“We’ve gotta clean the house, now, now, NOW, PEOPLE! I want this place looking like Disney on Ice in one minute… If you haven’t made your bed, throw it away! It’s too late to make it now… Company is coming! Get rid of the couches. We can’t let people know we SIT! …There cannot be any sign of LIVING in this house… I want this place looking like a new Mediterranean fusion restaurant by noon… This is a dishtowel. I need a hand towel. What are we? Barbarians!?!”
Does this ring any bells?
In a mere ten days, comedian Chris Fleming’s YouTube video “Company Is Coming” garnered over a million YouTube views. Like thousands of other ladies, my face flushed scarlet as I watched Chris’ spot-on characterization of Gayle, a frantic suburban homemaker wildly preparing for company. And my face wasn’t crimson just because I was laughing hysterically.
Guilty! That’s it. I was guilty of being Gayle.
Now, I’m a good housekeeper. And I like to think of myself as a pleasant, kind, level-headed woman.
Except when threatened with “company.”
That’s when this nice, normal woman (who tries to keep her house clean all the time) turns into a screaming, frantic Gayle furiously wielding duster, broom and vacuum. And apparently, I’m not alone!
That’s why “Company Is Coming” is comedic gold. As Sid Caesar said, “Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.” Gayle is long on truth, no curlicue required.
We are so busted, ladies! Let’s face it. We all turn into frantic Gayles when threated with company. Oh, we may try to play it cool and claim, like my grandmother, that our houses are always “company-ready.” But our husbands and kids will gleefully give us away.
And if the 2:34 minutes of Chris Fleming’s genius aren’t bad enough, even the comments below the video throw egg on our faces. FullMetalWhovian81 simply wrote “MOM?!” while Samantha Lang posted, “That’s like my mom the morning of Thanksgiving or any holiday even birthdays.” And Stephanie iii exclaimed, “My entire family every time someone is coming over! We can’t let this place look lived in. I loved it!”
Isn’t it nice to know we’re not alone? I found it a great comfort to realize that I’m not the only one who loses my sangfroid at the threat of impending company.
So, just in time for the threat of company over Christmas and New Years, frantic hostesses all, lend me your ears. Let’s get down, dirty and Freudian together, shall we? Why the heck do we freak out? I mean, it’s no fun. Freaking out makes us miserable, and makes our families miserable. Maybe if we figure out why our joie de vivre abandons us, we can learn to live more deliberately.
So, what’s it all about?
I’m afraid that if I’m not perfect, I won’t be loved.
Like so many of you, I had a perfectionistic parent. While claiming he only expected a “good faith effort,” Dad’s vicious criticisms of, well, everyone gave him away. No one escaped unscathed. Co-workers, relatives, neighbors, the usher passing the collection plate at church. No one was immune. Not my mother, and certainly not myself.
Yes, he loved his family. But there was always a tone of “if only,” an unspoken footnote to his love. If only I tried harder, he would love me more. The “in spite of yourself” tone to his I-love-you’s implied he could love me unconditionally “if only” I were better at fill-in-the-blank. I felt he loved me in spite of who I was, not because of who I was.
Probably the majority of us felt less than unconditionally loved by our narcissistic folks. And why? Well, parents who don’t feel “okay” about themselves, can’t risk their own child being “okay” either. It would feel, well, threatening to them. In a word, they’re narcissists. And narcissists just gotta criticize. It makes them feel elevated, superior, better-than. Rather pathetic, isn’t it?
So, as the threat of Christmas company approaches and you find yourself mutating into Gayle, sit down for five minutes with a nice hot cup of chamomile tea. Dare to cut a slice out of the fruitcake… early. Breathe in, breathe out. Remind yourself that if your company’s hobby is criticizing, they will find something to criticize, even if you clean the windowsills with Q-Tips. It has everything to do with their own pathetic self-esteem, and absolutely nothing to do with you. And if you have the balls and moxie, leave a sticky mess somewhere just to satisfy their need to criticize.
But treasure those who are blind to your dusty bookshelves and finger-printed windows. If a guest exclaims, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re not perfect, either!” treasure them. That person is pure gold.
If I may be allowed to paraphrase the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, he said it best.
Or bends to do the white glove test:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on crunchy carpets, and is never shaken.
Merry (Imperfect!) Christmas!
Originally published in my blog on the HuffPost.