Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Maintenance

Maybe every woman is high maintenance at sometime. But it strikes me that some women I know are high maintenance pretty much ALL the time. My sister-in-law May is one. Her poor husband (even Johnnie and me) is constantly tending and running to keep up with her requests. As in "Teddy, can you get my jacket?" "We need more napkins." "Teddy, will you go ." She isn't debilitated just sort of a low level constant demanding. I don't mean the kind of demanding as when a person is ill and needs more tending than usual from their significant other or spouse.

She interrupts and frequently doesn't listen (guess those are two sides of the same complaint). Continually, usually with complete departures from the current conversation. My favorite is "Look, Teddy, a pergola," uttered as we're driving anywhere and not talking about pergolae/pergolas. (What's the plural of pergola?) They were on a pergola kick a few years ago and she was apparently on the lookout for every one in the county. Sometimes Johnnie and I will compare notes about how many conversation threads were actually taking place at a single time and how much our ears hurt from people talking over people.

Going to a restaurant is an anxious exercise in watching the waiter/waitress zip back and forth fetching lemon slices, napkins, more water, another drink, getting her bacon done extra crispy, taking the drink back because it isn't right, taking her dinner back to get it more done, changing her order, you get the idea. Sometimes there are thank yous but sometimes not. I sure hope Teddy tips well.

At home, Teddy and May have an arrangement. They have a two-car garage but it's full of Ted's woodworking equipment. It's a sore point with Mare as they live near Cleveland. Cold, snowy Cleveland. So it's Ted's job to go out and clean off May's car every day and warm it up in the winter. While they were here a couple weeks ago, Ted was dispatched to warm up their car in our driveway. It was easily 55 degrees outside. Not car-warm-up weather, according to me.

For a couple weeks after we've been with them (at their house or ours) I fret that I'm high maintenance which I absolutely positively do not ever want to be. Johnnie assures me that I'm not but I still worry. To me, high maintenance means being demanding and being served. In Googling the phrase, it seems that others interpret high maintenance to mean expensive clothes, Botox and lots of personal maintenance services. Perhaps so but that's not what I'm referring to.

I want to do things for myself. More than that, I get uncomfortable if I feel I am being waited on hand and foot. At restaurants we specify how we want food prepared but then we tip well to compensate the staff for taking care of us. And thank them copiously. We tend to patronize the same places all the time so they get to know us and our idiosyncracies.

My sister used to say that her daughter was high maintenance and I guess maybe she is, in a different sort of way. Must have her Starbucks every day. Must drive a high value car. Spends money like it's water (and they don't have it to spend). I never thought of her as high maintenance, more just indulged and unwilling to change her habits. Perhaps that is another version of high maintenance. Interestingly, my sister was a hugely high maintenance person but it never seemed that way until you were the one jumping to keep up with her requests.

I suppose it isn't necessarily a gender thing and that men can be high maintenance too. I just don't know any personally. And probably there are more high maintenance men and women in certain cities -- Los Angeles or New York City for example -- where wealthy or famous people are accustomed to constant tending and servitude from others. It just seems way out of line to me.


LceeL said...

High maintenance. Some of my Annie in that - and I never really realized it. Hmmm. I may have edjumicate (Bush speak) her. (Not that I'm a bush fan, but he HAS done some interesting things to the language.)

Erin said...

You know, I frequently worry that I am high maintenance, too.

I think if we are aware of the possibility, we're not high maintenance.

k8 said...

To Erin's point, I think *some* of us acknowledge and actively refrain from being high maintenance. (I believe I fall in this category, thankyouverymuch.) But there are others who embrace their level of maintenance need. They, too, can identify it but then wrap up in it like their 450 thread count sheets.