Consistency is an important part of any career. It's not just doing good work all the time. It goes beyond what quality your work is to what quality of person you are. Being consistent is letting people know they can rely on you, and it's following through on what you say you'll do because that's what people do who care.

My problem with consistency is that I am a tornado, and I have found my tornado nature is both wildly inconsistent and difficult to change, which makes me think that co-dependency on a stable (read: low-maintenance) boyfriend might help. So I think I need an ENTP. So, I'm only dating those from now on. (Yes, the 25-year-old is an ENTP. Personality type is ageless.)

But my inconsistency is no small problem. Here's an example. I agree to new photos of me for a publication even though I have done tons of photo sessions already and have a gazillion expensively-lit ten-people-making-it-happen photos of myself.

Not only do I say yes, but I agree to do it the day before I leave for the SXSW conference. And I tell the magazine I'll get a fake tan. Because it's a summer issue. I've never gotten a fake tan and it seemed like maybe it would be fun. Maybe I'd end up looking like I'm in an artsy Versace ad where everyone has big attitudes and big tans.

But at the tanning place I got extremely nervous that maybe tanning places in Madison, Wisconsin suck. I realized that a messed-up tan was no problem for the photographer. He can Photoshop it. But I cannot Photoshop myself at SXSW.

But I already said I'd get the tan. And I am trying to be more consistent. Following through on getting a fake tan would be the consistent thing to do. After all, I didn't have a commitment to just the photographer, but also to Jan. Jan is the spray-tan lady.

I tried to be trusting but once I got my clothes off, there was no more trust: It occurred to me that I would have this tan for my sex romp with the 25-year-old, and I imagined all the ways that spray tanning could be done incompetently. I ask Jan a barrage of questions: Should people with freckles get a tan? Is that too much too wrong in a Michael Jackson sort of way? Does the spray stuff pool in my belly button? And what about under my breasts? Will that part be white?

Jan charges me double because of the questions. I pay, because maybe it's true that you get what you pay for.

Four hours later I do the photos and we end right at five because it's family dinner night, even though my ex and I are not the family you're thinking of. And I worry a lot about being consistently there for family stuff, because, remember, you never have a problem at work that you don't have at home as well.

I get home to dinner and scoop up my three year old and kiss him. He says, “Something smells like dirty socks,” and starts taking off his socks.

I panic. I ask the Ex if I smell. He says, “I don't want to smell you.” He is working on setting boundaries. Then he says, “Do you have a fake tan?”

Crap. I can't ask the ex if I look too stupid to go to SXSW. Bad boundaries. And the risk of smelling like fake tan seems very bad in the 25-year-old department. So I take a shower.

Then I call my friend Sharon who is a hairdresser. I am a very inconsistent friend to Sharon and do terrible-friend things to her like only call when I need something. Fortunately she's a hair stylist to the rich and famous in LA so her knowledge of how to groom to perfection complements my own lack thereof, and I call her a lot.

She says buy Nioxin. And she says, “You are doing too much.” Sharon consistently gives me good advice.

I tuck the kids into bed. After I sing to them so that they will have childhood memories of me being a consistent parent. I take one more shower for good measure. I answer email, return phone calls and IM the 25-year-old to see if he is feeling excited to see me which takes a while since he's not the type to say so without prodding.

Then it's 1am and it's time to pack. I pack almost every week to go on business trips. But SXSW is not a normal business trip. It is prom for bloggers. And I'm not sure what to wear. So I pack everything. I take two suitcases for five days.

I speed on the highway and I make the flight.

But my suitcases don't.

I tell myself, fine. I'll get them on the next flight. I tell myself, be calm. Consistent people do not come undone over late baggage.

I get on my plane to Dallas. I sleep. I land. I get on my Blackberry and answer emails because consistent people do not let emails pile up when they travel. I call into the office. I find my gate, and I do not miss my connecting flight.

Then I go to the bathroom. I stand in the stall while I finish an email. I sit on the toilet and I am amazed at how dark I am. I pull down my pants to my ankles to inspect my legs. The airport bathroom light is not flattering, but is likely true. And the truth is that people will know this tan is fake.

I tell myself not to panic. I can have sex with the lights out. But there's no way SXSW is happening in the dark. Crap.

