I have a whiteboard right behind the door of my room. When I bought it, I had plans to draw, write lines of poetry, make to-do lists, and generally be creative on it. For the last few months it has simply read, “Suit Up!”
This is of course a reference to that Socrates of our time, Barney Stinson, and his excellent philosophy of life as evidenced in “How I Met Your Mother.” It’s a fun show and he’s my favorite character (don’t get me started on my doomed love for Neil Patrick Harris), but that’s not why I wrote a quote on my whiteboard in huge block letters. I wrote a reminder to “Suit Up” because it was something I needed reminding of.
I’ve mentioned that I swing between extreme tomboy and fairly dressy, and I have since I was dressing myself. The tomboy part, the part that says, “Today doesn’t require makeup or a hairbrush, just chop off all the hair and make sure to wear a shirt that covers everything,” is very persuasive. It’s the part of me that thinks that appearance should be at the bottom of the priority list because intelligence and empathy and creativity deserve the effort that many people put into looks. It’s the part that says, “Well, if they don’t like me when I don’t put in any effort, then they don’t really like me.” This is a point that has its own validity, but it needs a little examining.
Somewhere in some bit of philosophy that I can’t be bothered to remember correctly, a sage encourages us to take care of our appearances because it’s a sign of respect for ourselves and for our humanity, not just a way of appeasing others. Then there’s the simple recognition that while I don’t base my own friendships on appearance and try not to be drawn in by a pretty face with nothing behind it, a put-together interesting person is someone I’m going to want to spend more time with than an unkempt interesting person. Unless the unkempt person is REALLY interesting.
Basically, this fall I caught myself in a bit of a double standard. I’d spent a summer on tour, not caring much about my appearance, with boy-short hair and a disdain for makeup that I’d put on just to take off. I was tempted to continue to operate this way, but realized that, as much as I would love to pretend that I am appearance-blind and see only the blazing soul behind each person’s eyes, that’s not the case. And maybe I shouldn’t be expecting, oh, a soulmate to suddenly touch down who would be dazzled by my complete lack of effort.
So I thought of a role model, and I came up with Barney Stinson. Because everyone should emulate his total suppression of emotion and attachment and–oh, no, that’s not the part I was going for. Because NPH-as-Barney is gorgeous and funny and talented and smart and still, when he’s looking for a night on the town, he suits up and adds devastatingly sharp to the adjective list.
Now, after a few months of working in an office with well-heeled people and with a salary that lets me indulge a little bit, I’ve hit full-on girly mode. I’m wearing lipstick as I type this. LIPSTICK! With LINER! That you can TELL I HAVE ON! And honestly, I’m enjoying it. I still don’t think that appearance should be the ultimate thing you’re looking for in any of your relationships, personal, friendly, or professional, but let’s be real–it doesn’t take that long to put on a nice ensemble and throw on a coat of mascara. There are worse things than feeling pretty.
Just stop me next time I try to buy an entire brand collection at Sephora.