I just finished Darynda Jones's The Curse of Tenth Grave. Ms. Jones, please, please write faster. I'm dying to know what happens to Charley Davidson, Grim Reaper, god, and all around bad-ass. Charley has taken her place in the pantheon of extraordinary heroines, whose ranks include Anita Blake, Merry Gentry, Jane Yellowrock, Mercy Thompson, Sookie Stackhouse and, of course, Mac Lane. These women rock. Charley is a bit different. She's highly irreverent. She's also got a severe case of ADHD. And, as she described one of her clients, Charley has "turned high maintenance into an extreme sport." I love that woman. Charley has the attention span of a tse-tse fly. She is easily distracted by sparkly things, good-looking men, and the smell and taste of delicious foods. I can so relate. But the aspect of her personality that I find the most interesting is how difficult it is to keep up with her. While she is highly entertaining about it, she is incredibly demanding and very particular in her standards, which are a bit strange. These include a need to name every inanimate object she encounters—her car is "Misery" her shower is "George" and she named her breasts "Danger" and "Will Robinson." Enough said. She is a poster child for "high maintenance." I’m not criticizing her for this. In fact, I think being high maintenance is highly underrated.
I have been called high maintenance my whole life. At first, I felt bad about it. Who was I to demand more than my ‘fair’ – according to some - share of attention, help, support, and, most significantly, accommodation? Why should there be special exceptions for moi? Why don't the rules apply to yours truly? When asked like that, it does seem unfair, I must admit. Shouldn't rules apply to all equally without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, or fashion sense (muffin top, camel toe and plumber's crack would be outlawed in my world, but unfortunately, no one asked me)? I totally get that. Except I don't.
So many rules, social mores and others' expectations are just stupid. Further, while we should all be considered equal under the law and in terms of the value of our fragile and precious human lives, we're not all equal, and that is called reality. Some of us got extra helpings of brains, brawn, serenity, beauty, determination and perseverance, curiosity, resilience, imagination, etc., etc., etc. And some of us got fucked in these and other ‘departments’. Perhaps we're spinning on a karmic wheel, and if we got additional servings of the good stuff in this life, maybe it was to make up for the fact that we got hosed in another one. And maybe if the cards we were dealt in this incarnation were less than wonderful, it's because we were so incredibly blessed in previous stints on this plane. I have no idea. But the facts remain; we're not all the same. We are glorious in our individuality, and there is no way to aggregate us by any of the aforementioned categories; we need to be judged on our own merits.
And that is where the high maintenance aspect comes in. High maintenance requires extra accommodation. It requires putting up with, tolerating, accepting and actively condoning behavior that is outside the norm. In Charley's case, her friends and loved ones take her as she is, which includes her ridiculous naming habit, coffee addiction, and her propensity to get herself into many a sticky wicket. She gets away with lying, cheating, stealing and the occasional assault and battery, all in the name of serving the greater good. There is a great deal of relative moralism in Charley's world. And it's acceptable because of what she accomplishes with her shenanigans.
Many years ago I received an award for being in my job as a defense contractor for five years (no, not for doing a good job, just for doing it. For not getting fired or quitting the job. This says a lot about the state of our society, but that is the topic of another post). One of my party favors was a gift for my husband from my boss—a "high maintenance survival kit"—because, you know, I'm so high maintenance. And the whole thing would have been mean-spirited except for the point my boss was trying to make: that while I required tremendous levels of accommodation, time and attention, it was all worth it because I delivered so much professionally. I'm pretty sure my husband would agree with this equation in the personal realm too (at least I hope so). So, high maintenance, high performance.
And that gets us to the crux of the issue: the rules were developed for the everyone, yes. But rules can be totally too constricting when we are trying to do extraordinary things. I'm not talking about rules like the Ten Commandments or the Golden one. And I get that chaos would reign if everyone had the kind of blatant disregard for law and order that I can sometimes have. I've always found that it is so much better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I've also never seen a rule that didn't have an exception. Those of us who are of the high maintenance persuasion are going to make omelets. So, we're going to break a few eggs. And we're going to keep asking for accommodation. Of course, there are those who are high maintenance without merit, which is just bad. But we're talking about those of us who use our powers for good, not evil. Like Charley who breaks the rules –for the good of us all.