I’m aware that it will be a very small minority who will have any idea what ‘Doing a Degrassi’ means, but hopefully, if you don’t, you can at least relate to the weirdness I am about to describe.
Back in the late 1980’s, I found myself in regular conflict with my mother over whether or not I could watch Grange Hill. She always won. I wasn’t giving up that easily though and I soon found an alternative in Degrassi Junior High – a series from Canada which my mother deemed acceptable because we have family in Toronto. It was so much wilder than Grange Hill!
There was a character called Steph in Degrassi who would leave her house in the morning dressed like a ‘nerd’ and then get changed in the school bathrooms transforming herself into a scrunch-dry haired, blusher and lipstick wearing goddess, in my eyes. She appealed to my ingrained rebellious nature and, as is so often the case with characters who exist in our formative years, has stayed with me as a reminder of our ability to transform ourselves into what or whoever we want to be, and also that things, and people, are not always as they appear on the outside.
At 37 I am still fascinated by our real selves as opposed to the projected image of ourselves we offer to the world and am never more aware of this in myself than when I go from my ‘real’ self, who appears when I am relaxed, happy and un-stressed to my projected self, who appears when I am highly strung, stressed and trying to be something I am not.
In my current job I have to get up at 5am on a Monday morning to get to work, travelling from London to Glasgow. I am not a morning person. This is an understatement. I roll out of bed, onto the tube, onto the plane and arrive in Glasgow bleary-eyed at about 0845. But, I have managed to find some joy in this commute. Never have I had a better opportunity to re-enact my childhood idol’s transformation than when I enter the toilets at Glasgow Airport. Often changing in a cubicle, I emerge smartly dressed and stand in front of the mirrors, just me and a couple of flight attendants, and prepare to apply the war paint.
I get to work transforming the puffy, sallow looking face in front of me into a powerful and energised business-ready visage. I work in TV so it’s hardly about powersuits and shoulder pads but I am not afraid to admit I am struggling on this current production so a bit of armour is vital. TV is a great industry in terms of working environment and generally you get a lot of like-minded people on a team and every one just wants to make the best programme they are capable of making. And we all know that what you wear and what you look like has little to no impact on that outcome. But I have found over the years, after wearing jeans and converse throughout my 20’s that actually, as a production manager I feel much more in touch with the job I am supposed to be doing if I dress a little smarter, a little less comfortably, a little more ‘managerially’. And so I do, and I enjoy it, and it helps. But the character I have created for work doesn’t feel like me. It is a necessary creation in order for me to do my job, but I find it hard to reconcile this character with who I become at the weekends and evenings when I either don’t wear any make-up or go all out and create a 50’s style and character which is more me than the business type.
It feels important to me to separate these two parts of my personality but I need to accept that the character I create for work is just as much a part of who I am as the character I am outside of work and I need to embrace my Degrassi transformation. It makes me feel stronger and have more faith in my own ability, and I need as much help in that department as I can get at the moment.
I wonder if men have such trouble switching between character roles or even if it crosses their minds? Maybe in fact I am a rare woman who does this and other women feel completely themselves in their work job and I am just in the wrong job, which is entirely possible! Do you feel more confident if you dress a certain way at work? What outfit makes you feel brave or different?