So far, I have somehow maintained consistency.

Then I leave my Blackberry in the bathroom stall. And I fly to Austin before I notice.

I fall behind on emails. I miss a phone call at 10:15. I also miss the 10:45. Two more people who think I'm unreliable. And I miss my radio show. My guests call in and listeners tune in, and I'm not there. And neither is my consistency.

100 replies
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  1. phillygrrl
    phillygrrl says:

    “Jan charges me double because of the questions. I pay, because maybe it's true that you get what you pay for.”

    No offense to you or Jan, but I don’t think charging for questions is the professional thing to do, especially in such a potentially-radical procedure like this.

    Don’t let beauticians push you around :)

    Hope your week gets better.

  2. Minx
    Minx says:

    ENTPS are not low maintenance. I am or was an entp. Interestingly, I was one when I was from high school through college, and when I was 25. Now that I’m 35, somehow my personality has evolved.
    Regardless, an ENTP is not low maintenance. But enjoy the relationship.

    • david rees
      david rees says:

      Just a couple things:

      Most of the “type” systems hold that your type does not change. You gain better access to other functions as you mature and it becomes easier to access other functions.

      A persons type is a very high level profile and it is not reasonable to expect that you can ascertain things like how “high maintainance” a person is. Even among those who type as ENTP, there is a very broad range of individuals from loser geeks to electrical engineers to actors to sales people to special forces operatives. We all have different levels of empathy, ambition, social awareness, and other personal interests, talents and strengths.

      The most prominent feature of the ENTP is “extraverted intuition” but this manifests in so many different ways. A lot of ENTPs have long strings of short relationships due to their need for novelty – I have been married for 15 years and I am not even 40 yet.

      We are all unique individuals – just like everyone else.

  3. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    I was going to say exactly what Erika did–you are consistently all over the place (meant only in the best possible way, of course)–so you are consistent. It wouldn’t have made a very interesting blog post to write about how your trip went off without a hitch: fake tan, check; bags packed and on the plane, check; show up for radio show, check, etc. It’s much more fun to read about how all over the place you are…but of course you know that.

  4. Carol Saha
    Carol Saha says:

    C, try Healing ADD by Daniel Amen. I’m in the middle of another excellent book by him. Try it.
    Also, there is an essential oil blend called Quiescent sold by distributors of Forever Green. It shuts down the neural chatter so you can focus. This works.

  5. Flower Delivery Guy
    Flower Delivery Guy says:

    I’m not sure I get the inconsistency factor in all this, but I do think it’s as simple as a couple of emotional decisions resulted in topping off a bad week. Try stepping back and letting that information flow to the non-emotional part of the brain, then make your decision.

  6. Diana
    Diana says:

    Wow, hard to post after all these comments, no time to read them all. Just wanted to say, how fun this was to read. Sorry for your misery…losing your Blackberry must have been the worst!

    All you did is let that 25 year old bring out your 25 year old self, the one who giggles and paints her toenails before a date (and actually looks forward to a date) and treats her body as a playful thing. And that’s a very good thing.

    Fake tans are fun, a harmless fantasy when there’s no time or money for that cruise, or you’re prone to skin cancers like me. (no, everyone, don’t write in and tell me they too cause cancer. I’m just talking about one tan, once in awhile, to make you feel young and free again!)

  7. principalspage
    principalspage says:


    I am torn… between feeling bad for you… and feeling good about myself and my slightly hectic life.

    Although, I do know life without a BlackBerry… is really no life at all.

    Hang in there and get some sun… it will make you feel better.

    And, of course, I mean real sun.

  8. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    Describing your life as a tornado is like describing a lake as a puddle. You need more than a spray tan and a 25 yr old BF to overcome terminal inconsistency. Maybe it’s genetic. That way you can blame it on your parents.

  9. Lizzy Caston
    Lizzy Caston says:

    And Emerson is right, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

    There is consistency and then there is routine, and the two do cross over. Consistency is how you react to certain situations and your overall approach, such as how I absolutely go into a fit when my roommate leaves the knives in the sink, or when I witness disrespectful or bullying behavior at work. I’m very consistent on how I will react in both cases. I’m also consistent in how I deal with problems that will cause delayed deadlines or how I communicate that I will be late to a meeting, etc. I might occasionally (and rarely) miss a deadline or be late to a meeting, but you can be sure I will be consistent in how I communicate and deal with the issues.

