Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Thing About Pinterest


I promise this is the last time I will mention my children's birthday, but I have a few words to say about the cake I made them. I will concede that the icing (that's English for frosting, y'all) was incredible. It was so soft and fluffy; it was like licking a pillow. But the cake itself tasted like an old boot, and I ran out of m&ms in the colours I needed, and the icing got totally full of cake crumbs (because the cake was so dry) and overall it failed to deliver the amount of self-satisfied, smug pride I was hoping for.

What happened was this: rather than finishing it and thinking 'hey look, I made a perfectly adequate cake!' I stepped back and looked at it and felt a huge rush of disappointment.  Because it looked like this:
Hey look! A perfectly adequate cake!



But in my head, of course, I was thinking it would look like this:

Now that's what I call a cake!
 So yeah, there was a bit of an expectation gap.

 Why would I feel disappointed? Why would I expect that my children should have some kind of food-as-sculpture experience for their third birthday? Frankly, I could have iced a shoebox and they would have thought it was great, so my disappointment was definitely not about them.

I blame Pinterest. And this is about more than cakes, and more than Pinterest. It's about how easy I find it to be disappointed with every aspect of my life, when I compare it to what other normal people are doing in the online-o-verse: blogs and facebook and all of it. I can ignore magazines - everybody knows that stuff isn't real - but these days there is a new level of voyeurism (and, okay, exhibitionism) about ordinary people's ordinary lives. I feel like every aspect of other people's lives is displayed on my laptop screen, and what I'm looking at always seems so fabulous.  

If I'm being honest, I find it weird and sometimes difficult, being surrounded by this much fabulousness. I find that after too much time on social media, I feel like I must be unusually blobby and uncoordinated, live in an unusually small house, work in an unusually boring job, sew an unusually small number of hand-printed hand-woven organic toys, eat an unusually bad diet which is unusually low in kale, overall live an unusually mundane life and  - also - make unusually bad cakes.

I wonder: is it because people stick whatever it is that they are best at all over social media? The cake people cover pinterest in cakes. The amazing photographers fill their blogs with lust-worthy photos. The people with incredible houses show us their spectacular interiors. The super-fit post their running updates. The crafters display their creations. The people with fabulous, flexible, jealousy-inducing jobs tell us about their schedules and their travel arrangements. And I...just have to admit that the conglomeration of all of it makes me feel bad about myself. I feel like everyone else is doing everything because I can see all of it all at once.

I know in my head that it is very, very unlikely that anybody is fabulous at all of these things. But somehow, that head-knowledge doesn't matter. All of this stuff blends together in my consciousness, and it feels like everyone blends together into a perfect, all-capable internet woman. She's vaguely crunchy, conscious, and intentional about everything she does. She's not perfect - oh no! but she's imperfect in an interesting, self-deprecating way, rather than a messy, boring, selfish way (like I am).  In short, she has the  'I made it myself during my layover in Hong Kong and then I used it as a teachable moment and then my children wrote a song about it' life that I feel like everybody on the internet is living except for me

(Please don't tell me that I shouldn't feel like this. I know I shouldn't feel like this, but the thing is, I do. And see, I think that you are judging me for feeling this way because you are Internet Woman, and Internet Woman doesn't give in to negative thought patterns like I do).

So the problem with Pinterest - and the rest of the internet -  is that sometimes, it makes me really dissatisfied with myself and my  life.


Apart from that, of course,  I think it's fabulous. 



I was talking a bit to my father about this (my parents have been visiting; hence the lack of posts) and bemoaning my lack of mad cake skilz. I had to make a second cake (a few days after the perfectly adequate one) for all the grandparents and he offered a solution culled from his favourite female columnist. (Incidentally, do not get me started on columnists - is there ever a job that was more alienating to the 99% of us who have to go and sit in an office to earn money? It seems to me that being a lifestyle columnist means being paid to write about problems with things that most of us will never experience. Maybe it's a UK thing, but it always seems to be witty anecdotes about how their favourite organic deli was out of cruelty-free salami or how the nanny doesn't speak fluent Japanese. That is NOT A REAL PROBLEM. Do you know how to get puke out of a twenty-dollar IKEA rug?  Because that's the kind of life advice I need right now). Anyway, apparently this woman isn't that kind of lifestyle columnist, and I warmed  to her when I heard the cake solution - basically, forget the cake. Buy a tub of icecream, buy a whole bunch of sweets (that's English for candy, y'all) and press the sweets into the surface of the icecream as if it was an iced cake. 


