Sunday, April 5, 2009


viva la Martha Vila, baby!

So I think I know what my problem is: I need a personal stylist.

Yes indeed, that would solve all of my problems. I would no longer need to worry about what to wear every morning. They would guide me in how to become the fully "self-actualized" me. If clothes make the person, I need someone to tell me how to make me.

"But," you protest, "if someone styles you, are you really becoming self-actualized?" I do believe so. I think it takes quite a bit to realize you are utterly hopeless at learning what to wear and how to wear it. No one expects you to know how to set up a home network and fix the plumbing and repair the roof and glaze pottery and brine a turkey. Well, they do, BUT they shouldn't.

For some reason we are expected to be a master of most trades. Society and cable television hve set expectations for each person to be Martha Stewart, Bob Vila, Mark Cullen and Dr. Phil. But Martha Stewart is no Bob Vila, and vice versa.

Due to downsizing, I recently had six months or somewhat unstructured time. Although finances were tight, I achieved a great many things and worked toward what some might think of as "self-actualization: The realization of one's talents and potentialities, esp. considered as a drive or need present in everyone."

I taught myself how to venetian plaster walls, install sheet vinyl, repair loose ceramic tiles, refinish shellacked furniture, and snake pipes. I lost weight, quit smoking, sewed slipcovers, brined a turkey, and caught a squirrel in our attic. I learned software, designed and built storage, organized files, and wrote "thank you for interviewing me" notes.

Sure I'm proud. But the time involved in accomplishing these things perhaps could have been better spent focusing on my self-image. I spent so much time proving to myself that I was able to do everything that I didn't have time to focus on what I did best.

Society thinks we can write instruction booklets that take us through the installation of a home entertainment system, step-by-step. Meanwhile, a large percentage of people struggle with assembling a frickin' Billy bookcase. Who has not sat on the living room floor at some point, surrounded by unidentified parts, bits, pieces and cords wondering "How on earth does everyone else do this stuff? I can't possibly be that stupid... can I?"

There's a reason we have different careers. There's a need for us to specialize. Specialization is the thing that has helped the rise of the home computer, the development of anti-depression medications and the manufacture of Clay Aiken.

We may try to do it all, but it's really counter-productive. There must be some additional Gtross National Product generated by the hiring of plumbers who come to repair and replace the home improvements we make, inspired due to DIY TV.

But sometimes doing it yourself is a matter of picking up the phone and arranging for someone to do it for you. So after a weekend of examining the transformation from geek to chic of the AI2 runner up, I've made a decision.

I can't do it all. It took me weeks to find the right lipstick. I have too many mornings where I look in the mirror, somewhat disappointed but thinking "It's what's on the inside that counts, right?"

But you know, I'm starting to suspect that it really isn't. I've bought several books in the past month, and most were selected based on the cover. And that, I find horribly, horribly sad.

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