I had a dance teacher once who would start each class with a thought for the day. On one particular day, her musing was: You can’t through life with a disclaimer. She started with dance examples: you can’t walk into auditions and start with “I’m feeling very cranky. I didn’t get enough sleep. I’m pretty sure I pulled something in my left leg. I’ve got this inner ear thing that is impacting my balance. I just had a birthday, and I had too much cake—I’m absolutely certain that accounts for the 10 pounds you are probably seeing through my lycra.” Her theory was that it would be absurdly destructive to do that walking into an audition, and you can’t assume that you’re going to be able to do that at any point in your life. You just have to do your best and get on with it.
I’m not great at getting on with it. See, I like the disclaimer idea. I understand why it wouldn’t necessarily paint you in the best light in an audition. Everyone’s time is precious, and everyone else auditioning also has something else going on in their lives that might impact that one pirouette at that one particular moment. It would be absurd to stop and explain why you didn’t land it. However—I also completely understand the desire to explain.
Picture the scenario: You are unfortunate enough to be out at night on a weekend in West Hollywood. You’ve just spent your dowry on parking and another 45 minutes of your life have ticked away as you searched for the chance to spend it. Now you’re walking with the grace of a drunken 15 year old down Sunset in heels that are clearly meant for anyone but you. You pass an attractive man. He gives you the once over—you know the move. It’s the one that combines both vague interest and piercing disdain. Do you move on and giggle at the story he has unwilling given you for your blog, or do you only do that after you spend at least 10 minutes fuming and wishing that you would have stopped him and explained that when you left home, your hair had that special curl that says “whimsy” and “effort” as opposed to “sweaty” and “droopy?” Tell me there isn’t at least a second when you want to turn around and yell “you should have seen me 45 minutes ago!” Sure, a disclaimer like that would make you seem insane, and yet…
How about work situations? You’ve just expended herculean effort completing something for your boss. You turn it in with an actual feeling of accomplishment that rarely crossing your brain anymore. Her only response is to ask why you also didn’t turn in the second, minor request. Tell me you don’t want to explain exactly how difficult that first assignment was. Tell me that you don’t want to her to know that you made the impossible your bitch. Of course you do! Obviously, if you try to add the disclaimer at that point, it would come off as a lame excuse and the effort will remain completely unappreciated (I might know something about that scenario). Of course, even if you had started with a disclaimer, it probably would not have mattered, as your boss is really only interested in the results, not the drama involved in getting them.
I know I can’t walk down the street explaining away my life. My work, my writing, my producing, my relationships have to all stand on their own as they are. I can’t assume the judgments that may (or may not) be coming. I have to let them go into the world without the “but you don’t know how hard it was to make XYZ happen” part.
Also, sometimes people are just looking at you because they are zoning out and in no way passing judgment on whether or not your jeans are “too young” for you. So, jumping to that conclusion and offering your disclaimers (and some well-placed jabs of your own) will only make you look crazy. Probably. Not that I would know that. But possibly. I’m just saying.