Appearances never meant anything much in my family. We really didn’t care about showing off, about keeping up with or impressing anyone with something new, trendy or shiny.
Engineering set the values, functionality mixed with a bit of elegance. Add to that my mother’s penchant for a bargain, some cheap thing she found in her explorations and my father’s crackpot nature, always standing alone in his own viewpoint, and we were, well, not styling. Cars were practical and investments were safe and that was it.
I had a VP of Marketing who was frustrated by me. “I don’t know what motivates you,” he told me after not being able to find a way to lure me that wasn’t filtered by my brain. “I want my salespeople to desire, a shiny new watch, a fancy new boat, a high end car, so I can get them going, but with you, I can’t find that drive.”
For many transpeople, appearance is the thing. They know how they want to look, know how they want other people to be moved by their display, so they go for the show.
I never believed that getting the newest, hottest or showiest thing would give me any benefit. If someone was going to be swayed by the packaging rather than the contents are they really worth swaying? What do you get out of that?
What you don’t do with this attitude is climb any social ladders. You don’t work your way up in status and standing with those who care about such things. My father was an individual contributor and my mother was in her own world, and that’s just the way that things were always going to be.
These kind of attitudes made my transnatural experience and my hermit habit just part of the fabric of my expectations. If playing for status by showing a bit of bling was basically corrupt and useless, why bother?
Today, though, I feel the need to get back on the grid. I think my voice should be heard more in the world, and I would like to feel a bit less lonely, a bit more connected.
I suspect that means that I need to change how people see me, how they engage me. I need to think about the packaging, not just the product.
That means that I need to care about appearances.
Now, it seems a bit late to think about that, long after my shiniest days are over and at an age when most people are settling happily into their own kind of crusty individuality, but the structure of my own damn life has always been kind of backwards, and all the more difficult for it.
It is hard for me to believe that polishing up my appearances will make much of a difference, what with the limits I have in doing that. I believe smart people look for content, not surfaces, but somewhere in my marketing hind brain, I know that belief is mostly just wrong.
Will the way people respond to me change with a more invested appearance? Will I be able to even believe those responses are real, valid and valuable if they do, or will I be stuck in my old questioning mindset?
I know that I can find people who will be happy to take money to shine me up some and tell me how wonderful I look, how wonderful I am in the process. There are plenty of people in this world who know how to play the appearance game, trading coin for shiny looks and shiny words, coins they then use to play their own appearance based, climb the social ladder games.
Keeping your candle under a bushel serves no one, they would tell me. Let it shine in the world, offering an inviting and attractive face, and people will be able to see and hear what is inside of you in a way they couldn’t before. Pretty may only be skin deep, but ugly is to the bone.
These ideas. though, go against the values I was raised with, values I have internalized very thoroughly.
They just aren’t wrong, though. Beauty counts. It may even count for opening up our own soul, for opening up our own possibilities, for opening up our own lives.
After all, do we really want to spend all our lives inside a functional cracker box, or do we want architecture and art to lift us, reminding us of desire, passion and possibility?
People can’t be totally wrong in believing that investing in appearance can be investing in yourself, in your options and in your happiness. Too much of that surface stuff, though, and you get stuck up in it, missing the simple joys of considered depths.
I suspect that I should take some of what my parents left and invest in appearances.
And I have no idea how to do that.