I thought this was genius.

I'm going to cut a long story short here, people, and just tell you that it was a hot day. Hot day + ice cream + trying to balance large round chocolates on the edges of a rapidly melting tub of ice cream = NOT SMART. NOT SMART AT ALL.  The takeaway here is that in a fight between gravity and a malteser, gravity is always going to win.  And an idea that sounds too good to be true probably is.

And because I would hate for any of you to ever think that I am Internet Woman (not that I think there's much danger...) I'm going to show you a picture of the finished product, complete with m&m avalanche. Yes, I really served this to guests. So, jJust in case any of you struggle with feelings of internet inadequacy, I've got two words for you:

Pin THIS. 


94 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. This is why I avoid Pinterest like the plague.

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    1. but then how will you know how to dehydrate a whole season's worth of cabbage using only a pint of vinegar and the heat of the sun?

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  3. Ha! I love your cake! My friend Claire just wrote a post about this too. Lemme find the link...

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  4. http://clairebidwellsmith.com/2012/07/30/the-good-the-bad-and-the-filtered-truth-about-my-post-partum-life/

    Here it is. Now, I'm off to pin your cake. Perfectly fine cake!

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    1. Thanks so much for linking this, Julie - good to read an admission from one of the people whose life LOOKS perfect that they have 5am fights too!

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  5. Trust me, if I posted photos of my house, it would cheer everyone up. When I made a cake for my son's christening, I had to carefully explain to the relative helping me with it that both layers were more or less triangular because huh, seems my oven is not really level. So we just had to work it so the thin end of the bottom layer matched up with the fat end of the top layer. That's what my life is like. Oh, and I have an unfinished cardigan for a one year old I started knitting in 2008 in my sitting room. Maybe I'll have a grandchild in 25 or so years and will finish by then. Oh, I should mention the cardigan I knitted for myself. The sleeves are about six feet long. I suppose it could be very cozy straitjacket. I'm tempted to get on Pinterest and start pinning things like that.

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    1. TRIANGULAR CAKE?? You win at cake!!!

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  6. Hee, hee! I love this so much. Your humor is good for me. I feel like my cakes take turns ... one is amazing and the next HORRENDOUS! The firetruck cake I made for Scootle? Not all the red food coloring in the world was going to make the icing anything but pink. And it made it taste AWFUL. He still remembers just how awful and now that I read enough other internet women, I know to stay away from dyes anyway. Live and learn. I bet by our children's 20th birthday we are going to be awesome at this and they aren't going to appreciate it.

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  7. I love a good laugh out loud bad cake photo. This was fantastic for my mental health! I feel the same way. Particularly about the home tours posted on the blog Design Mom. Does everyone raise children in all white surroundings with perfect splashes of color, freshly cut flowers, quirky fantastical antique decorations that all happen to go together and look modern (even though if I put them together my house would resemble my great grandmother's - in a bad way.)

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    1. See, when you mentioned Design Mom the other day, I just knew I couldn't click on it or I'd be instantly depressed. It's exactly that life I mean. Don't their children ever eat / play / puke like the rest of ours do??

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    2. I think people like that keep their children locked up all day. Or they have staff. Or both. We should report them.
      You definitely need to look at Pinterest Fail.

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    3. I definitely think that what I need is staff.

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  8. I was just thinking about Pinterest perfection today because in the world of contracted blogging, I feel terribly inferior to all the "real" professional mom bloggers (because I am, clearly, an impostor). People create slideshows of their incredible lives or of all the amazing ideas for whatever they're posting about (fill in the blank with something like "rainbow baby shower gifts" or "perfect dresses for postpartum cocktail parties"), and I keep posting photos with visible cat hair on someone's clothing. It's hard to remember that most people are putting their best foot (or cake) forward on social media sites, and borrowing things from others that they would never be able to do themselves. I feel like it's an amped up version of what we do when we invite people over to our homes, cleaning everything within an inch of its life and serving our most impressive food. The difference is that on social media, it's so much more visible and easier to maintain an illusion of perfection. I love that you posted photos of your second cake. If I were stilling pinning things on Pinterest, I would pin that to all my boards. But for now I'm just craving Maltesers.

