There's something uniquely sweet about hearing an off-key lullaby or an out-of-tune love song. You know why this is better than a polished Glee-worthy number? Because the off-key and rhythmless person is doing it out of love. Singing when you can sing is a performance. Singing when you can't sing is an act of courage.
True story: I was once walking my dog at a highway rest stop when my mutt started straining toward some nearby pups, whose owner pulled them away in horror, saying "These are show dogs! They cannot play!" Well, fancy dog shows, you can keep your animals who are too special to romp around in dirt. Every beloved scruffy pet has that quirk that, when you think about it, might be why you love them in the first place: a habit of sleeping on your pillows all day so that when you get home your bed smells like crackers, or the characteristic trait that led to her name of Puddles. Best of all, these pooches get to play.
The next time you're squinting critically at yourself in the mirror, trying to match a black with another black with yet another black, keep in mind the advice of the famed fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, "Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life." If your armor is a riot of plaids and paisleys, if a crazy hat always makes you feel better, if inappropriately awesome shoes make a humdrum day more fun, then why on earth not? It's always that je ne sais quoi (I believe that's French for "striped tights") that makes a great outfit truly great.
This year's Fourth of July brought the most breathtakingly gorgeous mistake in the history of fireworks when a technical glitch caused San Diego's display to go off all at once
—in 60 seconds instead of the planned 17 minutes. (No one was hurt, thankfully.) Fireworks are already, well, fireworks: big, exciting, sparkly and fairly nonsensical. But there have never been ones like these, all in a heated, glowy, big-living burst of beauty, like the way your heart feels when you first see your baby's face: BOOM! The headiest of emotions, manifested in a minute-long opening/middle/finale. We've all seen plenty of fireworks, but this was a display no one will soon forget.
5. Nieces and Nephews
In theory, you want nieces and nephews to be the kids who earn all A's, never talk back, play quietly by themselves and request edamame as a snack. But there's just something about the ones who are messy and frustrated and sugar-addicted and clumsy, the ones with the gap-toothed smiles and quirky imaginary friends, the ones you know will grow up to be the kind of adult you'd want to be friends with and, let's face it, probably the ones who need the most extra love and attention anyway.
6. Camping Trips
Whenever my family gets together, we start reminiscing about that ill-fated canoe trip when it rained for seven days straight and everyone huddled in the tent reading aloud to one another and snacking on moss. (I exaggerate only slightly.) It's always the unexpected moment of a journey that yields the best stories, and in the end, isn't that what life is about?
Speaking of the wild outdoors: The grosser these smushy-marshmallow-deliciousness sandwiches look, the better they taste.
8. Wedding Dances
People practice so it'll look nice for the videographer (or YouTube), but all anyone wants to see is two people who are overjoyed that they just got hitched. Besides, the fun of going to a wedding is the big chest-bursting emotion, the vicarious romance—not the impressive centerpieces, coordinated bridesmaids dresses or rehearsed waltzes.
We teach kids to stay within the lines because we want to help them develop hand-eye coordination, and because we're all used to seeing Snow White look a certain way. But then we see the things they're drawing—the unthinkable combinations of colors, the scribbly snake-hair, the dragon-dog-cars that look like tangles of string, and it hits us. Coloring outside the lines is one of the most important skills any of us can learn. Hello, Jean-Michel Basquiat! Hello, Jackson Pollock! Hello, perfectly imperfect art makers everywhere!
Perfect sex has its place, sure, in educational diagrams and French films. Assuming you live in real life, a sweaty tumble after one too many glasses of wine is sloppy, imprecise and a lot more fun.
11. Moments in Sports
Even people who aren't sports fans have been moved to tears by certain athletic moments, and guess what? They're never the big wins. It's the moments that go terribly awry when athletes show us what they are really made of. Take Liu Xiang, the Olympic hurdler who finished his race despite being felled by a torturous Achilles tendon injury
and became a symbol of endurance.
Or the college students who carried their opponent through her first-ever home run in her last-ever game, after she blew out her knee
, turning an ordinary softball game into extraordinary moment. It's not triumph that always gets us, it's also the pluck. After all, if every moment were a great moment, there would be no chance for the heart-wringing, scalp-fizzling, soul-tickling refusing-to-give-up redemption.
Next: How to embrace imperfection