Note From Kim: Controlling the Control Freak

by Kim Hastreiter
OK, I'll say it out loud: I'm a control freak. I just see how things ought to be super clearly in my mind, and if they don't turn out that way it drives me fucking nuts. I'm also a snob. I detest mediocrity and want none of it in my life. And to me, my fear of losing control equates to fear of compromising quality. This is why I have a really hard time delegating. Or maybe I should say that I have a really hard time finding the perfect people that I want to delegate to. Because in the end I only feel comfortable giving control up to a) people who hold the bar as high as I do aesthetically, b) people who understand the inside of my head and execute my ideas as well as or better than I would do it myself, or c) people who come up with ideas that are at least as good as or (preferably) better than mine.

I swear, my control issues are not an ego thing. Nothing makes me happier than having someone else come up with a great idea or vision that I never would have thought of in a million years and execute it flawlessly. I will cheer them on and jump up and down with joy. I wish that this would happen more often. I have likely psychologically tortured many people who have worked for me over the years because of my control issues. Or maybe it's because their ideas, to me, just aren't good enough. When people roll their eyes as I micromanage them, I think, "Do it as well as I would do it, or better, and I'll stop breathing down your neck!"

It's a lot of work to have this disorder. Although I don't think of myself as a perfectionist, I am compulsive about whatever I am doing until it is done "right" in my mind. Take these monthly columns I have written for over 20 years now. Ask any of the editors who have tried to edit my words. I am likely a nightmare to them because I do not want to let them change even one word of my copy. I know this is unreasonable because I am not perfect, but if I make an error (which I often do, whether in my copy or anywhere else in life), I just don't want someone else to fix it with "their" words. Because usually, their words make me cringe and don't sound like I said them. So I want to fix it myself. Is that too much to ask?

The funny part of this all is that I'm actually dying to let go. The older I get, the more exhausting it is to try to do everything myself -- and the more I realize that if it's not my way or the highway, the earth will not end! I am trying really hard to loosen up and be less snobbish about what I like and what I hate. I am also trying to be a little more liberal with what I allow to pass. So what if a mediocre photo or story gets printed in the magazine. Did I die?

I remember an incident back when I was a teenager with my wonderful grandmother, Nanny Polly. I adored her as she was never your typical "old lady" grandmother. She was gorgeous, had impeccable taste and was always chic with a capital C. Polly was a class act and always wore only good stuff. Never crap. And she raised my mother with the same philosophy. I will never forget my surprise that day, when an aging Nanny Polly came to visit us and my mother grabbed me and whispered, "Look at Nanny. She's wearing ultrasuede!" We were both like, "Oh. My. God. It's so tacky. How could she?" It turned out that as my chic nanny got older, she'd even started to wear polyester every so often. We were horrified. When I'd make a comment to her, she'd tell me how fabulous it was because it never wrinkled and it dripped dry so fast.

Many years later, I was reminded of this on a visit with my mother (who was by then in her seventies). I walked into her kitchen and was stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted a brand-new hideous "Mr. Coffee" coffee maker sitting on the counter. You should know that because my grandmother rigorously taught quality to my mother, I was also raised surrounded by only good stuff. I grew up eating off of Dansk dishes and Jens Risom silverware on a Nakashima table, watching a Sony TV plopped on Knoll and Dunbar furniture covered with fabulous Jack Lenor Larsen fabric. We'd sip coffee made from our Dieter Rams Braun coffee maker and read by the light of Noguchi lamps. When I delicately broached the Mr. Coffee shocker to my mom, she immediately snapped at me, "It's fine." and then continued, "You're a snob, Kim." Hmmm.

Don't worry, folks. I'm nowhere near the Mr. Coffee stage yet. And I still have it in me to say, "Over my dead body" when asked to compromise on something that I can't bear. But I will say that with age I feel a more liberal perspective on shit sneaking up on me. And I am picking my battles. Because life is short. And in the big picture, is the difference between ultrasuede and cashmere really what counts?

Photo by Jacqueline Di Milia

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