“Do you think it’s boring to be perfect?”
Katie munched her less than perfect school meal and thought for a moment. She asked herself: “Should you always tell your friend the truth? Even if it might annoy her?” She swallowed the lumpy mashed potato. Feeling a tad reckless, she blurted out: “Well I can see why some people find perfection irritating.”
She spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Only the other day, Katerina had said: “If Miss Perfect Pants tells me one more time that my socks don’t match, I am going to climb out onto the school roof and scream: “My socks don’t match because I’m not perfect! And so what, Isis?” Yes, Katerina seemed pretty irritated with Isis’s perfection.
And Katie could tell that their teachers were irritated that Isis always had her hand up to answer every question. Was there nothing they could ask that Isis didn’t already know?
Even Katie sometimes thought: “It’s not Isis’s fault that she’s perfect, but I do wish my mum would stop saying that I should be as tidy, polite, and hardworking as she is, because that really gets my goat.”
So when Katie said that perfection could be irritating she was only telling her friend the truth. It was a brave thing to do, perhaps too brave, because Isis’s perfectly white skin turned a furious shade of pink. In fact, she behaved in a most un-Isis like way, pointing a fork with a Brussel sprout on it at Katie and demanding: “Who says I’m irritating?”
Katie knew she was in a hole, and whatever she said would be wrong. She ventured:
“Nobody actually says you are irritating but sometimes I can feel it.”
“Oh you can, can you?” said Isis angrily. “In that case I will go and eat my lunch on another table so as not to irritate you with my perfect table manners!”
And with that she picked up her tray and went to join Isadora and Desdemonia who were her friends from their Latin class. Latin was not the most popular option. As a matter of fact, only three people had chosen it, and they were all A grade students. In their exclusive little club it was irritating to achieve less than 100% perfection.
Over the next few days Isis avoided Katie and hung around with her A grade friends. They checked each other’s homework and tested each other on Latin grammar such as the verb ‘mittere’ – to send – which goes:
Isis lectured: “Don’t you remember, Desdemonia, Mr Case told us that there is one s in ‘misi’ and two ses in ‘missum’?”
Desdemonia arched her eyebrow in annoyance. “I’m sorry Isis, we can’t all remember Latin past participles as perfectly as you do,” she said indignantly.
And Isis thought: “Et tu Desdemonia – even you think my perfection is irritating.”
The following day at lunch, Isis couldn’t help herself telling Isadora not to hold her fork upside down. Her friend looked exasperated. She did not like being lectured on her table manners, thank you very much.
And when Mr Smart the maths teacher handed back the homework, he said: “I’m still waiting for the day when Isis makes a silly mistake.” He probably meant it as praise, but Isis was feeling sensitive and thought that her perfection was irritating him too.
The last straw came on Friday when even her mother said: “Most mothers tell me that their daughters cause them no end of worry but you darling are too good to be true.”
And Isis thought: “Too good to be true? Does my own mother think I am fake?” And she went to her room to sulk while listening to piano music by Felix Mendelssohn, who was Queen Victoria’s favourite composer, and Isis’s too.
Katie was pleasantly surprised when Isis gave her a bright “hello” the next morning. She was relieved that her best friend was talking to her once again. Before they went into class, Isis whispered:
“You know what, Katie? Ever since you said that perfection can be irritating, I’ve noticed all sorts of people are giving me funny looks, like they don’t really like me. Even my mum seems to think I’m too perfect. You’re the only person who can help me, Katie. Do one of your wonderful spells and make me imperfect?”
“Why on earth would you want me to do that?” asked Katie, astonished.
“Oh Katie, I’ve been lying awake for three nights. I haven’t slept at all, I’ve been thinking so much!”
“But you don’t look tired at all. You’re as fresh as a daisy!”
“I know, my complexion is always perfect whether I’m deprived of sleep or not. Irritating isn’t it?” said Isis. “You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not at all cool to be perfect. I’ve realised it is much, much cooler to be imperfect. Then, everyone will like me, and not be irritated by me.”
“But I love you as my best friend even though you’re perfect!” protested Katie.
“But nobody else does! They all think I’m irritating, you said so yourself Katie. Go on, please do this for me. Make me imperfect. Give me spots. Make me rude. Make me do naughty things. Let me make some careless mistakes in my maths homework. I want to escape this perfect self. Let me know what it feels like to be normal. Do this for me Katie please… I beg you?”
And since her friend was begging her so much, Katie agreed to look for a suitable spell and do this for her. When people asked her to do a spell, they seemed to think that she could just wrinkle her nose or snap her fingers, and it would all happen in an instant. But actually, in most cases, she had to go home and do a lot of research. It isn’t easy you know, or else everyone would be doing it. That evening she searched long and hard for a suitable spell.
Now, when a perfect person wakes up in the morning, looks in the bathroom mirror, and sees a spot on the end of her nose, the first thing she usually does is scream, because perfect people don’t have spots.
