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Monthly Archives: February 2013

I start a new job tomorrow. Thus, I bought some new clothes this week. This is never a pleasant experience for me, as my husband can attest from the time he tried to take me shopping for maternity clothes and witnessed my deterioration from a confident, happy, easy-going woman to a glassy-eyed, panicky, blithering idiot.  That had nothing to do with pregnancy hormones – my mom has been witness throughout my life to my emotional reaction to clothes shopping.

Part of this reaction is probably due to the general ambience in the stores themselves – bright lighting, elevator music, headless mannequins, cramped quarters, overly cheery sales clerks…  I start wanting to slap someone, anyone, after ten minutes in a clothing store.

Then there is the tediousness of carrying items to the “fitting room” (ironic name, as nothing seems to ever fit).  Try five things on, hate them all, put your own clothes back on, go back out, come back with five more things, try them on…  repeat until insane.  I’d like a store where you can just take your own clothes off when you walk in the door and walk around naked, trying things on next to the racks where you find them.  Hey, it would really cut down on shoplifting, too.

I suppose the number one reason that I hate clothes shopping, though, is that most of the women’s clothes that I see in the stores don’t seem “real”.  I walk around looking at the display racks, and I think “Those can’t be real women’s clothes.  They must be for dolls or something.  Or maybe they are for little girls, or for little girls pretending they are wearing women’s clothes – they are like little girls think women would dress.”

Then I choose a few items to try on, and when I put them on they seem even less like real clothes.  The fabric is thin.  The buttons are tiny and barely hanging on by the thinnest of threads.  The seams look so weak.  The shape of the clothes are such that they might fit you okay if you stand exactly *so*, but if you bend over or reach for something on a shelf or sit down or, well, breathe deeply…  they bind or gap or scrunch up or feel like they are going to pop a seam or a button.

So I try a larger size.  Grudgingly, because I know that I am NOT an extra large woman – I don’t know who makes up these sizes, only that they are ridiculous.  So now I can close the buttons on the shirt without feeling like they are going to rip out if I raise my arms…  but now the neckline gapes open and the back pooches out and I just look misshapen and pathetic.

It’s not just the fit.  Most women’s clothes seem to also have just plain weird features.  Maybe something appears to be a perfectly normal pair of pants, but then you notice some funky zipper on a strange part of the leg, a lace puppy on the back pocket, or some such juvenile nonsense.  Maybe something is otherwise a normal shirt, but then it has sequins in the shape of a heart over one nipple, or some weird ruffle sticking out to one side, or a collar that just keeps falling the wrong way and looking totally dumb.  I find myself looking in the mirror and thinking “Do people really wear things like this?”.  And I can’t even answer the question, since I don’t generally pay attention to what people wear.

So you know what usually ends up happening with me?  I go to the web sites of my trusted companies:  Eddie Bauer, Old Navy, a few others.  I find some shirts that I know will fit, that I have worn before – shirts that feel like “real” clothes.  And then I buy four or five different colors of each one.  Then I go to the local hardware store and buy several pairs of work pants.

So I end up looking almost exactly the same each day, just in different shades of green or plum or grey.  People might wonder if I ever change my clothes at all.

I am in the midst of applying and interviewing for a new job right now.  It has been twelve years since I have needed to find a new job.  It is actually a very interesting process, with a lot of parallels to dating – trying to make them like you, easily feeling insulted/hurt if they do not, knowing that if you misrepresent yourself to get them to like you it will come back to bite you in the ass later, knowing that if they don’t like you then you don’t really want to be with them anyway but still getting all nervous and worried and hurt…  basically, stressful as hell.

Some recent conversations with my husband have led me to believe that my basic philosophy about job-hunting is non-standard.

You see, I think that people/organizations are looking for the best person to get a particular thing done…  and I want to find a job for which I am, indeed, the best person to get it done.  I do not want to press to get a job that I “think I can do” or for which I “meet the minimum qualifications”.

My husband says this is not the way it’s done.  Especially in the University system or other heavily unionized institutions.  He mentioned that everyone “rises to their level of incompetence” and remains there.

I was floored.  I have actually noticed this before – that there are an awful lot of people who seem to not be very good at what they do, and yet they have jobs and no one seems to be threatening to take the jobs away from them.  But I had no idea that this phenomenon was ubiquitous enough to have its own NAME in business circles:  The Peter Principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle).

Wow!  It’s all so clear now!  You see, people get promoted because they were doing well at the job that they were doing, but that does not necessarily mean that they will excel in the new, more challenging position.  Yet no one in the University gets “demoted” back to the level at which they were doing well.  They stay in the new position (with the higher salary that it entails) and bash their way through, and other people pick up their slack.

This is so depressing to me.  I don’t want to do that.  So here I am, applying only for jobs in which I am completely confident I can excel.

Which, however, means that I will always be paid a little bit less than those people who are at my same level of competence, but are willing to rise just a little above that – to their level of incompetence.

Sigh.

Recently my husband was espousing my competence (thank you, Hon), and a young woman asked him “Does that make you feel like less of a man or anything?” Which I take to be another way of asking “Will men like me if I am too competent?”

Wow, are young women still asking that question?!?

Allow me to answer it for you:

Some men won’t like you, some men will.  Duh.

When I was, shall we say, “looking for a man” (uggh, that sounds so bad), sure I met a lot of men who wanted to play the knight in shining armor opposite some chick’s damsel in distress.  They were not the least bit interested in me when I told them that I can take care of myself, don’t need saving, and even carry most of the heavy objects in my life by myself.  They were not interested in me – but nor was I in them.

Do I care if someone who I am not attracted to is not attracted to me?  No.  Actually, it’s better if he is not.

Young, competent women, listen to this:

Yes, you want to “find a man” (I know, I’m being heterosexist here, replace it with “woman” if you want – but I’m not sure that quite the same stereotypical worries figure in there…).  There’s really nothing wrong with that.  Most people do want a life partner, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  But you don’t have to be attractive to all men…  nor to most men…  not even to a lot of men to find yourself a man.  There are men out there who will like you for the competent woman you are.  For every man who finds you interesting and attractive, there may be twenty, or fifty, or a hundred men who find you difficult/unattractive/weird/scary/whatever – who cares about them?  They are not the men you want.

The hard part may be finding a man who appreciates your competence and has his own to match it.  If you don’t want to be the one handling everything, if you want someone equal, you may find that you have to weed through some guys who think “cool, she can take care of everything – she’s tough.  I’ll just cruise along looking pretty.”

If you find someone else who is able to do things, handle things, accomplish things, and doesn’t mind you doing the same…  hopefully your abilities compliment each other nicely, and between the two of you, you will be able to tackle most anything.

Of course, occasionally you will  have to hire a professional.