The Thing I Like About …

Pete and Pete: the part where the “perfect” guy eats the barbecue ribs.

At least I think they were ribs. They were covered with barbecue sauce. They were huge and covered with sauce and they looked really, really messy.

The man in town who always did everything “perfectly” had irritated Pete – daily – with his need to have everything just so and his tendency to look at others’ contributions as less than perfect. He wasn’t mean about it, or even particularly arrogant, but his attitude of perfection and his assertion that others should be more like him … well, it had really started to bug Pete, and finally he challenged Mr. Perfect to a “duel” of sorts, wherein Mr. Perfect would be required to eat barbecue ribs “perfectly.”

Mr. Perfect complied cheerfully. He sat down at the table, surrounded by the townsfolk, and he tucked in his napkin and picked up his knife and fork and began to eat the ribs. He ate them without a spot of sauce getting on his fingers, his face, his clothes, or the tablecloth. At the end of the challenge, Mr. Perfect still looked perfect.

And Pete explained that Mr. Perfect had lost the challenge.

He explained that barbecue ribs were meant to be eaten differently – with sauce all over your face (and maybe your hair and shoes), with pieces of meat staining your clothes, and the entire table looking like something exploded. If you still looked “perfect” after eating barbecue ribs, then you had clearly done it wrong.

We all have a perfectionist streak in us – some have a bigger one than others – and we try to be the best person we can be by using words like “perfect” and “correct” and “should” … but what do all those words even mean? Especially words like “perfect” are at best subjective and at worst completely meaningless. What’s perfect for you isn’t necessarily perfect for me. What’s perfect in one situation isn’t perfect at all in another.

What kind of “perfect” are you wearing today? Why not sit down with a pile of barbecue ribs and eat them “right” … until others can’t tell where the ribs end and you begin, until the table looks like there’s been a ritual BBQ sacrifice, until you fall over in a glutted, sauce-covered heap. That’s the right way to eat barbecue ribs.

That would be perfect.

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