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The national meeting program comprises over 400 pages of information, some of which is actually useful. It tells you where to see talks, what hotels to book, where to catch the bus, and how to find free food. One thing it does not tell you is what to wear—and I wish it would.
It’s high time for the ACS to either establish a dress code or at least provide guidance on the matter. Since I expect no such by-law will weave its way through the executive committee, I am taking it upon myself to set the rules. And they’re, like, totally official because this is the official blog of the official magazine of the ACS.
For some reason, dress codes are always set by what men are supposed to wear. (Women don’t wear sports jackets to “jacket-required” events, nor do they wear ties (of any color) to black-tie events.) I assume all women are just born with some innate conversion factor that lets them know what to do. With that in mind, I can boil down the official ACS National Meeting dress code to two simple rules:
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There are some things that chemists seem to do just for the sake of doing them. These acts ostensibly once served a purpose, but now have little obvious value.
For instance, why the hell do we still have Ph.D. students write bound doctoral dissertations? I admit, the idea of having a single massive document that represents the entirety of one’s graduate research seems nice, but the reality is that the volume has little more than sentimental value. Nobody reads these things. Hell, not even committee members actually read it. Flip through it? Maybe, but read it? No.
Schools should just drop dissertations as a requirement. That means you can write one if you want or need to, but if your published papers are good enough in the eyes of your department, you needn’t waste time rewriting and reformatting perfectly good papers into an expensive book that will sit untouched for eternity.
Another thing that seems ridiculous upon further examination is the business card. At first, the idea seems to make sense: I can make a good impression on someone and expediently transfer my contact information by writing it out in a presentable manner. Great…but when you stop and actually think about it, a number of things dawn on you:
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Editor’s note: We’ve managed to coax ChemBark’s Paul Bracher out of his blogging blackout. Welcome back, Paul! Other erstwhile bloggers looking to come out of retirement for a guest post or two should email me at r_pepling at acs dot org. –Rachel
I received a periodic table necktie for Christmas, which doubles my tally of PTNs to two. Look at it over there—absolutely hideous. Nevertheless, I will keep it, and when the time is right, I will wear it without shame. For now, as a service to the chemical community, I feel compelled to instruct the millions of readers of C&ENtral Science on the correct use of chemical neckwear.
PTNs generally range from ugly to uglier to yuck, but that doesn’t stop chemists from buying them. Ideally, you would be able to find a PTN that was understated to the point of having to inspect it closely to make out the periodic table. Such ties do not exist, as no designer with any class would put the periodic table on a tie.
Blinded by their love of chemistry, many men have trouble grasping the exact fashion statement of wearing a PTN. Contrary to what you (as a chemist) might believe, the major statement is *not* that you love chemistry. When people see your PTN, the first thing that enters their minds will be: “This guy is a weirdo.” These people may eventually discover that you are just trying to be funny (5%), but they will probably end up confirming that you are, in fact, a weirdo (95%). Despite these long odds, most of you will self-assuredly claim not to be weird, because weirdos are never conscious of their weirdness. This is precisely why socially questionable behavior never gets corrected. Next time you put on your periodic tie, please ask yourself, “Am I weird?” If your answer is no, ask someone else—like the life-sized nude statue of R. B. Woodward in your bedroom.
So, when is it acceptable to wear a periodic tie? The best time to break one out is when you purposely want to be irritating. Maybe there’s an event you don’t want to go to but you’re obligated to attend (e.g., a party with your SO’s fellow yentas). In such a situation, you’ll probably relish an opportunity to be annoying. Respond to guests’ questions with answers that will make them feel uncomfortable. If someone says “Nice tie,” reply “Sorry, I’m married, but thanks anyway.” If someone asks if you’re a chemist, exclaim “OH MY GOD! How did you know?!” and stare blankly at them for 10 seconds with your mouth gaping open. Be creative. Be cruel. The possibilities are endless.
In situations where you’re not purposely trying to be a jerk, stick with a regular necktie. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Eat to please thyself, but dress to please others.”