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    1. Do you get maltesers over there? I have a feeling you don't. Please tell me I'm wrong!

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    2. We do, but they are hard to come by. Only particular import shops carry them. My favorite candy that I can't get easily are mint Aero bars; they used to carry them at my drugstore down the street, but stopped. I'm not sure why, as I was buying enough to keep them in demand.

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    3. well, next time you're over this way I'll make sure you get a chance to gorge yourself on them!! There's a shop that sells them just across the road from our house :)

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  9. HALLOWEEN: Internet Woman in her in visible jet saving the entire onlineoverse. (or destroying it... which ever is the most morally correct come autumn)

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    1. if you draw that, I will buy the T-shirt :)

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    1. and it was re-pinned less than an hour later....

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    2. Hilariously, a lot of views to this post have come from Pinterest. Thanks, Jess!! Having a huge cackle at the irony.

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  11. I stopped reading magazines 5 years ago for this very reason.

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  12. I love your cake! Of course, keep in mind I am spending tomorrow making ernie cupcakes for my daughter's 3rd birthday. I found some on Pinterest to copy. hmmm...

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  13. Laughing out loud and even crying a bit. Not at your cake, but because you totally just described how I feel when I spend too much time on Pinterest. Thank you for the awesome post. Totally pinned it.

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  14. This is my favorite post ever. Immensely helpful to me now.

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  15. I suggest this website as a humorous antidote to pinterest perfection syndrome: http://craftfail.com/

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    1. thank you for this link. i just peed my pants laughing. and thank you C for your dose of reality. :)

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    2. This is HILARIOUS!!!
      I also adore: http://www.pinterestyouaredrunk.com/
      So much funny.

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  16. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for putting into words what I so frequently experience. That Internet Woman is trouble.

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  17. Love love love this post! Keeping it real!

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  18. OH GOSH, I love you far too much for it to be "normal" :)

    I have laughed and laughed and yes, you are genius!

    I think this is my favourite post of the whole week!

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  19. Here's the thing, your posts are the very first ones I read when I open Blogger and see you've written something new. You are a genius, I adore you. If you were "Internet woman" I'd probably just find you annoying. Instead, every time I read one of your posts I wish we could have a glass of wine or cup of coffee together.

    And, p.s., I pinned this. <3

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    1. Oh, you're so sweet Kathleen. And please, coffee is all very well but let's make it wine :)

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  20. DS#1 and DS#2 told me a long time ago that no one and nothing on the internet is who or what they say they are. In fact, hard core gamers have a saying -- I forget how it goes, it's something like-- "ah yes, the internet, where every woman is a man and every teenage girl is an FBI agent." or something like that. Just to sort of remind themselves that everyone misrepresents themselves on the internet. Everyone. It's a little cynical but I guess you can sort of extrapolate it out to social media....no?

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    1. it's funny you say that, because YOU are one of the people who seems to not do that at all. I can't imagine that you misrepresent your life. Now I'm wondering, though...

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    2. yeah, now I'm onto you, dude.

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  21. I've also seen it written:

    The internet makes me feel bad about myself because I keep comparing my blooper reel to everyone else's highlight reel.

    The first cake is perfect for two 3 year olds! The second makes a good story for later in their lives! :)

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  22. When I got to the picture of the 2nd cake, the two year old beside me exclaimed "OOOOOOOOO" like it was the best cake he's ever seen in his life. Take that pinterest! Love this post. Gives all of us regular women hope haha.