    Breaking up a routine can lead to inconsistency in some actions (I wasn’t able to read to my kids at night this week because I’m at a conference and because my whole routine is all messed up I keep leaving my Iphone in my hotel room).

    Foolish consistency however is doing something the same way over and over again because it is routine, or being consistent out of fear of change, or lack of awareness of your actions around this consistency. It is self defeating in both life and work. For example, my ex boss used to be very consistent about losing her temper at staff if she was having a particularly bad day. Staff soon learned to read the warning signs and not share things with her in fear or retaliation or they would simply shut her out and ignore her. She couldn’t hold onto good staff to save her life and was fired from her last job because of it. Was she consistent? Yes. Did it serve her in her career? No.

    So, my conclusion. Consistency is the intent and attitude behind the routine that matters. We all mess up occasionally in the results, but that too is consistent.

  10. bilbo
    bilbo says:

    Geez, if anyone needs a valium pump it’s you.
    Whatever the doctor sets the dosage at tell him to double it.

  11. Ginger Rose
    Ginger Rose says:

    You know, PT, you’re a sweet girl and seemingly very transparent but you’re a crazymaker, and a narcissist about it to boot. There are some people that create drama wherever they go, and I’ve learned to stay the hell away from them. Much more fun to read about it than live it.

  12. JG
    JG says:

    and this is all surprising to…who? people who’ve never read your column? This sounds like every day, with you.

  13. JG
    JG says:

    not surprising stuff to anyone who’s ever read your column; the only thing consistent about you is your need for constant change, and your knack for after-the-fact justification of your wacky decisions.

  14. eastcoaster
    eastcoaster says:

    People – we wouldn’t even learn about Penelope’s “faults” or inconsistencies if she didn’t share them with us. And, yet she’s successful (by some measures) and completed many of the goals she set out to complete.

    Also, in the working world, many times you learn the hard way that sometimes it’s only important to be consistent right before a performance review or a board meeting.

    People will forget your earlier consistency if for a month you perform differently because of an unexpected challenge at work (e.g. a coworker is fired) or at home (e.g. a loved one is sick).

  15. Alex
    Alex says:

    Oh, Penelope. You rock. You are nothing if not consistently excellent at putting yourself – your successes, your foibles, your eccentricities – out there in really, really great posts. If 95% of bloggers had just 15% of your wit the net would be a much livelier place.

    Keep on being a tornado. (I love it when you smash apart my inbox.)


  16. MDTaz
    MDTaz says:

    You are consistently honest, and consistently vulnerable. Which is why we all like to read you. Who wants advice from somebody who’s got it all going on all the time. Perfect people are dull. And usually lying.

  17. Erin
    Erin says:

    You are hilarious! I love how you are so honest about trying to be the consistent parent for your kids so you do things (like sing) to make you/them feel consistent. I think it is the God-given parental/mother guilt. We just have it no matter what, don’t you think? I work FROM HOME, at night when they SLEEP, and I’m still followed by guilt when I check emails, and OK, try to get a blog post in. Stop fighting it… I don’t think it goes away. :)

    Bummer about your Blackberry. :(


  18. Elise
    Elise says:

    I do not know what is inconsistent about going against your better judgement. That fake Tan took you for a wild brazen ride. Now everyone knows about the 25 year old :)

  19. Ben
    Ben says:

    Love the story telling, very catchy.

    Sorry for ur blackberry loss and bad post-tanning experience…

    In other news, if ever you swing by Montreal I’d be more than happy to give you a free photoshoot in exchange for meeting you in person!!

  20. Heather
    Heather says:

    Being inconsistent makes my life more interesting. I’ve found the trick is to find a few areas (job, child, paying the bills) where I MUST have consistency, but the hell with the rest of it. My life is more fun, more positive, more chaotic, and more full with random choices and spontaneity that comes with having some inconsistencies. I’ve got a great job, am doing very well for myself, and should it all go south, I have enough experience from my random choices in life to get another job and support myself. So good for you Penelope–may your inconsistency bring us more good blog posts!

