On The Uncurated Life

Written by Sarah Stone Innerst & Photograph by Marnie Hawson

Everybody gather in. A little closer. Don't look at the screen – look at the camera. Bring the pizza into the shot – so we can always remember what we ate. [click]

Hmm. We got the laundry basket is in the picture. It's filled to the brim with dirty clothes. Do I care?

Probably. I care because I've been told by social media to care: the best and most beautiful pictures tend not to have full laundry baskets in the background. But it's there. It's part of the truth of my life. I have laundry. It's dirty. In baskets.

Why do I choose some things to document and let other things reside in (or sometimes fade into) my memory? Why am I so careful to curate every little thing that I let the public see?

I tend to tweet, post, and 'gram the anecdotal pieces of my life. My social media profiles are filled with moments for you and memories for me. And reassurance for my mom that all is well in my life.

Are these pictures real? Partly. Each post is a piece of truth. The whole truth is me, in the moment, with the anecdote.

Center it? No – figure out where the focus should be. Right. Now it needs a filter. Ugh. This picture is pointless. I hate it. Nevermind – I'll look at my newsfeed and fiddle with it later.

Instagram has taught me so much about how to take a picture. I've curated my newsfeed to be mostly beautiful photos, many of which I've used as inspiration for my own photos. I've found on Instagram a community with impeccable taste in food, décor, and clothing, with habits similar to my own.

I enjoy your pictures from my chair, with my phone in hand. I'm smitten with your life, though I'd never admit it. I'm like Niles in the first 7 seasons of Frasier: you, Daphne, have the most beautiful life, and I think I love you. But I'll never come out and tell you. I keep you at a phone's distance.

And then I put down my phone because I'm in the middle of a party, and you're here! I'm the hostess, so I need to make sure the food tastes right. And that chair needs to be moved because it's in the wrong place. Oh, and the internet tells me that if I want to be a good hostess, I need to have a bowl of mints readily accessible for my guests.

I'll be right back. I need to run to the store.

Your glass is empty! Can I refill it for you? And let me move that dip so you can reach it while you talk to that other person.

I've become Niles of Season 8: you, Daphne, who I admire so much, are at my party. But I'm so focused on what your expectations might be – or, rather, what I think your expectations are – that I'm not enjoying being with you. I'm not allowing a friendship to form; because of my severe infatuation with your beautiful life, I'm keeping you at arm's length.

Slow down. Breathe. Let a drink spill. Clean it up with a towel from the dirty laundry basket in the bathroom.

You know what's fun to watch? Niles and Daphne on Frasier, Seasons 9-11. They know each other. They're friends. They sharpen each other and grow as individuals once they remove the barrier of distance and focus on truth rather than admiration. And that's where this analogy breaks down because I'm not marrying you in Reno.

And when I remove the distance between you and me, I let you reach for your own drink and I get to have a conversation with you, and we become better friends. In my calm state, I see that guests don't need me to hover over every detail so they can have a good time at my party. They didn't come here to coo over my décor and discuss the hors d'oeuvre. They've come to drink. I mean – they've come to laugh deep laughs and create fun memories. And if they see the laundry basket filled with dirty clothes, that's probably OK.

The truth of real life is: it's fine to have good taste and throw good parties, but I shouldn't have to prove it.

The digital world that swirls around me is focused on fashioning a certain lifestyle: polished, messy, whimsical, whatever. And I love it. I love the art of putting things together in an interesting way and pondering beauty. This focus isn't unique to people my age – we've had fashion shows, arts exhibits, interior decorators, and food critics for generations.

But as much as I love it, I'm remarkably removed from that vortex of urgency to curate the perfect life. Too much of what I love is unattainable.

I definitely keep up with the fast-paced trends in food, décor, and clothing, but all I can do is take cues from what I read and see. I use social media, blogs, and magazines to figure out how I can fake it.

To do more – I mean, to spend more – seems so wasteful. The reality is, I can't get a whole new wardrobe every season. I can't buy new furniture whenever I feel like it. I can't collect every kitchen item I want. It's not sustainable. It's not feasible. It's not reasonable.  

So I rebel. I see what social media tells me to do and I cheat the dictator-internet. That's truth. My life is very carefully curated with severe limitations.

I can't fault people who try so desperately to make their houses look like the spaces they admire on Instagram or Pinterest. If I had resources, I'd probably be doing something similar. But in my limitations I've discovered a sense of style I never would have come across if I had gotten everything I wanted from Design Within Reach.

And in letting go of the all-consuming desire to make everything Instagram-ready, I've started to enjoy my parties a lot more.

Tonight's party setup has no centerpiece. It has no table because we don't have a yard and our apartment is too small – we use a bar with stools. We don't have billowing linens, but we do have bad lighting. I'm serving pizza.

It's not a Kodak moment except for the fact that our friends are good friends and we laugh real laughs, discuss real issues, and make real memories together. Life is unique in these moments. Life is true in these moments. Life is #authentic in these moments. And I've tried to capture this beauty with a camera, but it's impossible. Mabye Annie Lebovitz or someone else more competent with a camera could do it.

Now bring it in so we can take another picture. I know it won't capture the moment perfectly, and it's OK if the laundry is in it. I just need to reassure my mom that I'm not just sitting around watching Frasier all day. [click]