Welcome to Running and Rambling! Stay updated on product reviews and all new articles as soon as they're posted by subscribing here.

January 4, 2007

Identity Crisis

Thanks to everyone who welcomed me back after the last post – it was nice to see some familiar names again. I noticed a lot of updated profile photos, too. For the record, I don’t think I’m ever doing that – so that as long as I roam the blogosphere, I’m always going to look 32. Just like I’m still 25 on my driver’s license.

Today’s post is a long one, but I have a few random odds and ends to put out there as well before we get started …

• First, remember how hopeful I was that Britney Spears would get her act together and become a scorching hot video vixen again? Well, in light of recent developments … can we all agree to chalk that whole prediction up to my being an idiot, and just forget I ever wrote it? Because she clearly appears headed in the wrong direction. At least Elizabeth Taylor gave us 20 good years before she became oversized and obnoxious (and unfortunately, I was too young to see any of her glory days). The whole Britney saga is just too sad on too many levels for me to talk about rationally anymore.

On the plus side, my friend Dave finally showed up to one of our workouts this week. So I guess that post wasn't entirely for nothing. I know the right thing to say is that I'd much rather have an old friend return than see Britney become a hottie again, but, um ... maybe I better just leave it at that - it would be the right thing to say.

• I love the fact that there’s a popular rapper named “The Game” right now. We’re ridiculously close to realizing the classic “Seinfeld” exchange where George wants to name his kid Seven, and Jerry counters that a better name would be Mug Costanza. From now on, just pick a noun, and make it your name. Can I be “The Race”? Is there a writer out there called “The Blog” yet? The comedic potential is endless.

(Actually, I hesitate to go much further here, because I sort of like The Game. In fact, I think I’ve got a whole post about him in me for another day. Anyone who writes lines like “Bounce it like you’ve got hydraulics in your G-string” is going to capture my interest. Plus, he’s a lot tougher looking than me. Let’s continue … )

• Finally, I’m as excited as anyone about the next round of reality shows slated to start this month … but doesn’t the whole “Apprentice in Los Angeles” gimmick seem a little too desperate? It reminds me of the Brady Bunch’s trip to Hawaii: a relatively harmless idea at the time, but looking back, it probably signaled the show’s creative demise (that is, before they completely unraveled all credibility by bringing on that annoying Oliver kid. Is it wrong that I still have feelings about this?) Anyway, if one of Trump’s job applicants sleeps in the tent and wakes up with a tarantula on his chest, that’s it for me - I’m walking away from the show.

OK, that’s out of my system. I feel better now. On with the post …


I used to think that I had pretty good physical stamina. Then I tried to spend a day last week shopping with my wife.

We took advantage of Grandma’s babysitting offer, and spent the day at the shopping center. The point of the trip was to upgrade my work wardrobe a bit – although getting away from the kids for several hours was a nice bonus, too.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a somewhat “on the rise” person in our organization. While that’s generally a good thing, the part that drives me crazy is that I can’t always rely on the chinos-and-polo formula that I had slowly crafted over the previous 10 years (Oh, and one more thing - I can’t wear my running shoes anymore. In some ways, that fact alone makes me feel like I’ve sold my soul). I need to evolve a more upscale look, which means occasional shopping outings like last week.

The problem is, I just wasn’t feeling it. I never am, honestly.

Part of my dilemma is that I have no fashion-related sense of identity. Do I want my vibe to be like a privileged Ralph Lauren aristocrat? Or perhaps a J. Crew prep-school blueblood? How about an industrious Brooks Brothers go-getter? Maybe a smoldering Calvin Klein urban socialite? Or a high-society Armani man? I can’t say I feel a strong connection to any of these.

The other issue I have is with the expense involved. It’s hard for me to stomach spending hundreds of dollars on clothes that I don’t feel passionately about, and I’m uncertain that I’ll even like six months from now. If I were to buy those clothes, it would feel like I was simply buying into a certain image, then (probably unsuccessfully) trying to project it as my own.

Whenever I ponder this for too long, it all becomes pretty depressing. And so it was that my wife found me about three hours into the trip, walking around with a dazed stare, and she initiated the following exchange:

Her: You’ve pretty much given up on this, haven’t you?

Me: No, I haven’t … I’m all right.

Her (smiling): No you’re not – you bonked about an hour ago, and you’ve been dragging ever since.

Me: Is it that obvious?

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure whether to be more embarrassed that she was calling me out, or impressed that she correctly used the term “bonked” in a conversation unrelated to running. All I knew is that she was right: I had totally hit the wall. If it were a race, I would be looking for the meat wagon to hitch a mercy ride back to the car.

The paradox in this whole story is that while I have a borderline moral opposition to spending money on clothing to enhance my professional career, I rarely have any qualms about spending a similar amount of money on my athletic exploits.