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  23. Hilarious! I am off to share with everyone I know, that is everyone I know on social media, which is everyone I know, so they can marvel too at what witty friends I have (I read your blog, we ARE friends!). I made a humongous shit (that is supposed to be 'ship'. I don't know how I pushed the 'T' instead of the 'P', subconscious?) cake for my sons pirate themed 6th birthday party. I thought I might DIE before the whole thing was over and have gone Kroger ever since. The kids are SO excited they get to pick out their OWN cake - ingrates.

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    1. yeah, that will totally be us next year. Except I want more of that icing. Maybe I will just make a bowl of that and eat it myself.

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  24. I love your cake--at least it's homemade, right? For me, Pinterest is pure fantasy, as is Facebook, most of the time. Sometimes I feel like there is a direct correlation between how difficult a person's life is with how awesomely they present it. Not sure if that makes sense. And Pinterest? I mean, who is able to actually paint little mustaches on their nails like that? Crazy.

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  25. I love your cake and I love that you wrote about this subject! I have been feeling this way but I haven't been able to 'pin' down the cause of my discontentment with my overly-normal not-entirely-homemade life. You put it into refreshingly sassy words!

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    1. yeah, discontent is the word, isn't it?!?

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  26. Loving Pinterest in all its inauthenticity right now. I've gone down the rabbit hole - to use your phrase, it's 'what's working' for me as I endure a stupidly long wait for our adoption approval. Lusting after houses I'll never own and vacations I'll never take and outfits I'll never wear has somehow become a more effective distraction than horrible reality tv. Plus it's a lot easier to commit to than all the blogs that do the same thing.

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    1. oh! and i laughed my ass off at your 'pin THIS'.

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    2. heather, in the middle of those stuipdly long waits I think pinterest would be absolutely perfect. Personally, I went crazy with sewing (I've never sewed before or since). I know it was nowhere near as long as your post-referral wait but that stuff is IMPOSSIBLE to deal with. Pinterest away, heather, pinterest away!

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    3. Really, you sewed? I love it. Please can you post pics of your stuff so I can pin it on my "if only I could sew" board? :)

      I'm only half joking!

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    4. I posted some pictures aaaaaaaaaaaaaaages ago, I'm sure... hang on... oh yeah, here!
      http://www.my--fascinating--life.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/got-it.html
      I appliqued the owls. It was a ton of fun, but ARRGHHHH! The TIME it took! I cannot imagine having that kind of time right now. (Although that may be because of how many times it took me to undo and redo stuff)

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  27. I have never actually been to Pinterest, but I know what you mean. Of course, I'm guilty of only posting the prettiest photos of anything I bake :) and I rarely talk about the crappy running days I have. Sigh.

    But you--YOU, dear Claudia--you WRITE and I read and feel like a failure as a writer. So see? You are showcasing your stellar writing craft post after post after post and no doubt making other bloggers everywhere feel less than. I apologize if anyone else already commented this same thing...per always I have one second to comment and can't read all the others!

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    1. D'oh! I don't know what to say to that. Hmmmmmm.

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  28. I wish I was INTERNET-WOMAN enough to read the 45 comments you have already received - alas I need to go shear my llama so I can weave a blanket for a shaman visiting from the Amazon Rainforest later this afternoon. We have created a symphony together that we plan to perform for Nelson Mandela next year - so I will just tell you that I named this phenomenon "FaceBook Life Dysmorphia" a couple of years ago when I felt jealous after reading a FB post from a friend. I thought to myself, "I never do anything exciting" Then realized within the previous 60 days I had moved across the country and traveled to Ethiopia to bring home my son. Much like body dysmorphic disorder we can not see out own lives clearly when we look in the mirror.

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    1. You know most of those comments are from me, right? That's the joy of the 'reply' function. See, I just gave myself another comment!

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    2. and that's why I don't pay any attention to my comment count. Too many rabbits on this screen.

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  29. I generally boycott Pinterest as much as possible. I will admit that I looked up ideas for my son's 3rd birthday party and later that same day told my husband that it made me feel defeated before I even started. So I'm having the party at a playground. My friend is making the cake. I've relegated myself to putting down some table cloths and filling some bowls with chips. Fun will be had by all! And that's the most important part. I love your cake! And I love your "Pin This!" attitude!

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    1. Fun. And chips. The perfect party!

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    2. I really wish I had some chips right now.

