Scottie said he fell in love with me partly because during our first lunch together my jacket collar was turned up the whole time and I didn’t even know it.
That imperfection cinched it.
I had been playing telephone tag with one of my clients, an executive recruiter. She had an interest in fashion and also thought that taking one of my classes would benefit the work she did with leaders. In my initial message to her that morning I mentioned my Fashion 911® column in the Calgary Herald that day because it was certainly not one of my usual topics. She had asked Scottie, a management consultant in their small office, not to put me on hold or take a message if I called when she was on the other line. She wanted to make sure she could talk to me directly and he was to keep me engaged.
That’s exactly how it played out. We were able to make small talk because, with a touch of serendipity, he had just read my column. I went on to tell him what an interesting day I was having because of an angry phone call. In the end, he made me laugh about the whole thing. I thought he was pretty funny. I had no idea if he was married or single, young or old. I wasn’t looking for a date. He was just a guy who seemed to be one of the nice people in the world.
Earlier that morning, an upset paramedic had called me in a rage, yelling at me for being blasphemous to the honor of first responders, trivializing the good work they do by attaching 911 to the word fashion. I actually held the phone away from my ear until he stopped screaming. He wasn’t one of the nice people.
Coincidence (or not) the column published that very day was in response to another angry male. And that was the basis of my first exchange with Scottie.
FASHION CALGARY HERALD
Tuesday, October 22, 1996
‘Image’ said unrelated to job performance
I read with great interest, your response to the long-term employee (Joan) concerning the meaning of ‘casual day’ in the workplace. You seem to imply that we should fear for our jobs if we don’t dress in a certain way. You even mentioned a scientific connection between image and financial success.
Apparently, you consider it perfectly acceptable for someone’s work to be rejected because of their ‘image.’ I see this as prejudice and bigotry, plain and simple. No study in the world can prove the guy wearing the suit does a better job than the guy wearing jeans and a tee-shirt when doing the same task.
What matters is your work ethic and the ability to do the job at hand. If your clients are basing their judgments on anything else BUT good honest hard work, they aren’t doing their jobs properly.
Rejection on the basis of ‘image’ is dangerous because ideals of racism and homophobia can easily be masked.
I dislike suits. They are ugly, uncomfortable, expensive to buy and even more expensive to keep clean. Why should I have to wear one? I don’t expect anyone else to. It should be a personal choice. Isn’t that one of the benefits of democracy?
Remember, racists are also more interested in image than ability and supposedly have scientific studies to show the connections between their ideas of image and success. In my view, your attitude is not different.
You are right, Michael — looking good does not influence your ability to do your job. However, once again, I will reinforce my position that a person’s perception is in fact their reality. I did not say we live in a perfect world.
Democracy works for everyone or it isn’t a democracy. The issue really boils down to company image. The person who hires you has a right to expect you to present a positive image of the company in all you do. They may feel that careless attention to one’s self-image may extend a carelessness in the workplace. You can choose your attire if you are self-employed. If you are working for someone I am sure you will agree they should have an equal opportunity of choosing whom they want to work for them. A reasonable commitment to the image they want their company to portray may be part of the job requirements.
You mention the ‘benefits of democracy.’ That extends to both employer as well as employee. People doing business with you or hiring you can choose not to employ you or do business with you if they don’t like the ‘cut of your cloth.’ That is why I suggested people need to clarify what is considered reasonable wearing apparel in their place of employment.
Scottie read my column that day and saw my picture. It was his background check on me. He’s not the kind of guy who reads fashion. He’s Eddie Bauer all the way. His response to our phone conversation was a note:
You have indeed accomplished something in that I have never before sought out the fashion section of the newspaper. On the other hand, I have never been acquainted with (if 20 seconds on the phone is an acquaintance) a racist, homophobic, old-lady-hating, paramedic abusing fashion writer. Who would have thought the fashion section is more fun than Oprah or the comics?
It really was a good response. I get the sense that no matter how logical you may be, or how accurate your observation of human nature, the letter writer won’t get it. I often feel sorry for those who can’t understand that no matter how comfortable sweats may be, they don’t open doors. I may be biased as I think suits are both comfortable and look good. Does this make me racist and homophobic as well? I wonder.
Here’s a coincidence I hope you appreciate. After our quick phone conversation both you and I said to Kendra “I would like to meet him/her.” She had a good laugh at that. She speaks extremely highly of you and she and I agree on most people which might just mean we are both really warped. The meandering point of this paragraph is to see if you would really like to meet. Coffee, lunch, dinner or a walk next week sometime would be great. Vegas would be fun but next week is a little busy. Please let me know.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Sometimes, you really do just know. We met for lunch a few days later. Within the week we both recognized it was going to be forever. That was 20 years ago. Since then he has seen a lot more of my imperfections and quirks. He loves me not in spite of them, but because of them, and when things don’t go exactly as I had hoped he opts to love me even more.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. My happiness doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, it means that I have decided to look past my imperfections and allow gifts into my life.
Anna Quidlen once said “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
I now know that I was born to be real, not perfect.
And, Scottie doesn’t let me forget that I am the perfect woman for him.
Copyright 2017: Helene Oseen
An excerpt from Wear Your Life Well, Lessons on the Journey to Your Truest Self