Cable TV, Scourge of the Onelys (installment 374x): What Not to Wear July 23, 2008Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, As If!, Food for Thought, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys, Singled Out.
Tags: fashion, guilty pleasure, rhetoric, sophistication, tlc, what not to wear
Since I often work at home, one of my guilty pleasures is to watch reruns of TLC’s show, What Not to Wear (the American version) when I take a break for lunch. Today, inspired by Bella DePaulo’s chapter on the myth that Every Single Person Is “Interested in Just One Thing – Getting Coupled,” I decided to take notes as I watched today’s episode, which focused on a 26-year-old single young woman named Sohni. I was curious about whether the show’s rhetoric would carry a pro-coupling spin or if maybe it would just encourage Sohni to look fabulous, no matter her motivation. After all, Sohni has a career, hopes to go to law school, and likes to party with her friends in Chicago… Isn’t that enough?
Of course not! Within the first fifteen minutes (and actually, especially during the first fifteen minutes) of the show, all major characters – including Sohni’s twin sister (who nominated Sohni for the show), Clinton and Stacy (the stylin’ pair [though not a “couple,” which is in itself something of a relief] who tell people how bad they look in their current wardrobe), Sohni herself, and even the omniscient narrator of the show, whose voice provides transitions between cuts and commercials – implied that one of Sohni’s major motivations for exchanging her old wardrobe was and should be not just to feel good about herself, but also to feel good about the men she will attract.
Here are some examples:
- “Sohni may be dressing too young to meet a sophisticated man” — twin sister
- “I do want to have a relationship and a commitment …” — Sohni
- “[With clothes like that], you’re a magnet for damaged goods” — Clinton. Sohni’s reply? “Oh hello, dating life!”
- “She says she wants to meet a conservative guy and go to law school, but her clothes say something different” — narrator
- “[This outfit says], Why buy the loaf of bread when you can have the slices for free?” — Stacy
Clearly, Sohni’s “asking” for it … that is, she’s “asking” for a relationship, because that’s ultimately what every single 26-year-old attractive woman – especially those who have ambition, a career and enjoy spending time with her friends – wants.
Why can’t she just look hot because … well, just because? One of the joys of being Onely is that when I spend time on myself to look good – whether it be getting a decent haircut, putting on makeup, wearing a top that flatters my figure and brings out my big blue eyes – I’m doing it for myself, not for others. And if I’m interested in looking “sexy,” maybe I do it not because I want to attract a long-term committed partner, but because [dare I write this?!] … well, I like to have sex?
The rhetoric associated with single women almost always implies that 1) looking stylish and sophisticated is all about others, not about oneself; 2) it’s impossible to want to have sex without also wanting commitment; and 3) that a woman’s life is not worthwhile or complete without both a career and a relationship.
I’m all in favor of wearing clothes that look great, but I’m not in favor of this major premise upon which the show is based: Look great so that you can acquire or keep a mate.
What say you, fellow Onelers?