Saturday, September 30, 2006

Can we drop the hypocrisies?

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."
- Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, television host

Ellen's audiences laugh themselves silly at jokes like this.

But it's not a joke at all. Simply an observation of some of the hypocrisies in which we conduct our lives.

We laugh at ourselves. It's good that we do. It's healthy. If we didn't laugh, we would have to face up to the fact that we do some of the most absurd things.

Because somebody tells us we should. And that's good enough for most of us.

In 1996, after returning from a trip to India during which I had two meetings with a chartered accountant of some note, in Mumbai (Bombay), I decided to grow my hair long and draw it into a pony tail as my Indian friend had his. Over the past decade, my hair has decided to stop growing on the top of my head and grow long in the back, as a show of support for my bold move.

Prejudiced strangers, declaring that the mullet should have gone out of style with the end of slavery, sneer at me or at least look askance. Therein lies my best reason for keeping my pony tail. It helps me to quickly identify bigots. And bigots they are.

When I speak with people, either one-on-one or in front of an audience, I explain to them why I keep my pony tail. Not one person has disapproved, most applaud my example. Ladies, especially older ones, love to tug on it gently--a new experience for them.

I could cite other examples in which I break down barriers, but the point is that many people would be happy to see those barriers disappear. People frequently tell me that they wish more people would show a freedom of expression as I have. "In fact," they say, "I have always wanted to (insert wish of choice) and now, thanks to you, I'm going to do it."

Many workplaces have Dress Down Fridays in which employees dress comfortably and pay a small sum to a charity for the privilege of not having to dress to some artificial code. People who work from home often report that they work best in their pajamas. They only dress up when they have an online video conference. (Double standard?)

Is it time for the revolution where people finally toss away the artificial and arbitrary standards of dress and cosmetics that have kept many poor and a few very rich? I'm not certain.

Maybe it will depend on whether you have the nerve to be yourself rather than someone that others tell you to be.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to strip away the artifice and get down to reality.
Learn more at

No comments: