Sunday, October 24, 2010

When Your Best Is Never Good Enough

While I'm off at the Rural Writers Retreat in Smithers, I wanted to re-post this poem by Selene Skye because even after all this time, I'm still moved to tears when I read it. If you're acquainted with Selene's work, books such as Crow/Woman And Mudgirl, or  The Raspberry Girl, then you'll understand why her words move me so. 

When your best never seems to satisfy
when your hair isn't blond enough
or pony mane
bouncy in a tail against long neck
as feet pound pavement and dirt roads
because of course
you must run
because you can never be thin enough
slender lean hip curves
a fatty at your back
bouncy boobs high from the last lift
a strong back to ride waves of sound
at the club all night long
voluptuous soul
against a pole
a pulse you can't put your finger on
because you'd really much rather be at home
sleeping in a warm bed
then having boys who were in diapers
the year you turned sixteen and wild
gaping at you with MILF dreams within their dilated
ecstasy wide pupils

When your best seems to get you into a heapingful of blues
and troubles
maybe it's time to stop trying so hard
to be the silkiest monster in the day
the woman with the yellow eyes and sharpest of tongues
whipping up a storm of wounds across the palms
that never meant an ounce of harm
and yet were stripped down to the bone
Maybe it's time to stop being your daughter's friend
her hip-hop princessa partner in the sublime crime of misanthropy
and be her mother
get her back beneath the arbor of wings
before the freedom you've unleashed before her
whips her up into a frenzied maelstrom
far from any Wizard of Oz dream

When your best has turned you inside-out
to cannibalize your own dreams and needs and wants;
when your lashes feather spider darkness
coy green eyes beneath
they forget how to see your eyes
when your lips have been stung with such intense wasp kisses
to swell ruby and doll like
they forget to hear the words coming from between those pouty
porn star delicacies
and you
that the only reason you'd puffed your lips to begin with
was to erase the scars and the damage
left behind by Eagle's hard fists

And you've fallen so easily to your own glitter
your porcelain
ivory existence
devour without thought and despise without reason each bittersweet slice
of hate
and love
come to flutter through your fingers
God, you are so convoluted
such a contradiction
and I can tell you one thing
my green-eyed monster
when your best is never good enough
it's too good to be true


It's impossible to know what goes through someone else' mind when they create something as tender and haunting as Selene's poem. But I do understand why it moves me so deeply. I've been as guilty of this as the next. I've judged myself and others by appearance. I've looked at a woman's attire and render expectations. Or misgivings. During my 30s, I yearned to be perfect. The perfect woman, the perfect wife and mother. Anything short of that meant failure.

My mother was an entertainer; she understood about appearances. Did she teach me to demand perfection? No, in fact she told me I was luckier than most because not only was I smart, I had personality and looks. "Enjoy who you are," she would say.
So, what do you suppose my reaction was? In light of the continual influence of movies, TV and magazines, I thought because she was my mother, she didn't see me as the world did: full of imperfections; unworthy. I think back now to the look of pain on her face when I described myself in degrading terms. Adjectives like fat, stupid, unworthy, pitiful, and ugly were familiar choices. I was her daughter, the result of the union between her and her husband, my father. "You look like your dad," she often told me. He was attractive, dark like Dean, outgoing like Frank.
All I saw was my thick frame, eyes that were too deep set, and short legs. I heard a masculine voice when I spoke and a throaty noise when I laughed.
This search for perfection and the fear that your best is never good enough isn't new. My mother felt it, and her mother. And whether they passed it along to me isn't important. Our society feeds on such lack of confidence. How else would they sell their products?
I revel in the thought that women are living longer. And menopause, despite its ghastly side-affects is proving to be good for something. Now that I'm well into my fifties I no longer care what others think. I'm grateful for my wrinkles and laugh lines and all the other gravity fallouts. The sadness I feel for girls coming of age is probably the same pity my grandmother's generation felt for us. But is this new generation strong enough to change society's attitudes? Sadly, it doesn't look like it. Hopefully, I'm wrong.
For more of Selene's work, please check out


  1. FYI, Blog Jog Day will be November 21 if you're interested again. Last year was great! You can sign-up at

  2. Thanks for the reminder. Last year's BJD was a lot of fun. I met some wonderful bloggers. Looking forward to meeting more.

  3. This WAS beautiful and haunting.
    I know the thoughts so well. I hate to say it, but I've always used to set my ideals by others' appearance, by what lives they lead. I still do from time to time. It's a hard habit to break. And I wonder how much time I wasted during my younger years doing this.

    Though I still wish I could be more of this, or less of that, I've finally learned to pretty much love myself, the way I look, the way I am. Better late than never.

  4. That's a very moving poem. Self-worth is such a fragile thing. As parents we try to encourage our youngsters to see themselves in a positive light, hoping their generation will be more content than ours, but society continues to undermine our attempts. Unrealistic images dished out by today's media don't help promote realistic expectations.

    I've spent much of my life dieting, always dissatisfied with my size... chubby child thru to overweight adult... and only as I approached my senior years did I come to a realization that I was trying to lose weight for the wrong reasons. Now I eat fairly sensibly for health and pleasure and don't beat myself up for not being svelte. I'm sure age has something to do with my changed attitude, but I'm certainly more accepting of myself now.

  5. Thank you, Carol and Carol! I felt exactly the same way the first time I read this poem back in 2008. Exactly. I still do.


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