We all cloak ourselves. Yet, I posit that a normative façade could be genuine, yet support an altered normative fashion. All puns aside, I often dress up as myself. In fact, I enjoy dressing up – being clean-cut, stylish, and dressed to the nines. Physical appearance says a lot about a person. I want my attire to embody my seriousness and professionalism, while staying true to my individual sense of style. If something fits me well it often makes me look, well, like a bodybuilder. Regarding academic attire, I consciously try to buy clothes that are fitted to my physique but ‘wash out’ my muscularity. I do this to minimize bodybuilding as a visible element during academic exchanges, particularly first impressions (interviews, conferences, etc.). To some extent, this is typical for many people. Creating a style around our bodies is a large portion of “dressing to impress.”
I have recently begun visiting universities/programs that I will be applying to for the continuation of my graduate work. During visits I explore the town, campus, department and, most importantly, meet with some top faculty. These meetings are crucial for numerous reasons. They provide a subjective experience for me to better predict which programs are right for me, and which faculty I could see myself potentially working with extensively. Furthermore, personal visits allow professors, to a certain extent, to get a feel for who I am as a person, student, and scholar.
This first impression is very important. I want them to see the academic, not the bodybuilder. Yet, I find this masking unsettling. Should I really conceal a large part of my identity in the systematic accentuation of my academic character? Absolutely. I do not want any distractions from this representation, so that a positive interaction can be predicated on my academic aptitude and potential. It is entirely possible that being a bodybuilder would remain irrelevant. Nevertheless, it is an element of my life outside of academia that can certainly arise at a more appropriate juncture.
In most academic and professional environments there is a certain expectation to present oneself -not only in demeanor, but also in appearance – as professional. In addition to this obligation, I must also keep in mind that donning a muscle-shirt is not the image that I want to portray. I do not necessarily assume that I will be judged by my physique during initial meetings, but it certainly affects my appearance. Perhaps some people will be negatively affected by the fact that I bodybuild. Then again, maybe others will accept it more favorably. I do feel a strong obligation to hide bodybuilding. Yet, I am proud of my identity as a bodybuilder. Nevertheless, there are rules to every game. I would prefer to present the bodybuilder after a judgment on my intellectual quality has been made. I choose to emphasize the proper aspects in their proper settings. I choose to leave the muscle-shirt in the gym.