I purposely neglect calculating the cumulative dollars I annually spend on race fees, travel costs, shoes, clothing, and other gear, because I fear the amount will be too staggering to justify. But somehow, I rationalize it to myself in that these types of expenses accurately reflect the person I am, and because I know the items I purchase will be extremely well-used. (Yes, it’s a shaky premise, but for now it’s all I’ve got. Just humor me and nod like you agree.)

In this arena, I’ve never had any problem with my sense of identity. I’m a runner (whoops, my mistake. I still catch myself saying that from time to time) – I mean, a triathlete who works out for several days per week, with very specific training-related needs.

I know exactly which products work well for me, and which I can live without. I like New Balance shoes on the roads, Montrails on the dirt, and Asics clothing on my body. I prefer training in compression shorts and loose fitting shirts. I wear moisture-wicking fabrics during a run, and 100% cotton afterwards. I need disproportionately thick gloves because my fingers always feel much colder than my core. I know that the Polar 210 has all the features I need, but the 625X is overkill. And I could give you about 20 more examples.

Granted, it has taken me several years to refine these preferences. But even when seeking the perfect balance, I was rarely filled with as much dread in purchasing running gear as I am when shopping for business attire. I think that speaks to the larger issue of self-image. Namely, wearing workout clothes identifies me as a runner (dang, sorry again - I still mean triathlete), and it’s an identity that I can very comfortably project to the outside world, because it’s an honest reflection of my soul.

(Sorry - I know this is getting pretty deep for a post about clothes, but I think I can make a relevant point here soon … )

I think we all carry an internalized, idealistic portrait of ourselves in our day to day lives, and strive to reveal that person to the outside world by the clothing (and, using a similar argument, the demeanor) we display on a regular basis.

For me, that inner person is a triathlete (See there? I’m getting the hang of it). It’s a guy with sweat on his forehead, chlorine in his hair, and perpetual soreness in his muscles. A laid-back guy who likes to push the limits during a workout, then lounge around the house in shorts and a t-shirt afterwards.

And as much as I try to convince myself otherwise, my inner self is definitely not a corporate executive, or someone who is comfortable in the corridors of power. But that’s exactly who I’m supposed to become - so for now I guess I’ll just keep trying to fake it.

It’s not easy to live an illusion, though. I mean, how many people do you know who need psychoanalysis simply by going clothes shopping? I drive myself crazy with this stuff. When it comes to my career, sometimes it seems like success is my own worst enemy.

Somehow, as a triathlete, I don't think I'd ever have such a problem.


matt 1/4/07, 11:36 PM  

oh man, donald...you are firing on all cylinders here. i haven't laughed this hard in a long time...from genius brady reference to bonking on a shopping trip with your wife.

Deene 1/5/07, 5:25 AM  

ha ha! i like the mall bonking term. just like getting a trainer/coach, it sounds like you need an image consultant or shop online instead. (glad you turned your comments back on)

Backofpack 1/5/07, 5:27 AM  

It sure is good to have you back! I've missed these kinds of posts.

Here's an exchange Eric and I recently had:
Me: I guess I should go shopping for work clothes while your gone (said with dread).
Eric: You're wierd.
Me: Me? Why?
Eric: You're the only woman I know who hates shopping!

(And, for the record, I'm not going. I decided I can put it off a few more weeks.)

stronger 1/5/07, 7:46 AM  

You can always mix those designers to create your own style. As for the shoes- tell them you think fast on your feet so you have to wear the proper footwear.

Or you could quit your day job and be a coach and wear running...I mean tri gear all day every day.

olga 1/5/07, 9:09 AM  

Michelle, you are NOT the only one!

OK. First, Britney. I want her hot again too, if for nothing else then for some tips on how she did it (or at least for some lies from magazines).
Second. That dude from "The game" really IS hot! Though never heard of him, and don't think I will - I am so behind in any music, movie or stuff like that, and like it.
Third, and important. Oleg complained all our life together (18 years) about my dress-up style. What was ok when I was 20 (jeans and sneakers with oversized shirt) apparently is not ok now. I dissed it. Then my sister chimed in (she works in modelling clothes business). Then last Russia visit my Dad said: you need to start wearing clothes. What am I wearing now? He lectured me, after what he gave me $500 to spend on "normal" clothes appropriate for my age woman. Yeah, i can shed this for races, running shoes and gu's. So I figured, it's not my money, took my girlfriend who loves shopping and spent 6 hrs (gasp!) at the mall (first time in Nordstrom and such). Done, by her taste. At least third of it went back to store in 2 weeks. Another third is stored in closet. I wear 2 pairs of pants and one pair of shoes (hills! but stable ones), plus a coat (instead of running jacket). Crazy! Oleg hopes one day I'll be kind enough to allow him to give me a gift of a diamond ring or earrings:)
Oh, and yeah, not been able to wear running shoes to work - you sold your soul to devil!
Just kidding.

susie 1/5/07, 11:22 AM  

I feel your pain. I LOVE shopping, truly. But all I seem to buy are jeans, t-shirts, and casual sweaters. I hate dressing up, except on rare, fun occasions. Thanks goodness every Friday at work is "jeans day!"

Anne 1/5/07, 4:25 PM  

This is why men need wives. Otherwise, they'd all go out in public with their polo shirts tucked inside their sweatpants. Be glad yours didn't 'bonk' you upside the head for bailing so early in the clothes race!

Ben, aka BadBen 1/5/07, 8:08 PM  

Don't feel bad about shopping fatigue. I'd rather run any 100-miler than spend 2 hours in a frigging mall.

Have a good 2007.

Annette 1/5/07, 8:41 PM  

Here's my analysis: I'm seeing you as a GAP/Banana Republic kind of guy. GAP - you still want to be 25 and you're not about dressing up, but you definitely should look hip. Banana Republic - same idea with a little more class (and a little more cash out of your pocket, too.)

My husband gets the same way about shopping. He will come home after a couple hours at the mall with me and have to lay on the couch and "recover" for a few hours. :) I think it's hilarious. I guess neither of you will ever adopt the name "The Mall."

By the way, thanks for enabling the comments. Is it an addiction I have? I feel like I need to make comments on blogs sometimes. (Especially those as profound as this one!) :)

robtherunner 1/5/07, 9:42 PM  

This is a classic post. I was cracking up along the way. And even if it was not intended for me thanks for the Britney update. I am as sad as her parents must be to watch her downward spiral.

rick 1/5/07, 11:05 PM  

Actually I've got the exact same problem. I got all '"these" athletic clothes. My idea of a nice jacket is my Black with Gray accents Brooks Track jacket. I do have some dress up clothes but I always feel weird in them. Like someone else's clothes that I shouldn't be wearing. And I have no idea what's a good look. Part of my goal this year was to actually dress better and to achieve that I was going to "educate" myself with the men mags, you know GQ and all that. I have yet to buy an issue, the money went to a new outdoor book and tomorrow I'm buying the new issue of RunnersWorld because I heard there's a good article on Tim Twietmeyer.

I see from your sidebar that you will be doing the Wildflower Oly. I should be there, I'm signed up for the long course. Not doing Vineman but I can already see myself getting sucked in to volunteer that weekend. Last year I was there supporting a friend. And lastly, if everything works out I should also be at Firetrails.

angie's pink fuzzy 1/6/07, 4:29 PM  

"fake it till you make it" was the first thing that popped into my head.

second: damn proud of your wife using "bonked" correctly.

third: not. like. shopping. ? GASP! I love to go to a store (granted, I prefer thrift stores, but about once a quarter I get a hankering for the mall), and spend an entire afternoon perusing the selection. But I don't like to spend a lot of money; part of the satisfaction is in getting a "deal". I've also learned how to properly hydrate and fuel during these excursions. There is a science to it; you need to make sure you hit the food court for properly balenced nutrition (yes, it is possible to find that in the mall) and hydration about every two hours. Also need to make sure to know where the pit stops are, and plan your shopping spree accordingly. Wow, okay, I could have an entire post there, I'm ready to keep going!

Lastly, I whole-heartedly agree with Annette. Gap/Banana Republic.

Annette 1/6/07, 4:45 PM  

How funny that we're both changing our shoes for work. And, that it's a little uncomfortable and out of character for both of us. While, for me, wearing tennis shoes is definitely more comfortable for my feet, I feel like I'm being too casual. You are probably longing for the comfort of a nice cushy shoe, but protocol is telling you it's not OK. I guess we'll both have to walk in each other's shoes for awhile. ;)

Sarah 1/6/07, 6:41 PM  

See...aren't you glad you turned back on the comments? The comments you are get are as entertaining, witty, and well-written as your posts....almost. : )

Curly Su 1/7/07, 8:37 PM  

hey! you wanna do the long course relay at wildflower with me (in addition to the olympic)? Just for fun??

Paul 1/8/07, 9:49 AM  

It's a damn shame about Britney; but you can't win em all. On another note the 625x isn't reeeeeeally overkill. It's just feature complete.

That "one blood" tune from the game is good too. I dig the old school Junior Reid feature.

IM Able 1/9/07, 1:44 PM  

as for the britney issue.

actually ISSUE, cause she is clearly having an owen meany moment.

but here's where the problem started...

"Blah blah Britney blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah rationally blah."

Dude, remember...not in the same sentence...

Nic 1/10/07, 7:14 AM  

See, I think The Apprentice L.A. is going to RULE! But I'm an East Coast Transplant living in California, so I still find so much of this culture way too amusing... :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails

  © Blogger template The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP