Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Iz Serious Somebody. I Wears Lousy Clothes.

DrWende bought up this topic a bit ago, but I didn't want to fill up her comments with several hundred words.

Being a drudge isn’t a rejection of self, at least not always—I think it often becomes a uniform that signifies “I am a serious person, so serious I cannot be bothered to care about clothes.” Think nuns. Think academics. Think save the world types. And too often this sort of attitude about how being unfashionable is virtue acts as a screening tool to determine if you are a serious person worthy of joining the group. I’ve joked about and decried librarian dress, but there is a real attitude in the profession, especially among the women, that 1) their brains are more important than their looks, 2) they have to be comfortable as they crawl around on the floor, dash through the stacks, deal with cranky patrons and 3) the pay is so low you can’t afford to be well dressed. So you get this aggressive pressure that crappy clothes are how you prove you are a “real” librarian-- one who isn’t paid enough to afford to wear better and is too busy/intellectual/self-sacrificing to care. We all can’t be Matthew of The Welldressed Librarian, but he makes good points that the sort of pride that starts with an individual being confidently and properly dressed can only help to elevate the whole profession.

I'm reminded of a story someone told in Alternative Press years and years ago. This guy had gone to a Chickasaw Mud Puppies concert, where he was surprised to see this totally preppy girl rocking out, and struck up a conversation and found she really knew about the music and a lot of other bands, and then he asked about her clothes, basically "why if you're such a punk are you dressed that way?" And she gave him a look and said "Don't confuse the way that I dress wit the person I am or the music I like."

And that girl’s stance is what I work to have my own life reflect. Look, it was hard to learn and took a long time, but I can’t be what I’m not. It ends badly. It’s too hard to maintain, I forget the party line I’m supposed to espouse, and I make myself and everyone else miserable. Some things are just not meant to be. So I do what is natural to me, and I hope that I'm within the lines of proper behavior. But I'm pretty sensitive for numerous reasons about people trying to bend me to their expectations--it's happened before, and I still have scars.

One of the reasons I have that odd fascination with Burning Man is that so many people who have been talk about it as if that's the only place they can be free or themselves, and I always think, "That's so dumb." It's more of a radical act just to be yourself all the time, and to make your life such that it's really your life and not a mask you wear.

I like K.L. Going's Fat Kid Rules The World for a lot of reasons (check the archives for my review) but there's a great scene towards the end where Curt and Troy are in a diner, and Curt orders Troy to watch this couple near them. And Troy doesn't get it, the couple is a perfect seeming and on a date, but after a few minutes he notices the imperfections--the woman looks really doubtful and nervous, the guy laughs at the wrong time, someone drops food. Curt tells him that music isn't about fans or being on stage, that when it works it's about those little moments where the mask drops. And the reason he wants Troy to stay with the band despite Troy's doubts is that Troy lives those moments all the time, and it's one of the reasons why Curt admires him. It's a great scene.

As for baubles.. maybe some of it is self-loathing and rejection, but I think it's more of an act of hiding themselves behind their bodies. Face it, it’s a lot easier for some women to not even think of trying to be taken seriously, to completely live down to the worst expectations for the sex. For others though, it might just be that they haven’t been put in a place where they’ve had to be credible. My friend The Romance Heroine has a co-worker who annoys her for multiple reasons, but one of them is that the coworker hasn’t got the concept of professional dress on many levels, a situation that seems to derive from the millennial generation's expectation of automatic approval, maybe that she doesn't really see herself as having to advocate as a professional, Sex and the City, whatever. And TRH and I are both baffled because we are older and accustomed to law firm hierarchies and that we struggle with the perception that we are glorified admins. My worst drudge phase was just out of school when I wore awful clothes trying to blend in, look older and serious. As I've gotten older and more sure of myself, my clothes have gotten better suited to myself because I don't have to pretend.

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