been planned that way. Achieving perfection is not the stuff of dreams, it is a way of life. ‘Trial’ is fine; ‘Error’ – not so much. And if all that wasn’t enough pressure, of all the Virgoans I have met and befriended over the years, many, if not all, have been actors, photographers, designers, and writers – i.e. creative. Creatively challenged, actually – because all that super-organised, self-critical think-in-straight-lines stuff gets hugely in the way of the fuzzy-wuzzy-dolphin-music-hippy-dippy-shit we like to immerse ourselves in. But somehow, magically, it works, and when a Virgoan manages to finally tap into their unconsciousness to get the creative stuff out before the conscious brain sets to work on recalibrating it to make sense, they tend to produce great (if not completely perfect) results.

So when a Virgoan screws up, particularly one who is of a slightly more creative nature (one might suggest the term ‘drama queen’ as appropriate to insert here) it is nigh on impossible for them to adopt an ‘oh well, never mind’ approach. It is, in fact, the end of the world. Which is about where I have been most of this week.

If you read last week’s post you will recall that I started off my dalliance with imperfection whilst cooking for a dinner party. Never before have I cocked up so much food in such a short, important space of time. That was last Friday. It should have been an indication of the greater incompetence that lay ahead.

Last week, shortly after posting my blog, I waited for a delivery to show up. A new, longed-for mattress with an all singing all dancing memory foam topper that would hopefully put an end to broken sleep and bad backs. When it arrived, it took them half an hour to get it upstairs due to a rather tight spot between the ceiling and the stairwell. Not wanting to think the worst, I ignored the fact that I didn’t remember this being so much of an issue with our old bed when we moved in, and instead blamed it on the general incompetence of the delivery team.

Not so. In fact it was MY general incompetence that was at fault, as became blindingly obvious when the mattress arrived in our room and was -oh – a good ten inches bigger than our bed. I had forgotten to measure and had guessed when we ordered. And I had guessed wrong. Oh the shame. So much so I blamed my husband in the ensuing phone call to the mattress company and with lots of eye rolling and pretend-crossness at his incompetence (sorry babe) I convinced them to exchange it for the correct size.

But what was it I was ashamed of? Not getting it wrong, per se, but that I had guessed. GUESSED. No Virgo GUESSES anything. It is simply not in our vocabulary. Something was going very, very wrong.

This morning we were due to be on a plane to Sri Lanka. I know that because my travel spreadsheet (oh yes) says so. But instead I am typing this in my study and we are clearly not on a plane anywhere. In a conversation with our housemaid, who hails from Colombo, I discovered that not only was the country still at the tail end of the monsoon (a fact I had known about but chosen to ignore up until now) but that there were ‘bad mosquitos’ in the capital city. Upon further inquiry it transpired these ‘bad mosquitos’ were called ‘Dengu’. Hmm. That sounds alot like ‘Dengue’ to me. So I did a bit of Googling and what do you know, there is a pandemic on. Who knew? Not wanting to be put off entirely (although by this point I must admit I was going a little cold on the idea) it got me thinking about all the other diseases we might pick up. We knew malaria didn’t affect the thin sliver of coastline we were visiting, but in full confidence that was all I needed to worry about, I managed to entirely forget to check our vaccination records until a week before we were due to travel. It turns out my son hasn’t had a typhoid jab and although the nurse was vaguely confident it would be ok for him to travel five days after the vaccination, she did mention that ‘before four weeks is best, ma’am’. Given typhoid is spread through water and the monsoon is still finishing up, it would only take one dodgy washed vegetable and that would be that.

So we cancelled. And being a Virgo, I take it as a personal failing that 1. I didn’t research the weather patterns and disease issues properly in the first place, 2. I didn’t organise our vaccinations in time and 3. I didn’t worry enough.

I didn’t worry enough. How does that even make sense? That’s how perfect I want to be, that I am worried about not being worried. It is extremely stressful being this self-critical. It takes up huge swathes of time and energy, being cross with oneself for not being ten out of ten ALL THE TIME. (A score of ‘ten’ being most sane people’s ‘eleven’, of course.)

So this week, in summary, the thoughts running round my little twisted mind (at 90 degrees, obviously), go something like this: 1. I can’t cook, 2. I guessed something and that is a BAD THING and 3. I didn’t worry enough. As I result, we ate ice cream, haven’t slept well and aren’t going on holiday. I’ll leave it to you to work out the order of disaster rating.

Things have taken a turn for the better since I realised I had dropped the astrological ball and gave myself a stern talking to. It’s Thanksgiving next week, and in an effort to pull my Virgoan socks right back up I am currently surrounded by shopping lists and schedules for preparation and cooking. I have already been out and purchased a soup tureen, turkey grippers and extra pie dishes in anticipation of producing a meal for ten nothing short of utopian. I have bought a new tablecloth (I measured the table first), done an inventory of glassware, plates, napkins and suchlike to ensure we can cater for a crowd, and assessed the state of the decorations hidden in the under stairs cupboard for the past twelve months. I have candles, name place cards and have already printed menus for the buffet table. The turkey is ordered and my housemaid is on standby to help with peeling vegetables and washing up. I am determined this meal will look perfect, taste perfect, and run like a well oiled machine, so that I can kick back and have a glass of wine by the time the pies (plural – apple, pecan and pumpkin) are served. In fact, I am so demanding of my own organisational excellence that I am considering booking a manicure for the day before, so that I can look immaculate too and really test out just how perfect I can be. I need to get my Zodiac groove back and there is only one way – to get back out there and give it all I’ve got at being great.I am in competition with myself. Tragic, but true.

If it goes wrong, fellow Virgos, I promise I will change my birthday.