Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can a Gynecologist Wear a Clown Suit? (Is Individuality Bad for Business?)

I just saw a Twitter conversation that prompted me to write on a topic.  But I've been thinking about this topic for a long time anyway, pretty much anytime I see a makeover show on TV.  Oh girl, you just got me started...

At this point in time, in my 40s, I look like this:

And this is what I looked like in college, circa 1984:

Yea, I was kind of a freak back then, by 1984 standards anyway.  I was into punk and new wave music.  Into that whole euro look.  I wanted to be Siouxsie Sue of Siouxsie and the Banshees.  I was a broadcasting major, into the whole music scene where Black Flag ruled and hair bands were lame and embarrassing and tres uncool.  I suppose I was a hipster before hipsters became a "thing".

I took pride in being an individual.  I relished in it.  Hell, it was a complete cry for attention!  Look at me, I'm cool!  Oy.  I even went so far as to... when I was working at a summer camp, my second year new owners took over and made lots of new rules including "no crazy haircuts".  What did Madge do?  First thing, got a crew cut and left a long braided tail in the back.  What happened?  Third year I wasn't asked back.

I started to go for interviews after college in 1987.  I was realizing my appearance wasn't getting me any jobs.  Yea, I got pissed about "the man" trying to keep me down.  Then I quickly realized, I just had to compromise a little because "the man" does run the world, and I'm just a squirrel, tryin' to get a nut... to move your butt.  Oh sorry, I was channeling C+C Music Factory for a minute.  I digress...

I'm all for being an individual and non-conformity.  I was the queen of it.  But as I got older I realized, depending on your line of work or path in life, you have to conform a little sometimes.  There are a ton of times in business meetings where I want to blurt out "That's what she said!", but I know it wouldn't be professional and I'd probably get canned.  Hell times, you have to downright kiss ass.  Oh that one kills me, but hey, if I want to feed my kids, sometimes I have to be just nice and... to me, bland. 

It's been my pet peeve in watching "What Not to Wear".  They get a bunch of kooky out there chicks, who have their own style, albeit bad, but it's their "personae".  A hippie, a geek, a goth, a turtle lady, a disco queen, whatever.  And by the end of the show, every single one of them looks like a Banana Republic clone.  I HATE THAT!  I'm all for dressing someone up, giving them some better fashion tips, especially when it's just to buy stuff that fits!  But let them still have their individuality, as weird as it may be.

It's the same with dating shows.  They find some weirdo who can't get a date.  The first thing the mentor says is don't be such a weirdo.  That way you appeal to a broader audience.  But what if your dream match is another weirdo?  I mean, I found the same thing when I was dating, I had to be more... middle of the road, more mass appeal, as I said.  Is that false advertising?  Or does it just give you an entre' to lots of different worlds where you can then open up and be more yourself.  Or is your true self just too weird for anyone to take?

It's such a fine line.  To look and act presentable and professional, someone people want to do business with or date or be friends with, but let them be individuals.  Are you not being true to yourself or are you giving yourself more opportunities?  I think that's why I don't want to get married again, so that I can be a classic, sophisticatedly coifed professional by day and come home at night and wear Kleenex boxes for shoes and dance to Joy Division wearing just men's boxers and a bra made of rubber duckies.  I wish I didn't have to care what people think.  Hey, I gotta' be me... I just have to pick and choose the times I do it. 


  1. I appreciate the gratuitous C&C reference. I immediately dialed it up on the iPod docked on my desk.
    The question becomes - what happens when your idea of individual expression is in direct competition with your desire for success? And is negative attention better than any attention?
    It really becomes a battle of time & place with a side of priorities -

  2. You got it! That's exactly what I'm talking about! When does it defeat the purpose. But then sometimes quirky helps the cause, say like musicians obviously like Cyndi Lauper, but sometimes a brand like Geek Squad or Mentos. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not.

  3. Brilliant insightful way of explaining it. I'm posting this on my fb.

  4. Brilliant insightful way of explaining it. I'm posting this on my fb.

  5. I think it also depends on the age group. I applaud my nieces who love who they are and wear whatever they want now...when I was in highschool I was always the odd duck. I went to school in the years when flannel shirts and workboots for girls were hip (shesh..) and I found a pair of bright blue ones...that appealed to my inner parrot self and got them. I was teased throughout the year but stood my ground. I became my ecclectic self but it was not without, as you say, without many critics. I am happy to say at 50, I say what I want, wear what I want, and have found what works for me and I am the woman my nieces emulate. But that's because someone else thought to make workboots in bright blue instead of brown.

  6. It is false advertising at least in the dating world. you know at some point their freakiness is going to come out and if it's after the wedding there may be trouble.

    Funny, just before I read this I posted a Tweet: "No matter how quirky or weird you are somewhere in the world is an opposite sex version of you."

    I was remembering some interesting couples I know who have the same strange taste and ideas.

  7. Hello Ms. Madge, even though I've been absent from MySpace for months now it's nice to see that you're still as beautiful & sexy as you ever were. I too like to be an individual and be just me, unique in some ways and not conforming to the trends or styles of the modern man. I'm too old and set in my ways to change now if if I wanted to. As for being comfortable around the house, it's jogging pants, t-shirt, and bedroom slippers for me. As for my public appearance, I'm always working on something every day so it's always my old worn work clothes...I don't even know if my casual dress clothes fit anymore! :) Annnnnyway, I do sincerely hope you're doing're still looking GOOOOOOD.

  8. My sister and I are Oscar and Felix. She loves What Not to Wear, but she's also the Queen of Conformity. And I guess you can tell who I am. I wear the boring crap I'm supposed to now, but I pride myself on never saying the right thing. Just loving your blog!