Recently, some nice young lady posted a comment to this post of yore (wherein I complained about my terrible dye job and concluded that, for my particular professional situation, orange and pink highlights in my hair wasn’t the best look) which read something / exactly like this: “Those people with pink and orange streaks in their hair are probably a lot more interesting and unconventional individuals than you are.”
Scuse! Don’t I just feel put in my place! I got served, if you will, via the comments section. This chick doesn’t know me, so she has no idea how interesting or uninteresting I am. And of course I didn’t approve the comment, as is my right as administrator of this blog, but I did file it away for pensive contemplation. Plus we like to keep things positive here at Miss Sassy Pants. It is not sassy to put others down!
So what really makes a person more interesting and unconventional that others? Am I a boring conformist because I didn’t like the way pink highlights looked on me? Am I super lame because I sort of care how my bosses and other (mostly older/more experienced) corporate associates perceive me in the office before I even meet them? Hmm. If I had a long beard (aka Mr. Sassy Pants) I’d be stroking it thoughtfully right now. Much like Pai Mei (high five to anyone who gets the reference).
I’d love to take a vote on this, but I couldn’t figure out the polling tool so we’ll just analyze (leave it in the comments if you want). Since I grew up in a conservative household, there was minimal tolerance for what is known as teenagers expressing themselves. I wasn’t forced to wear collared shirts and khakis daily, but I didn’t have the urge to wear large dress-like black pants with a couple hundred chains hanging off my belt and a spiked necklace resembling a dog collar. And if I did have such an urge, it would have been met with something along the lines of “HELL NO.” There is nothing wrong with this or any other form of “self-expression” per se. It just wasn’t for me. I expressed myself by other means, wasn’t the most popular or the weirdest girl in school, escaped just fine, and now have a job which pays me handily to tinker with corporate systems all day for the betterment of the stock price. My parents taught me that others don’t necessarily perceive you as you think they do, and that you must learn to realize and adjust accordingly. And certainly, the post from the past was not a condemnation of the nice folks who color their hair all the colors of the rainbow. Good on ya, as I used to say. This is Amurica, ya’ll. You can do what you want and make up bukoo weird reasons for doing such as you please. Which means I can do as much or as little to “express myself” as I please and none of this outward self-expressions necessarily deems me more or less interesting, weird, or awesome than anyone else on the planet.
Convention is another story. Google says the definition of conventional is “following accepted customs and proprieties,” or “conforming with accepted standards.” I was uncomfortable with such striking and bold hair color (which didn’t even look good one me, something I readily admitted and still acknowledge) and chose to have it toned down to be a bit closer to my natural look, so this is me following accepted customs, proprieties, and standards according to what I know and am comfortable with. At that point, I had been working in a professional office environment for a total of almost 2 years of non-consecutive time. By then I had figured out to a certain degree how others perceive me in the office, and had decided that adding an additional layer of unconventional-ism by giving myself non-traditional hair color wasn’t something I wanted to combat. I already have a number of things “against” me in the office (in my particular career choice, given my gender, stature, etc.), so why make things harder for myself when I need to cooperate and work closely with many different kinds of people, some or even most of whom would take one look at me and my unconventional-ism and not listen to or respect anything I say, much less take me seriously. So yeah, I’m conventional. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. Is it “bad” to be unconventional? Not at all. Does it prevent people from getting jobs? Sometimes, but sometimes it helps. That’s what makes the USA so great. Everyone is so different, and most of us are accepting of others’ unconventionality.
Maybe when I’m more established in my career and have solid work performance for a solid number of years behind me to back me up, I can be more adventurous. A [good] reputation to precede me in the [corporate] workplace would mean I could be more unconventional with my outward appearance and it would not necessarily be a hindrance. Case in point: there is a woman at this office who never (at least that I’ve seen) dresses business casual – cargo pants and t-shirts daily. She has short hair cut into what can only be called a mohawk, and dyes it frequently different shades of blond and red. Yet when people mention her in the office, they mention her solid performance, her intelligence, and her work ethic. She is smart, folks know she can get her job done and done well, and so it doesn’t really matter what she looks like. But someone my age with my limited experience and therefore non-existent reputation (except one of being the “new girl”) could be taken wrongly by the predominantly boomer-age management at this corporation and others. Yes, it’s a stereotype, but they exist for a reason. We say we won’t judge, but everyone does it. And if you acknowledge this, why put yourself at a disadvantage over others when competing for the same bonus money? I’d rather prove myself professionally first, and then shave my head and pierce my lips, nose and eyebrow, rather than have to prove myself professionally and personally because someone has a thing against piercings, tattoos, or mohawks.
Rookie issue? Yes. Once again still proving ourselves. We (rookies and everyone else) are not more or less interesting because of how we present ourselves to the world. But I’ll take conventionalism any day over losing out on a bonus and/or a raise because my competing coworker looks like Connie Conventionality and I’m Molly Mohawk (haha…just made those up). Rock on Rookies.