February 21st, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

A COUPLE WEEKS BACK OR SO, I told you about a fashion makeover with some odd consequences. I didn’t tell you all the consequences, however.

It seems that when Demographic Debbie, the perfect embodiment of the white upscale-professional archetype, let her new friend Janis dress her in those retro-’80s clothes so popular these days, Debbie’s personality regressed to its former teenage state. Without her self-suppressions of adulthood, without her tightly-held facade of hyper-bland conformity, Debbie reverted to the look of primal fear she’d displayed all through high school.

She went around her home and her office sulking, head lowered, arms clutching her briefcase to her chest as if it were a Pee-Chee. When she talked, it was always either fast and nervous or slow and almost stuttering. When she drove her car, it was with the sputtering and speeding-to-the-light of a new driver trying to prove she wasn’t scared. When she spoke to authority figures (her company’s board of directors), she rambled incoherently as if she were trying desperately to think up a lie to tell to her school principal.

Among her female subordinates at RNI Business Technologies (formerly RevolutioNet Inc.), she was chatty and palsy-walsy and gossipy. With the men, she displayed a thin veneer of stoic indifference, above a slightly-thicker layer of attempted seductive allure, on top of a base emotion of total hormonal confusion.

Debbie’s children instantly interpreted her new look and attitude as a pathetic attempt to become their “friend.” They shunned her like last year’s toy fad.

Debbie’s husband initially got off on the fantasy-come-true of legal “underage” sex. But within days he tired of her constant fumbling, her constant feigned shock at the sight of his body, her screeching fake-orgasm moans, and her constantly asking him if he really did like her.

The only person who really got along with the new Debbie was Janis’s own teenage daughter Anais, who at last had an adult she could tell everything to who wasn’t her mom.

Debbie was sufficiently self-aware (indeed, that was her biggest obsessive trait) to know she had to change. In a heart-to-heart with her at the local coffee shop, Janis insisted that Debbie’s previous moderation-to-the-extreme personality was nothing to go back to.

Debbie, Janis deduced, needed to become the emotionally fully progressed post-adolescent she’d obviously never been.

But how?, Debbie asked.

As Janis explained, the best way to quickly mature a giggly-nervous teenage girl was to put her through a humiliating first sexual experience, preferably leading to a pregnancy scare. But Debbie had already had two husbands and three kids, so that wouldn’t work. Even if Debbie’s emotional self was situated to react with abject fear, Janis surmised, her body knew it’d be nothing she hadn’t already survived.

No, Janis concluded, Debbie would need a different instant-aging scheme.

Exactly one week later, Debbie had become a new woman. A newer new woman.

She strutted on the streets with a new-found confidence. She stared life in the eye and made it blink. Business clients were intimidated into signing contracts on her exact terms. Employees respected and adored her. Her kids did whatever she told. Her husband dragged himself into work every morning, spent from the night before.

In her car, Debbie kept the stereo cranked up to the total-immersion compilation tape of punk-rock classics Janis had prescribed for her. With every two-chord repitition, every shout of X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage Up Yours,” Debbie felt more confident, more in tune with her inner vengeful brat.

From their usual post at the coffee shop’s back table, Janis and her daughter Anais watched the new punkified Debbie hold her head up high, stand perfectly still in her all-black office suit and stiletto heels, and calmly yet assuredly demand her favorite beverge from the barista. It was Anais who noticed the first faint slivers of ash-blonde roots growing from Debbie’s jet-black dyed hair, and asked Janis how long Debbie would stay this way before she mutated into something hideous and dysfunctional.

We’ll just have to wait and see, an assuring Janis told her kid. Anais’s face lit up with the impatient anticipation of an all-new freak show, coming soon to a theater near her.

NEXT: Does the “Northwest Lifestyle” personality type even exist?


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