Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: What "Dressing Funky" Means; Visit Without a Thank-You

By Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I am a young woman of color working for a start-up here in DC. All of my co-workers are older white men. We are entering the fundraising phase of our business plan, wherein two superiors and I will meet with potential investors. A few days ago, my boss told me that I should not be dressing
conservatively for these meetings, because my young, hip look is going to be part of the company’s draw. I was looking forward to developing professional relationships with these investors, and I feel strange about dressing in a certain way to lure them in. In particular, I don’t want to dress provocatively to get more investors interested or be treated like a token. Is this a conversation I should have with my boss?

Invested in Apparel

Dear Invested in Apparel,

It sounds like your boss was giving you some tips about what to expect at these upcoming meetings. In job situations like investor meetings, people often default to their most conservative apparel. Seems he was telling you that you shouldn’t feel obliged to put on your most formal attire, as weird as it may have felt to get style advice from him.

Don’t forget that young and hip is totally different from provocative. I think you can infuse aspects of your style and look funky without wearing revealing clothes. Whatever you wear to the meeting, make sure you feel comfortable with how you look. You won’t be on-point if you’re constantly rearranging your collar to cover up your décolletage.

Presumably, you feel that you’ve earned your seat at the bargaining table, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking forward to making the investors' acquaintance. Yes, you have identities and experiences that distinguish you from your bosses – you are young, female and a person of color – but they seem wise enough to understand that those differences in perspective make you a more valuable employee, not a token.

And, in regards to having a conversation with your boss, take him aside after the first investor meeting and ask him to rehash with you. If you feel like it, you can ask if he feel you dressed appropriately funky.



Dear Rachel,

Recently, my cousin came to stay with me for a week. She lives across the country, so she paid for a plane ticket. I prepared quite a bit and we had a lovely time. I had bought us tickets to some events in advance and purchased a boatload of groceries as well. She never offered to reimburse me for those expenses, nor did she ever send me a thank you note or anything of the sort. This lack of acknowledgement makes me irritated when I think back on the trip, and I’d rather focus on the good times we had. Should I call out my cousin?

Host Who Thought She Had the Most

Dear Host Who Thought She Had the Most,

When reading your letter, I must admit your concerns seemed trivial in contrast with having a lovely cousin who cares about you enough to shell out cross-country plane tickets, and that the two of you enjoyed one another’s company. But then, I remembered the feeling of your efforts going
unappreciated. It’s not the best feeling.

It comes down to why you spent that time and money preparing for the visit. Seems like you wanted your cousin to feel like her own efforts in traveling were well-worth it. Would a thank you note or token of appreciation confirm that your cousin had a good time? If that’s the case, then have a little
confidence in your hosting abilities. A boatload of groceries? C'mon, I bet it was a fantastic week. Some people express that through thank you notes and others don’t.

If the issue is more that you wish she had chipped in for some of the week’s expenses, then let this be a lesson to you – ask when it’s relevant. Sometimes people forget they owe you money. Or maybe she assumed that you wanted to treat her, considering she flew around the country to visit you. It’s best practice to always offer to pay people back, but if you didn’t bring it up and it’s not an exorbitant amount of money then I say tough noogies for you.

And to your final comment about wishing you could focus on the positive instead of your sense that she was a bad guest – you have control over your mind. Shocking, I know, but true. Each time you begin to feel embittered about the visit, just try to release that feeling and replace it with a good memory from the trip. It’s tempting to stew in anger and feels satisfying momentarily, but, as advice-sage Ann Landers once said, "Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head."



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a reporter at a financial trade publication. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice [at] fastmail (dot) net.

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