What is “acting professional”?

The standards for what constitutes “acting professional” are rife with cultural biases. Acting professional in one country isn’t the same as acting professional in another. I’ve noticed that some of these workplaces demand a certain professionalism that is based on the White Male standards, by all means, the White Wealthy Male standards. Ever notice that?

Some people use the word “cultured.” But what is it that they are referring to, really? What does “cultured” mean? The way I have heard the word used means that you act like you’re part of the aristocracy. That means if you’re poor, you cover it up.

How often are people who are jobless and poor told to dress classy at a job interview, or to straighten up their mannerisms if they expect to get a job? I have heard all kinds of things. Get rid of the eyeglasses that don’t fit right because you were forced to use Medicaid to get them. Go to a thrift shop and buy the classiest clothing you can find. Don’t dress shabby or they’ll know. Even stuff like getting your front teeth fixed or getting a fancy haircut.

I think I need to just be who I am. I might dress up for a job interview but I sure will not dress like that every day. I refuse to get my teeth fixed since having broken front teeth isn’t putting me in medical danger in any way. Do I really want to have beautiful white teeth? Why? I think some people just want to look wealthy, or assure the world that god forbid, they are not poor! Oh no! Not that!

Let’s look at the value judgment here. As adults, we’re role models for the younger generation. Do we really want to give kids the message that being poor is something to be ashamed of?

Over the years I have picked up habits that some people might call “trashy.” I’m starting to realize that I have adopted this culture, if such a thing exists, or partly adopted it, and I challenge anyone who demands that I change it.

Yes, I do shop at the dollar store and at Walmart, and at thrift shops, too. I will indeed shop for a bargain, and that does not mean bargains on designer clothing. I still have my cheap folding furniture. If anyone turns up their noses at it, I question what kind of values they have. I may be among the employed, but why do I need to shed my old values that kept me alive for decades? Why go fancy, when cheap works just as well? Why buy fancy just to have the status symbol? While we’re at it, why act fancy when plain will do?

I’m proud of my simple, drab stuff. I’m proud of me, too.


Feedback and comments welcome!