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  30. I LOVED this post. Of course, I love all of them, but this one was meant for me! I just made mention to a group of moms who were talking about Pinterest at my son's co-op preschool that, "Yes! I love pinterest, but holy crap does it make me feel inadequate as a woman!" I said it tongue-in-cheek, well, kind of, because it actually does and they looked at me like I was a space alien. Maybe my delivery was off or maybe it was socially inappropriate for me to expose myself so much in that particular conversation, but I admit that your post makes me feel validated. Thank you!

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    1. yeah, I know what you mean - there are some places where it seems to be taboo to admit to feelings of inadequacy. Like you, I open my mouth before anybody tells me those rules and then I feel like a space alien too.

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  31. Laughed out loud, love you, and me too me too me too to everything you said. I once made a cake for my three year old's party, trying to fit in with the crunchy moms - it had 12 cups of shredded apples and was hard as a rock. Perfect for toddlers who can barely use forks! I was so mortified that I couldn't bear to have anyone over to celebrate the next year except immediate family. Failure with a side of selfishness! Yay me.

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    1. OH MY WORD, I love this comment and laughed out loud for real. My husband is wondering what I'm reading...

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    2. HAAAAAAAAAA!! You were going for crunchy mom and just turned into chewy mom. Hilarious!!

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  32. What a great post Claudia!! Reminded me of all the reasons I like you so much! Currently in south of france - being particularly blobby and non-internet-womanish (how much icecream can one person eat? Why do I stick out like the sweaty, pale scot that I am amongst all these chic french woman!) Happy birthday to p&b, and I would gladly have eaten both cakes you made - both looked fab to my discerning eye ;-) x

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    1. M, you are pretty much the least blobby person I know. But ehhh, I'm too frightened to go the south of France. Aren't they all beautiful there? The north of france is much less worrying - they all look as pasty as us and that makes me feel better about myself.

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  33. I came back to this post and starting thinking about one of only a handful of times I have ever posted pictures of food I cooked on my blog.... and the comments I got mostly said how disgusting it looked... the internet is also a great place to find friends who are willing to laugh at themselves (but then I always secretly worry that they might be funnier than me!) Don't you hate it when people post a link to their blog within your comments? completely out of bounds... http://semiferalmama.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=4288&action=edit

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    1. Two things: 1) NOBODY is funnier than you, and I would tell you so more often if wordpress would let me comment on your blog
      2) I Can't click on your link! You've given us the dashboard link (the bit that YOU see as the blog owner, not the bit that the plebs see). You know I want to read what you were linking to... can you give us an updated link?

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  34. This might be my all-time favorite post. How I can relate to this! I laughed out loud when I read it, then both my parents read it and laughed to and read out their favorite parts.
    You're awesome.
    Amy x

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    1. You know I'm not, right? But thank you.

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  35. Hi Claudia, another fantastic post and so funny, even if you don't mean it to be, although i think you do. you are clever! so there, take that. you make me feel inadequate in the clever and funny department. i haven't got a pinterest account, probably a good thing. I love your ice-cream cake, just love it!!

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  36. Claudia take note. YOU are the woman that I envy - you can write. I love to read but certainly cannot write like you do. You ARE an internet woman. Thanks for the chuckle.

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    1. Nooooooooooooooooo! I pinky swear that I am not. Don't make me post pictures of the dust bunnies to prove it.

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  37. Love this post!!! I definitely have no trace of the crafty gene!! Good to know I am not alone. Although, that candy filled ice cream looks fantastic!

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  38. Okay, so I've been reading each and every comment. And now I'm linking to you from my post :)

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  39. Love this post...how easily we deceive ourselves into believing that we're the only ones that don't have it all together. Realness. That's what I love.

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  40. I pinned you Claudia! I so agree with you...thanks for sharing and being real! This is a post I hope women across the country pin and re-pin again!

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  41. I love this! Found your blog from Leigh's blog. I was attracted to the Pinterest post header. I used to think Pinterest was fun but I never really got into it. Sure I pinned stuff I like (I like to bead so I found lots of jewelry I might like, and pinned it for myself). I never dreamed anyone would want to follow me. When my husband joined I just lost interest in it. I could not imagine why he would want to join, LOL.

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  42. Belated Happy Birthday to your little ones -- I hadn't realize how close in age they are to my son. And what an age this is!

    That is a cake after my own heart. Really appreciate you sharing that. I have this weird masochistic relationship with 'hip' parenting/design-ey blogs, where people share painstakingly cool photo and beautifully photographed 'tours' of their kids' rooms (never a puked-on rug in sight!), or cutely-clever birthday parties, or amazing craft/home improvement projects. I go "look at this shit! who are these people?!" while simultaneously coveting that damn lamp or wishing I had it together to do a lumberjack-themed party with little appetizers shaped like an ax in a log. ANYWAY! Good thing I have so far avoided Pinterest...

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  43. I have friends who refuse to be on Facebook/Pinterest/read blogs because they feel inadequate as women and I have friends (and family) who read my blog/Facebook and refuse to believe that my life sucks because I'm not dumping all my garbage on there. When I read blogs I try to remember that no one's life is perfect and, as one commenter said above, I'm only seeing their "highlight reel." And even if it doesn't seem like the highlight reel, I'm only seeing the bloopers they choose to present in the way they choose to present them. That doesn't always work though.

    Thanks for keeping it real and for helping to break down the stereotype that we are all perfect in everything we do ALL. THE. TIME. Because we aren't. And the first way to change the problem of the "Internet Woman" is to admit that she exists in the first place. And she is a fake. May we all be so brave.

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  44. This made me incredibly happy to read - both the blog and the comments. I deactivated my Facebook about a month ago after signing up for it around 7 years ago (and turning, I fear, into an update-a-minute, dependent-yet-helplessly-so user). I thought I would have withdrawal symptoms, or feel isolated, or have an impossible time keeping up with people, but I have been pleasantly surprised that none of those things occurred (AND I have yet to want to get back on!!). I've blogged a handful of times about my experience, but other than that (and using Instagram on a fairly regular basis), I'm largely un-connected and have enjoyed the past 5+ weeks without excessive internet use. My biggest struggle with Facebook was all of my college friends (and now, my YOUNGER SISTER'S college friends) having incredible success having their first, second, or even third child, while my husband and I continue to struggle in our quest to become parents. The "I'm so awesome at life and fitness" factor bummed me out, too, but nowhere near as cripplingly as the news of others' baby bumps. I knew that in ditching the Facebook & etc, I'd need to also tackle the underlying feelings and heartache I have associated with our disappointment, and I've done so through talking with others and focusing on the things in my life that are going awesomely well.

    Thank you for being brave and posting the photo of your AWESOME cake (which made me giggle aloud!), and for perfectly encapsulating what drove me away from social networking sites.

    As far as Pinterest goes, I've never signed up and I think I will keep it that way. :]

    - Erin (www.xanga.com/elysium28)

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  45. Oh my, this is hilarious. And so true! Thank you, from someone who is putting a whole lot of effort into not comparing myself so much to others. I too "eat an unusually bad diet which is unusually low in kale"--and I had to laugh out loud at that!

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  46. Thank you so much for keeping it real & making me feel like I'm not the only one who doesn't have their sh*t together when I compare myself to these fabulous online mavens. But just so you know, now YOU'RE the one who is going to be make people jealous...featured on RHE's Sunday Superlatives and everything :)

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  47. I love cake #2 and the realness around these parts. Thanks for not making life sound all skinny, tanned and botox'ed.

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  48. skip the kale. it smells up your refrigerator after you've left it in there with no purpose for too long.

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  49. I so wanted to give my kids perfect birthday cakes. So I took a cake decorating class and I got pretty darn good at it. Then the kids told me they hated icing and asked for bald cakes.

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  50. I love your pictures and your post. It made me laugh, a lot (in a "I feel like you" way!) and yes, I was looking for inspiration for my daughters 3rd birthday cake. I will stop looking now and just go with the flow. I'm hoping chocolate, icing and sprinkles will be adequate. I saw some fairly scary tinkerbell fairy cakes out there on the interweb thingy.

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Over to you!