I’ve already blogged about being an adult (or not) and coming to terms with it (definitely not), so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But this is a more graphic description, or at least it was a very concrete experience for me. And before you run away from me, completely horrified, just a heads-up: I’m not going to talk about anything like gray hairs or saggy body parts (come on! I’m not 27 yet!!). You’re welcome.
Monday morning I’m flying to Niskayuna, NY (yeah, Google Maps saved me; I had no idea where that was either). I’m going to a networking event or something like that, hosted by GE. It’s a three-day thing, and I’m curious about it; hopefully it will be somewhat fun and interesting. I’ve known about this since late July, and several emails have gone back and forth about plane tickets, paperwork (yes, I had more paperwork because I’m not a US citizen, you got that right), schedules, etc. But the worst of all emails came 10 days ago; among other specifics regarding the workshop, it said “dress code is business casual”. I have a confession to make: I had to google “business casual” to make sure I knew what it was. Yeah, I was on the right track. Then I realized I had nothing business casual to wear. Honestly. Okay, yes, I have the dress I wore for my 2nd year oral exam, back in March, but it is a light fabric, and it’s getting cold around here. And even if we count that, I still didn’t have enough outfits for three days. Does it sound stupid and frivolous to you? You are probably right, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t show up at a “networking event” (or whatever they call it) wearing jeans and a Chemistry Department hoodie. Yeah, I own a MSU chemistry department hoodie, and I actually love it, thank you for asking.
Feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t help, so this morning I went shopping. I didn’t enjoy it. There I was, trying to find a pair of shoes I could walk with (heels are not for me), while the cuttest, comfiest (is that even a word??) running shoes were linning up to tempt me. I resisted, and was rewarded: I’m actually happy with my shoes. They are like flats on a wedge, tall enough to make me look professional, but not so much that I’d show the world how clumsy I am. Since they are black, they’ll go with almost anything, and I may even wear them again after this workshop; and they are cute and fun enough for me to like them. Great.
Should I talk about the ridiculous number of sweaters, knit tops, blouses, skirts, pants, that I tried on? Let’s take the pants out of the list: I looked at many, but all of them were too long for this shortie. I only tried a pair and bought it. They are okay, and I hope I’ll wear them again at some conference or something like that. Skirts? tons of them, and most of those wouldn’t fit because of my generous thighs and/or hips. Or I’d get them past my hips, and then they would look baggy on my waist (if you know me, this won’t shock you: I have wide hips and a fairly small waist). I finally found two skirts that will do the job. The tops gave me a hard time, and I ended up buying only one thing (and hoping I would find something decent in my closet). While all this was taking place, I saw several cute, comfy sweaters, full of cozy fall spirit. I bought one. What were you expecting? I was quite focused, but I’m not a saint! I can’t wait to wear that sweater with jeans and my Converse sneakers.
Back at my place, I tried everything on again, plus some stuff from my closet, trying to find three decent outfits. I did it (yay!), but I couldn’t help feeling that the person in the mirror was someone else. She looked cute and professional and put together, but also so far from me! I like wearing sweatpants to the lab sometimes (hey! don’t roll your eyes at me, it’s like wearing your PJs to work!), my idea of footwear are sneakers or running shoes (or very-low heeled boots in the winter), and I have a shirt that says “self-rescuing princess” that I wear with pride. And my chem dept hoodie. And many other things.
I am a big proponent of looking good and taking care of your image. What I’m not a big proponent of is the “grown up look”. I like my jeans! I sometimes complain because it’s not advisable to wear cute clothes to the lab, so the gems of my wardrobe are seldom worn, but I like it at the same time. It’s nice to know that your experiments won’t look down at your old clothes. I try to look slightly better when I have to teach (I still think I will pass for a 19-year-old if I don’t make a slight effort; the truth is, my students usually wear make up and better clothes than I do), but I never go beyond nicer jeans and sweaters (or even hoodies, okay?).
So, all this makes me wonder whether I don’t use the lab as an excuse. I see what other girls/women wear to work; not every respectable chemist wears sweatpants every day. Sure, I’m not going to wear my best clothes to the lab, because I certainly do not want to spill acid on them (this has happened to some of my jeans in the past), but maybe I should make an effort to look slightly more like a grown up?
And anyways, when do you become a grown up? I’m almost 27 now, which means I’m much closer to 30 than to 20 (sad, I guess). But I’m still in school! (and I always use it as an excuse). What defines what an adult is? clothes? make up? or is it about the way you conduct yourself? And if we take that criterion, should I consider myself an adult? And if I am an adult, what should I do about it? And we can go on and on like that.
The thing is, the Dani I know, the one I’ve known for quite a while, does not wear business casual attires. She is sitting on her couch wearing an oversized hoodie, with a blanket and a cat on her legs. And she is quite paranoid about all this business casual thing. Will everyone else look as grey and serious and professional as she will? Will they look more at ease in those clothes than she does? Will everyone know she’s faking right away?
I guess I’ll take it as just another adventure. Almost as a game: “let’s play adults today!”. Hopefully, only the real experts will notice my bluff, and they will be kind enough not to call me out.
I’m already counting the days until I get to wear sweatpants again.