Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.
When Harry Met Sally. 1989. Nail on the head springs to mind. For the longest time (OK, six years) I have considered myself to be the latter kind of woman: low maintenance. Cool. Casual. Easy going. Unbothered. Un-phased. So laid back I’m practically horizontal, you might say. Or, if you know me, you might not. For I am none of those things – in the words of Joanne The Scammer (if you don’t know, get to know) – honestly, truly. And it has taken me until the grand old age of 25 to accept that Harry Burns had the measure of me before I was even born: I am a high maintenance human parading as a low maintenance human. I have been living a charade, a needless lie, in order to be more appealing. More appeasing. More pliable. More absolutely anything other than those two dreaded words: high maintenance. Because, let’s face it, who wants to be branded high maintenance? The connotations of which are fussy, particular, hard-work, awkward, unappealing and unrelenting. A quick Google search of ‘high maintenance woman’ throws up an article entitled: ‘An Important Note For Men: Avoid High Maintenance Women’, along with an array of poorly formulated listicles insisting that a high maintenance woman is easily distinguishable due to her penchant for monogrammed luggage and her litter of chihuahuas. It sounds a lot to me like these guys are simply describing Paris Hilton’s aesthetic but whatever. I’m chill. Except… am I?
I don’t require monogrammed luggage (never say never) and I have no chihuahuas to my name (yet). I shop a semi-normal amount (my mother, father, brothers, boyfriend, DPD driver, Hermes guy, ASOS warehouse workers and a random poll would suggest otherwise, but my bank account and I know the truth) and, contrary to Urban Dictionary’s definition, I don’t have ‘more needs and/or demands and [am] therefore more difficult or challenging’ when in a relationship. I have a normal amount of needs and demands: I need you to pick me up some chocolate on your way home, please, and I demand you are faithful, you swine. I can’t stand the feel of sand on wet feet and I have a mini bitch fit when it gets in my sandals. I don’t like vegetables. I enjoy cleanliness and sushi. I require 20kg of luggage, minimum. The first and last time I ever stayed in a hostel didn’t really happen because I walked in, walked out and booked a room at the hotel next door. I’m not someone who can ‘slum it’ and, because of this, everyone scoffs when I tell them I’d like to travel one day. But I do want to travel one day, and I will. It just won’t be your definition of travelling. I nearly cried when my boyfriend forgot to pack the hairdryer for our holiday. Heat turns me into the devil incarnate (that much I can’t deny) but I am a joy to be around in the colder months. A wildly dressed, kinaesthetically pleasing ball of joviality. I won’t leave the house without fake tan on (classic high maintenance woman, right?) because, without it, I believe myself to be ugly as sin (from high maintenance to slightly unstable in one fail swoop). I moan a fair amount, granted, but I regularly lose my composure mid-rant because I can’t believe I’ve had the audacity to pick a fight over something so absurd; rant over. But do these things automatically make qualify me as ‘bratty’, ‘selfish’ or, as UD continued to eloquently word it, an ‘excessively talkative, over-reactive, highly emotional, attention-seeking female who requires a firm handler.’ Nah-uh, honey.
You see, I think the problem is this: I think we’ve been defining ‘high maintenance’ wrong the whole time. I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t like; I’m just vocal about it. And sure, sometimes, that vocality is delivered in a pitch akin to moaning, but so whut! I’m not malleable, despite my best efforts to be, and it’s time to stop pretending that I am. I am particular as fuck and proud of it; it means that I won’t find myself wasting money on another hostel booking, tryna kick it with the low maintenance brigade, knowing full well that I’d rather book a room at the air-conditioned hotel next door. But I’ll take the label nonetheless because I’m chill enough to accept that you can’t please everyone. If you want me, you can find me and my sand-less feet atop a sun lounger, eating sushi, in the shade, wearing my high maintenance sash like a Louis Vuitton monogrammed pooch carrier: draped proudly over my shoulder.