February 8th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

WHEN WE LAST LEFT our lovable fictional gang at the promising Internet startup company RevolutioNet, control of the firm had just been usurped by Demographic Debbie, the perfect urban-white American adult female.

In her first month in charge, Debbie’s already proved herself valuable to the company’s backers. As the perfect target-market consumer, Debbie knew what her fellow perfect target-market consumers (in her case, small-to-medium-business owners) wanted. And as someone who looked good in a dress-for-success suit, she’s successfully schmoozed her way into trial deals with many of the businesses needed for the firm’s new focus as a business-to-business supply brokerage.

But as the leader of a staff of computer geeks and young Web hotshots, her day-spa looks and ever-so-moderate demeanor left much to be desired. That was all fine for her investor-bosses, who enjoyed her image of “adult supervision,” showing the world that this was no hopeless dot-com venture but Serious Business run by Serious People.

Her employees, though, didn’t like to be treated as rude schoolchildren in need of a strict schoolmarm’s discipline. They (especially the programming staff) began to chafe under her ever-tighter grip on expense accounts, departmental budgets, working hours, even in-office music (official order: nothing weirder than Enya).

Debbie may have been a priss, but she was an attentive priss. She knew any staff insurrection (especially by Pratt, the headstrong chief programmer who’d hand-tooled most of the website’s code) would be disastrous at this stage in the company’s halting start. She knew she had to change, to reach out to the young and/or hip among her charges.

That’s why she came, albriet reluctantly, to the little coffeehouse near the office, where many young and/or hip people congregated. It was hard, mighty hard, for her to admit needing help in anything; and she certainly wasn’t going to let a man hear it. So she asked Kirsten, the sullen barista; Janis, the 41-year-old punk rock mom; and Flies-With-Eagles, the New Age shaman. As they sat around the big table in the back of the coffeehouse after hours, she asked them to help her loosen up, lighten up, and wisen up, at least among the staff in the office.

Flies-With-Eagles said Debbie needed to confront and release her fears–fears of failure, of vulnerability, of being fully human.

A more pragmatic Kirsten said Debbie had to trash the beige pantsuits, the M.A.C. cosmetics, and the horrendously conventional short brown hair.

A patient Janis waited her turn, then said both the other women had their points. Debbie, Janis quietly proclaimed, needed to shed both her old way of looking and her old way of thinking. In short, she needed a makeover, and pronto. What’s more, Janis proclaimed herself just the one who could make Debbie over right; to make her look and feel younger, less inhibited, more alive and attuned to the world around her.

At least that was the idea. The result, I must confess, didn’t quite work out that way.

Oh, Debbie looked years younger all right. Between the Krazy Kolor hair dye (with clashing-color extensions), the neo-1979 platform shoes, the Alexis Carrington handbag, and the vintage Generra unisex pattern tops, Debbie looked, and felt, just like she had as a teenager.

And it was just at the time she looked at herself in the ladies’-room mirror in the coffeehouse, in this garb with this hairdo, that she suddenly remembered what a miserable teenager she’d been.

Instead of freeing her from her repressions, her new look unleashed everything she’d spent her adult life working so hard to repress.

The first words she told Janis: “Is my ass too big? I don’t just mean in this outfit, I mean is it too big in general? Am I EVER going to get boobs? You don’t see any zits, do you? Do you think I’d look better with those collagen puffy lips? What CAN I ever do to stop looking so fat?”

Kirsten and Flies-With-Eagles both rolled their eyes in dismay.

Janis, however, couldn’t have been happier. Another successful case, she thought, of a soulless yuppie turned into a real person.

A real unhappy, obsessive person, but a real person nonetheless.

NEXT: Real life among the dot-com decommissioned.


  • In the world of movie cliches, “Time will stand still when when the hero is in the presence of a company logo….”

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