Rachel del Valle | The importance of appearing effortless
Duly Noted | Why do we find it so difficult to own up to our hard work?
April 15, 2012, 11:09 pm · Updated April 16, 2012, 11:19 pm·
Rachel del Valle
At a party this weekend, I noticed someone staring at me. I turned to look and saw a guy focused on my mouth and a second later, that of my friend standing next to me. By the way he darted from face to face, I expected him to ask if we were twins. Instead, he motioned messily to his lips and said, “Are you guys dressed up for something?”
He was referring to the red lipstick — mine a coral shade, hers a cherry tint — we’d painted on before we stepped out the door. There was marked snideness in his question that annoyed me, prompting a “we like it” and a quick exit. A glance at his nondescript flannel shirt made me want to say, “Are you dressed like everyone else or something?” Alas, it was one of those quips you think of after the fact.
I appreciate people who take the time to present themselves excitingly. You can cast off fashion as frivolous, but you can’t get around the fact that it’s one of the first things a person notices about you. What’s on your body is an inseparable part of your appearance.
While appearance isn’t everything, nor should it be, it’s something — so why not accept that and have fun with it?
No one wants to look like they take themselves too seriously, but we all do. If we don’t care about ourselves, who will?
I’ve always been puzzled by the expectation to look good but pretend like you spent no time or effort to get there. For women my age, this is especially nagging. Not debilitating, mind you, just nagging.
Applying mascara, taking more than a minute to figure out what to wear in the morning, checking your hair in the mirror as you leave the bathroom — none of these things make you narcissistic or vapid. They just show that you care about how you look.
Why should that make you silly?
Maybe it’s because our culture — especially the microcosm of Penn — values effortlessness, or perhaps more accurately, the appearance of effortlessness. You can look good and be good at things, (in fact, you really should) but you can’t ever let on that you worked for it. At all.
How many times have you heard someone get an exam back and greet their ‘A’ with an “Oh man, I barely studied for that!” Honestly, go bury your face in your blue book.
Or what about the guy who rattles off his exciting summer plans: you know, an internship in the city, some non-profit work in Africa, probably take a class or two on the side. Like, it was totally a fluke though, it all just came together. Applied and that was it. So easy.
Putting a premium on being blase makes effort feel pedantic. Caring seem uncool. We can’t all be prodigies, geniuses or — my personal favorite — wunderkinds, at everything. So why pretend to be? Trying to cover up your effort only wastes time and yes, effort.
Why not just admit that researching your poli sci paper didn’t take, like, an hour, tops? Level with your friend and tell them that it’s not just the pants — you have been working out a little bit more lately, thank you very much.
There will always be things that truly do come naturally to people, whether it be really great bedhead waves, coding skills or the ability to memorize an entire semester’s worth of PowerPoints in a weekend. And that’s really wonderful. I love it, that’s great.
But more often than not, success — in the form of delicious homemade cookies or an “um”-free presentation — takes thought, planning and work. Admitting that isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s refreshing.
Rachel del Valle is a College sophomore from Newark, N.J. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Duly Noted appears every Monday.