  21. Amber Warren
    Amber Warren says:

    I actually laughed out loud with this post. You’re hilarious. It’s ok to change your mind if you decide something isn’t right for you (like the tan). Changing your mind and trusting your instincts is just smart. And you (and I) have freckles. People like us will never be tan and that’s ok; you shouldn’t have to pretend to be anything different from what you are. People like you for you. Obviously.

  22. Beth
    Beth says:

    Whether it’s your blog or your tweets, it’s all about the sex, that’s what it boils down to. Maslow was right, baby!

  23. Theresa/oakbeat
    Theresa/oakbeat says:

    Penelope – from my (albeit limited) observations of you, your work, your talks, your entries – you are so consistent. Are you serious? As evidenced by your following, your identity and your brand. In order to have a personal brand as you do, one needs to be consistent in a way where people will agree about you and identify you through consistent attributes, which you have strongly established.

    It sounds like you need a better personal assistant. You seem too busy to be juggling all of that by yourself. Do you actually have time to research which tanning methods and local services are good? And someone should be keeping track of your making your radio show, etc. And if your life is in your Blackberry, someone should be backing it up. Your time seems way too spread thin that you can be doing all these things and do them without a hitch – that’s not inconsistency, that’s just human (which, don’t forget, is one of your consistent traits – you are very human, er meaning, real).

    When I was in college, I learned about “Heart Motives.” There are a zillion different “personality indicators” (including the Myers-Briggs you mention). This one seems to focus on motives of why people do what they do. For each category, there is a “success” type and a “failure” type (not in the least bit meaning positive or negative). So like, Love Me-success, Love Me-failure, Like Me-success, Like Me-failure, etc. And then there is the Perfect Me. As to describe the perfectionist, type-A, one would think. But to my surprise – the Perfect Me-failure is consistent and routine in their lives. Basically, the type that crosses every T and dots every I because they don’t want to drop the ball. Seamlessness is their goal. Failure is unforgivable. Perfect Me-successes, on the other hand, are inconsistent. They are consistent in only one thing – trying to learn different things, expand their horizons, change careers, jobs, make mistakes and learn from them, grow. The Perfect Me-success can never be “consistent” in terms of systemic and routine, because if they are, then they would never grow. They are always in a different place, with different people, exposing themselves to different senses. But, they are consistent. They are consistent in character, and in growth. As evidenced by the ease in which people can identify them from a personality crowd.

  24. bigwig
    bigwig says:

    Penelope –

    In general, I’d guess you’d be attractive to ENTP’s. Over the years you’ve demonstrated a high degree of competence (our most admired and sought after trait). It took me 3+ years after my divorce to feel on top of life again. The highly competent part of you will feel like the “majority owner” again someday. Sooner than later when you just decide to make it so.

  25. Kim
    Kim says:

    I think all the inconsistency haters should relax with the insults because you’re probably making more money, have achieved more of your goals, and had more challenging and fulfilling experiences than many of them.

    I often attribute my inconsistency to being a Gemini. Famous Geminis are often movie stars or artists….careers that thrive on inconsistency. Kennedy is my one saving grace but we all knonw about his inconsistent extramarital relationship with Marilyn Monroe…another Gemini.

    But I don’t want to be a starving artist or a coked out celebrity. I want to be a serial social entrepreneur who starts all sorts of interesting business ventures throughout her life. I love reading entries like these because they let me know that no astrological sign or accusation of being flighty, fickle, and well…inconsistent, will stop me from being as fabulously driven as you.


  26. Shadab Malik
    Shadab Malik says:

    your story makes me think i too am inconsistent. thanks for reminding. is there an ‘inconsistent revival program’ somewhere?
    btw, that was really like a thriller saga : )
    however, you can be thankful to be connected to sooo many good people here just because you have been inconsistent.

  27. Laura
    Laura says:

    If your sex life/relationship was what it should be, he wouldn’t give a damn about your tan (or lack thereof).

  28. Carrie Pink
    Carrie Pink says:

    This totally sounds like my life. Penelope I tell you I am working to be this brave on my own blog.. and let my husband be ok with it as well. He’s way more private than I am.. but I limit my personal posts in respect for him.. clearly that is a mistake, because I am loving your openness..

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