But the next morning, Isis did have one! Right on the end of her perfect nose. She was about to scream when she thought: “Actually, this is good news. Katie must have done the spell. I’m not perfect anymore. Hurray! I’m a normal person!”
And she went downstairs to breakfast with a happy smile on her face, and instead of eating a pink grapefruit, as she usually did, she chose a cereal with flakes that were 75% sugar and 25% chocolate.
“Eee-Yuk!” she thought. “Is this what normal people eat? It’s disgusting, but I’d better get used to it.”
At school, the first person to notice Isis’s spot was Desdemona: “Oh poor little you,” she said sympathetically. “You’ve got acne.”
Isis knew that Desdemona’s supposed sympathy was actually thinly disguised pleasure at seeing her friend’s fall from perfection. As she was a grade A student, she even knew a long German word that people use to describe enjoyment in other people’s misfortune:
And she said: “Desdemonia, do I detect a touch of schadenfreude?”
Her friend looked baffled, so she thought: “I had better not use long words anymore, because they make me look like Little Miss Smarty Pants.”
She loosened her tie a little bit, and went to listen to Isabelle, who was talking about the latest trendy teenage YouTuber who documented every boring detail of her normal life on video. Isis had never watched YouTube, but now that she was a normal person, she thought she had better learn more about it.
In maths, Mr Smart posed a problem that nobody could answer because it was too early in the morning for normal people to strain their brains.
“If Jack has 32 stickers, and Jill has twice as many, how many do they have all together?”
Eventually he said: “Isis, please enlighten these half-asleep zombies as to the correct answer?”
And Isis replied: “Sorry Sir, I was thinking about something else.”
And Mr Smart wondered if something dreadful had happened in Isis’s life, because it was the first time that she had ever been caught out of not concentrating.
Instead of feeling embarrassed by her slip-up, Isis was pleased: “Imperfection feels good,” she thought. “I feel more likable.”
But as they were leaving class, she overheard Samantha saying: “Did you hear the smashing sound when Isis fell off her pedestal?”
And Isis thought: “It will take a while for people to get used to the new me.”
It was a beautiful summer’s day, but instead of taking a walk around the hockey field at lunchtime, Isis stayed inside and visited the Dungeons and Dragons club in room 4E. She had absolutely no idea why the dorkish boys spent an hour pushing weird plastic figures around a board, but it was interesting research into how imperfect people waste their time without the aid of electronic devices.
“Yes,” she reasoned, “I’ve got to find a way to waste more of my own time without doing anything useful or enlightening.”
That evening she tried to listen to pop music in her bedroom with the volume on full blast, but it was so horrible that she had to give up after 20 minutes.
“It’s going to take training and discipline to change my tastes,” Isis decided.
Then she sat down to do her homework. She set a timer on her phone to make sure she did it in half the usual time. It was a mad rush, and she couldn’t check anything. As she closed her books, she felt satisfied: “I think that was sufficiently careless.”
Then she tried to untidy her room. “Actually,” she thought, as she dropped a teddy bear on the floor, “this is harder than it looks because I don’t actually like it untidy.” She took some socks out of a drawer and threw them at random. “Ugh, this is going to take some getting used to!”
It took about a week for people to really start worrying about Isis. Mr Smart spoke to Miss Vile, who was Isis’s form teacher, and asked if she was aware of any family problems that might be effecting the star pupil’s concentration.
“Yes, I’m glad you mentioned Isis,” said Miss Vile, “because I’m concerned about her too. I’ll give her a friday detention. I expect that will sort her out.”
“But don’t you think that perhaps she’s under too much pressure to be perfect already?” asked Mr Smart?
Miss Vile replied: “Nonsense! We owe it to gifted pupils, and to their parents, to push them to their limit and beyond!”
“Ah yes,” said Mr Case, who happened to be nearby. “Per ardua ad astra.”
“Exactly,” said Miss Vile. And the next day she put Isis in detention for careless homework.
Isis made sure that she reported to detention on friday five minutes late. Samantha and Isabel were already there when she walked into the room. Isabel complained to Mr Old, who was in charge of detention that week:
“Please Sir, can you put Isis in another detention for being late?” to which Mr Old replied: “Mind your own business, young Miss.”
When they were finally released, Samantha confronted Isis: “What’s happened to you? You’re suddenly in trouble all the time!”
Isis replied honestly:
“I just got fed up with being perfect and I’m trying to be more interesting.”
“You’ll never succeed,” retorted Isabel. “You were born Miss Goody Two Shoes and you’ll always be boring.”
“I will succeed,” responded Isis, “because whenever I put my mind to something, I always manage to achieve it.”
“In that case,” suggested Samantha, “come over to my house and we’ll see if you can pass the fun person challenge.”
And since Isis was determined to show that she was up for anything, she agreed.