What I Can't Do

Look, people, I know I have some odd and varied skill sets. I can grow vegetables, make my own deodorant, talk to chickens, and give your old wood windows a sprucing. I can cook a meal you’ll want to eat and serve it by the light of candles I made myself out of wax from my beehives (provided the bees haven’t left me or died out of spite).

But there are definitely some things I simply cannot do. I’ve tried. I want to be good at them. I’ve wracked my brains, wailing, “Why? WHY can’t I figure out how to ______.”

I am only human. And I am woefully bereft of some pretty basic human skills.

So, what can’t I do? Let’s rule out the obvious skills such as most math, quantum physics, art that involves anything better than stick figures, and being liked by small children, and focus instead on three pretty basic shortcomings I have yet to rise above in my 34 years of Trying Really Hard.


I will readily admit that I’m a pretty great home cook. Soups, sauces, pasta, gravies of all species, random bits of animals that no one else wants…there’s nothing I won’t attempt, and most of those attempts turn out to be Adequately Delicious.


I cannot bake. Cookies are always a toss-up. Sometimes they’re fine. Sometimes they’re…not fine. They don’t taste bad, per se, but they don’t taste good, either. I don’t know what it is, but everyone else’s cookies are always better than mine.

Cupcakes? Nope. Not unless your idea of a good cupcake is a dense, dry hockey puck with a smear of ugly frosting on it.

Pies? With the strange exception of my Paducah Famous French Silk Pie, my track record is dicey at best. If the crust is perfect, the filling is sub-par. If the filling is to die for, the crust is soggy and mostly raw. And yes I’ve tried your Great Aunt Dottie’s trick. It didn’t work.

Cakes are my true nemesis, though. I have never - ever, ever, ever, ever - baked a cake that made me happy. I haven’t even baked a cake that made someone else happy. They were, of course, delighted that I made a cake for them. Until they ate it.

No one has ever been bowled over or even moderately elated after tasting one of my pastry creations. And that’s fine, because neither am I. They’re not fluffy, moist, artfully decorated, or level. I tried making a layer cake once, and it leaned so spectacularly to the left that when I took a photo of it simply to prove that I’d baked it, I had to Photoshop it so that it appeared straight. To anyone who admired that cake, I’m sorry: I lied.

I’m not sure what exactly the problem is, but chances are it’s just that I have no patience for sifting flour and weighing my dry ingredients and reciting French love poetry while I stir my batters. I am far more of a “pinch of this, pinch of that, Law & Order marathon” cook. And that philosophy goes against everything upon which baking is based.

So, as much as it pains me, I will leave the baking to all those maddeningly excellent bakers out there and quit while I’m ahead. You won’t regret it.

My Hair

Fact: I am a 34 year old woman and I seem to only have four-ish styling options for my long, sort of brown-sort of red-sort of blond hair:

1). Leave it down and let the wind tangle it into 4902 knots that not even Houdini could identify.

2). Braid it in a singular, straight-down-the-back braid that keeps it out of open paint cans and running power tools. This is my default “style,” such as it is. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it serves me well. It also bores me to tears.

3). A ponytail. This used to be my default style until I realized it was causing me to lose a lot of hair to breakage (fascinating, I know). Now, I resort to a ponytail only when I forget to wash my hair and I need to hide that fact. It works. But now you know my dreadful secret: if you see me sporting a ponytail, it means I haven’t showered in a while.

4). “There appears to have been a struggle.” This is what happens when I try to do something - anything - different. Curls, a French braid, pigtails, those “sexy waves” the magazines always make sound so easy, “easy” up-dos I find on Pinterest…I’ve tried them all, and with only moderate amounts of something resembling success. Usually, though, my hands just end up cramped and arthritic to the point that I just give up, take it all down, and go back to my sad braid.

Part of my problem might stem from the fact that my hair is simply very fine (not like, “Damn gurl, your hair is fine,” fine, but fine as in “finer than frog’s hair) and very straight. It takes a can of hairspray, an actual Person Who Knows What They’re Doing With Hair, and 675 bobby pins to get it to behave. And until I’m rich, famous, and not working in an industry that involves high levels of filth, solvents, and other things detrimental to personal beauty, I suppose I just simply don’t care.

Except I kind of do, and sometimes, I seriously contemplate walking over to my neighbor’s with a hairbrush and a bundle of rubber bands so she can make my hair look as cool as her teenage daughter’s.

My Makeup

You saw this coming, right? A girl who can’t even do her hair probably isn’t too great with a…whatever it is people use to put on makeup…either. Again, as with everything else that I’m a failure at, this isn’t for lack of trying or wanting. It’s for lack of proper training. As a young’n, I avoided everything the popular girls did, because I knew from an early age that I wasn’t one of ‘Them’. Give me my books and weird Celtic music and a field full of plants and animals to study, and I was happy. Or at least alone, which probably meant I was happy.

I missed all the lessons on “How to Wear Blush So That You Look Innocent and Dewy, Not Drunk and Insane.” I missed the lecture on “What the Hell is Eyeliner for, Anyway?” No one ever showed me how to apply mascara without stabbing myself in the eye, and so, to this day, I stab myself in the eye nearly every time I apply mascara. Then my eyes water. Then my mascara runs. Then I wipe it all off and braid my hair and get on with my life.

The point is, I own makeup - though some of it is left over from vain college tomfoolery and should be thrown out - and very, very occasionally, I use it. Sparingly. I’m okay at lip gloss. I got that shimmer stuff down pat. No clue what I’m supposed to do with eyeshadow, so I don’t even own it. The last time I had a “smoky eye”, it was because I was trying to light a fire in a wood stove and forgot to open the flue. I have some blush…somewhere?

Someday, when I am very bored, I will go to a ‘Fancy Lady’ who really has her stuff together, and I will ask her to take me under her perfect wings and show me ‘The Way’. But for now, I will make vague, completely fumbling attempts to pretty myself before rare special events and leave it at that.

Rest assured, though, if I ever figure out what the hell a ‘smoky eye’ is, or how to achieve one, I will clog your Instagram feed the same way liquid foundation clogs my pores. But don’t hold your breath.