Friday, October 27, 2017

J.T./Elaine: Dialing It Back

It was kind of amusing - well, maybe not amusing, but ironic - to log in yesterday and see Harmon complaining about dressing sexy and only doing so because he was ambushed and pushed into it.  I suspect that most guys the Inn turns into women are like that, although maybe not so much as an older guy who grew up a generation or two before me and...  Well, maybe I grew up around a lot of older guys with hot younger girlfriends; not all were creeps, but even the ones who weren't kind of were settled into a certain dynamic and attitude that could be really hard to shake - and, since it's always meant being with pretty girls, why would you?  It's got to be really weird to find the show on the other foot.

Me, on the other hand, I've got no real trouble with a lot of the external stuff.  Acting hadn't been my main gig for a while, but you wear the clothes and make-up that the team says you need to wear in order to make the proper impression on the audience, and some of it can get kind of wild.  Like, I was on a cable-network kids' sitcom, and every one of those is eventually going to have a cross-dressing episode if it runs more than a year or two.  They won't make it something character does a lot, but they will get some slapstick out of you stumbling in heels for twenty minutes and then sighing like you'd always been worried about that skirt making your butt look fat in the last two.  I did Rocky Horror for a couple weeks, a minor role in a couple historical movies sheer my characters wrote tights and even one or two when the costumers gave us period-authentic men's boys with high heels.  And every performer who want a massive overnight success has worked in a small-enough production where he has to do his own make-up.  My skin tone is different enough from what it was that it took a little practice, and I still occasionally go to YouTube when I need to do something that is more decorative than just covering blemishes or evening things out.

So, sure, it's still pretty alarming to wake up an African-American woman, but once I get over that daily shock, I can handle a lot of the things that are expected of me, and I kind of find putting my clothes and my face on a useful ritual - it gets me set to be Elaine Preston when I go out the door.  Elaine #1 initially didn't like me treating her life like a part to be played, but I think she's coming around to it a little, even if she does have mixed emotions about me renewing acquaintance with the friends that Cary and Max let lapse.  Inside the apartment, I can think of myself as a guy who has splurged for the cable sports package and is very much enjoying the Dodgers playing in the World Series without being "might as well root for the guys who beat the Cubs", even if the shorts and t-shirt I change into when I get home fit differently; outside, I'm Elaine Preston, freelance Agile Project Manager.

The trouble with that, of course, is that there are a lot of ways in which I'm not prepared for that role, and in some ways the technical stuff is the least of it (which is not to say Elaine's job is easy, especially since I haven't started it, just that I can act like I understand the stuff I'm parroting).  Like, the casual racism and sexism is something I want to react to much more strongly than she would.  I'm still getting used to public transportation and having to be a different sort of vigilant there then when I'm driving.

But, mostly, there are a lot of real-world things that working in show business in one form or another can sort of skew your perspective of the real world.  That first interview I tale about last time?  I wanted to make a good impression, so I looked through Elaine's closet for a nice outfit, thinking about what I'd seen women wearing to auditions, costume designers talking about how much leg to show, and the way young professional women are often shown in movies, especially as a contrast to the casual male nerds they're managing.  I put it on, posed for myself in the mirror, practiced talking about sprints and stand-ups and development environments, and made sure I left early to give myself a little time in case the trains didn't work out.

As soon as I took off my coat and people started looking at me in the office, though, it was clear I'd messed up.  Nobody wears a top showing as much cleavage as I was, certainly not at a tech company in a city where winter temperatures are noticeably different from summer ones.  The same goes for the mini-skirt and the four-inch heels.  I felt like an idiot when I saw all the open cubicles and wires - if I tried to make my interview outfit my work attire, I'd have to have my legs crossed all the time, folks would be looking straight down my blouse, and I'd probably unplug my computer with my heels five times a day!  Plus, given that I heard a few comments about the way I'd dressed and what I'd presumably do for this job,I don't know if I'd get past that first impression.

So I didn't get that one, but thankfully Elaine had a pretty good laugh when she saw the selfie I'd posted in the morning once she got her phone back after school (lots of comments about "just what sort of job are you applying for?", as you might expect) and called me.  After Cary and Max, she hasn't even considered having to warn the third man to have her body to tone the sex appeal down, but that I had to wear that outfit for an evening out with her girlfriends.  Not till spring, I said.

(That said:  Elaine's got awesome friends.  I'm starting to get a serious crush on Dorrie, who does poetry slams and knows every music venue in the city, but she's got a boyfriend and Elaine says she will do terrible things if she ever sees the real me approach her after we've gotten things back to normal because it would be like letting her date a stalker.)

Is probably good not to nail your first audition, though.  It gave me a little more of a chance to get a little more familiar with the software I'll need to use and get input from Elaine on SC sepals interview attire, so that when I finally got an offer on the fourth, it seemed more or less earned.

Which means that on Monday, I finally get to see if working in an office is really the stifling, creativity-destroying experience everyone I know days it is!


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