On Being High Maintenance, Whatever The Hell That Means
I am high maintenance, and I’m mad as hell about it.
I think about this a lot, but this article is just one of many that stuck in my craw. I guess I’ve been “high maintenance” for a long time. I do require a lot of maintenance just to live: part of this is due to food and skin allergies, part of this is preference. But I actually can’t think of a time when I was “low maintenance.”
When I went to Burning Man for the first time, I secretly hoped that I would leave a changed woman. The type of easygoing “cool girl” who could just roll with it! Turns out I was still me, just, in the desert. Admittedly, a “me” who was much more comfortable not showering for a week and a half, but if showering more frequently than “once every 9 days” makes me “high maintenance,” then is that honestly a bad thing?
I worry that I might even fall into a “super high maintenance” category. I’m a gluten-free vegetarian, which basically means that I can never just grab a bite to eat anywhere, I have to research restaurant options way in advance, bring gluten-digestion pills with me just in case, and have an escape plan to get home in the event of uncontrollable diarrhea at all times. If I spend the night somewhere, I need to bring a tote bag of prescriptions with me, so I can’t just go for an overnight trip without extensive planning and preparation! And speaking of “planning and preparation,” have you seen my purse? It’s a suitcase. It’s full of tampons, pads, aspiring, Pepto Bismol, granola bars, portable phone chargers, sunglasses, makeup, and hair ties. What is it like to walk out the door with only the stuff in your pockets? I can’t even imagine such a life.
I think, overall, I’m pretty easygoing! I love adventure. I thrived at Burning Man. I can roll with a lot of punches. I can deal with the elements, with changes in plans, with long hours and tough physical labor. But then, there are times when it backfires miserably in my face. Like, I can be totally prepared to maintain, and bring sunscreen, and have an allergic reaction to it and end up with an itchy rash on my arms for a week! I just can’t win, even when I try!
But trying, in and of itself, is high maintenance. It results in me carrying more products around in my purse, more allergy pills to avoid disaster, more specialty skin products. And these are just things that I need to keep my throat from closing up and my skin from breaking out in rashes! I’m afraid to go down the NLOG road, but as far as being “high maintenance,” this is still relatively low-level! I don’t choose these high-maintenance affectations, I require them. That said, I absolutely stand in solidarity with my high-maintenance bretheren: women who don’t want to get their hair wet, who don’t want to swim because they’ve got a full face of makeup on, who choose not to go camping because they don’t want to sleep outside. I mean, it’s obviously gendered bullshit. I don’t need to tell you why. But if you’re a woman who has any kind of needs or opinions, you’re “high maintenance.”
Obviously, it would become appealing to want to be a “cool girl,” a “chill girl” — the opposite of a “high maintenance” woman. The type of woman who could almost only exist in movies, where one rolls out of bed in full makeup without a hair out of place. The myth of the “low maintenance” girl, one who eats pizza and beer and never works out or washes the makeup off her face before falling asleep yet always has perfect skin, has proliferated the culture and set the standards for our expectations of women. This is not only the ideal, it is the only acceptable way to be a woman. Which is to say, to be a personality-less, easygoing, accessory of a girlfriend. A wax-paper, fill-in-the-blank human being
And yet, even though I know it’s a total bullshit construct, I still find myself wishing that I could be that imaginary “cool girl.” Low maintenance. A 5-minute shower-taking, jump-into-the-lake, roll-out-of-bed-and-go kind of girl. But when I try, I don’t feel good. The truth is, my “high maintenance” is self care. The time I take doing my makeup, picking out outfits and jewelry, styling my hair… this is time that I invest in me, making myself look my best makes me feel my best. So I guess I’m not that mad about being “high maintenance,” I’m mad about being called “high maintenance.” I’m just maintaining, ok?
image via Valeria Boltneva on Pexels