tells his son Leartes, “To thy own self be true.” Sounds like great advice. The problem is Shakespeare is too much
of a genius to make anything easy.
Polonius is a longwinded, pompous parental figure at best, a deceptive,
self-serving lackey at worst. So
taking his advice at face value is about as wise as believing Lady Veronica on
the Psychic Network. But even
psychics and fools stumble upon wisdom and truth on occasion. So where does that leave Leartes? Well, running off to France, actually. For those of us with smaller trust
funds and less tolerance for underarm hair, we’re left contemplating shades of
a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal, but I wouldn’t show up in such an outfit for
an interview or a first date. I
also wouldn’t share that I sometimes swear like a trucker and enjoy children’s
cereal, multi-colored marshmallows and all. And I’d probably outright lie in an interview if asked what
the last book I read was–no school wants to advertise its middle school English
teacher likes racy fantasy romance novels. There are rules of etiquette and certain expectations that
we’re just expected to meet in life.
And we do, with no real worries about whether we’re selling ourselves
out, even if they require a few white lies or omissions of truth. Employers, dates, and new acquaintances
not only tolerate these half-truths, they expect them. So we play the game, even though I’m
quite certain any observant potential employer or partner only needs to see me
teeter a few feet in a pair of pumps to know my preferred footwear is neither
heeled nor pointy. And one look at
my bookshelves is all that would be required to deduce I like my fictional men
tall, buff, and fanged.
when does giving people what they want to see and hear turn into being
disingenuous to who we are? We all
have unique qualities that certain types of people will be put off by: our
values, our sense of independence, the way we interact with people, what makes
us laugh, or what makes us cringe.
If someone were to ask me at an interview how important professional
dress is to me, should I lie?
Frankly, though I like to look nice, I don’t think I’d be a better
teacher if I wore suits or skirts more often. Considering how often I like to plop onto the floor to work
with a group of kids, such clothing would probably actually hinder my teaching
style–and that is part of who I truly am, not just a surface level quirk I
could easily toss aside. If a
potential employer, or date, or friend values something trivial over who I
really am and what I have to offer as a person, they’re not who I want to work
for, date, or be friends with anyways.
too many women, I spent nearly all of my adolescence, and much too much of my
twenties, worrying about being what the rest of the world wanted me to look like
or act like. Where did that get
me? Not far; I have a closet full
of “sexy, feminine” shoes I can’t walk more than ten feet in. Since then I’ve filled my remaining
closet space with flip flops, flats, and sneakers. In those shoes, my shoes, I’ve taken the trip to study
abroad that I was too intimidated to take in college, have written two novels
after I had almost given up seeing myself as a writer, and have become so lost
in the joy of holding my best friend’s baby that for that moment I stopped
worrying about when I’d have my own.
I’ve learned to accept my own plodding pace and have gone farther at
thirty-one than I ever could have at eighteen or twenty-five when I was too concerned with keeping up with the crowd.
case you forgot, near the end of Hamlet,
Polonius hides himself in an arras and ends up dead, mistaken for someone he’s
not. This time I think Shakespeare
made the lesson a tad more apparent, though perhaps a little melodramatic. No one’s likely to die for selling
out. Then again, they might just
miss out on a lot of living.