March 8th, 2001 by Clark Humphrey

A COUPLE WEEKS BACK, I span a little fictional yarn about a certain Demographic Debbie, the perfect little upscale consumer. She’d fallen into a rut, too emotionally repressed to effectively supervise her employees at RNI Business Technologies. She’d turned for advice to her new friend Janis, who suggested a fashion makeover.

The first makeover put Debbie in retro-’80s garb and made her feel just like her former teenage self, all jumpy and insecure. Janis then put Debbie in black clothes and black hair, making Debbie look like a 37-year-old punk rocker (in other words, just like Janis).

For a while, that worked great. Debbie found hitherto-unknown reserves of strength, guts, cattiness. She charged her way through business meetings. She bullied clients, and rode over her board of directors like trained circus animals. In the office she was brassy, sassy, crude and rude. All the women wanted to be her; all the men wanted to get the hell out of her way.

At home, Debbie’s kids soon knew better than to incur her wrath, and became the sweetest little angels. Debbie’s husband learned the joys of total sexual submission.

But before long, Debbie’s new personality started to morph. She started becoming addicted to her own inner brat. She began to dismiss her colleagues’ opinions, to assert herself dictatorially.

The final blow came early enough. RNI had gotten off to a good start as an online wholesale-supply and business-products brokerage. The board was prepared to approve new advertising money. The ad agency hired by Debbie’s prissy old self made a respectable, if stolid presentation to her new self based on a respectable, if stolid promotional premise–that RNI can help businesses hold their costs down during nervous times. The new Debbie wanted nothing to do with such a wimpy message. She nearly lunged at the agency reps, demanding something harder-louder-stronger. Enough of that weak “cost containment” language! We’ve gotta tell executives that if they use our services they can fire lots of their own people! Have the new tagline be ‘Dump A Guy With RNI.’ Or ‘RNI: Your Firing Button.’

Word of her outburst quickly got to the board, which called her into an “informal” meeting at a local cocktail lounge. One member at a time, they scolded her in no uncertain terms that her revised ad campaign had gone too far. Her tactics had gone too far. She had gone too far.

She took it bad. Really bad.

She snarled and hissed at the board members. She started throwing their drinks in their faces. She got thrown out of the bar and her job.

When Janis was told about this, she quietly grinned. The punk-rock way, Janis tried to reassure an emotionally shattered Debbie at the local coffeeshop, isn’t about mere egotism or random violence. It’s got principles and morals.

Debbie hesitantly, shakingly asked Janis to teach her these principles and morals. Janis promised to do even more, to get Debbie her job back, if she wanted it.

Debbie, totally broken, submitted to Janis totally.

Last I heard, Debbie’d started working at the coffeehouse (serving her former underlings from the office next door). She’d traded in her minivan for a beater station wagon. She’d started volunteering as a chaperone at all-ages concerts. She’d consigned her old business wardrobe and donated the proceeds to the Books for Prisoners Program.

Her kids and husband eventually accepted this as her final new self, because she was the happiest she’d ever been.

NEXT: Another piece of our forthcoming Seattle photo book.


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