So remember when I told you about one of my new favorite blogs, Eat The Damn Cake? And then, remember when my post about the Shoe Astronauts got cross-posted over at ETDC and I was hopping around all excited?
This topic really speaks to me, because over at Beauty U, we so often zero in on someone’s flaw (perceived or real) to get them to buy a product or splurge on another treatment. Even when we do give compliments, it’s all part of the sales pitch. (Did you know Avon ladies are trained to compliment their potential customer within the first five minutes?)
So I’ve been getting all jaded about this being nice business. Here’s Kate to remind us why genuine-no-strings-attached compliments are actually great:
It’s really important to compliment people. In terms of body image, I think it’s extremely important that women compliment other women. I believe this absolutely. I’ve never understood dismissive people. I’ve never understood rude people. I have a sort of grudging respect for them once in a while, because it looks like they don’t have to go through the trouble of caring constantly about other people. Which must be kind of liberating.
But mostly I just feel like if I was trapped in an escape pod with one of these people, hurtling through space, we’d have nothing to say to each other. Even if we were stuck there for a week. Of course, now that I think about it, maybe meeting someone in an escape pod, blasting off from an exploding space station, might interfere with a person’s ability to be dismissive. They might start telling me about how their dad left when they were little.
The point, however much I’ve now tortured it, is: I don’t understand people who aren’t nice on a basic level to other people.
Because I think that everyone should be more than basically nice to each other. I think we should give each other compliments a lot. I think women should compliment other women regularly. Lavishly. Casually. Every way imaginable. But it’s really hard sometimes.
Here are two instances in which I recently completely failed:
1. I was on the subway. There was this woman wearing a ridiculously creative outfit. That’s saying a lot for Manhattan. I’ve seen a woman walking down Broadway in a purple evening gown. I saw a woman in the train station wearing a top, a poofy skirt, and high heels that were all decorated with rainbow stripes going in different directions. And then there are the occasional monks, new age spiritual leaders, and budding fashion designers. Oh, and the young gay guys. Gotta love ‘em. But this woman stood out even among them. She looked gorgeous. She was black and voluptuous and had her hair pulled back slightly with a headband too thin to see. Her hair exploded behind the band, like a cloud. She was wearing all pastels and white, and her heavy eyeshadow was glintingly silver. Her features were wide set and naturally dramatic, and she was working with them. She was taking her beauty to its natural extreme. I stood there, feeling lame and sallow and uncreative, trying to stare at her without being obvious. She caught me, of course. I looked away. What I really wanted to do was just tell her. I thought about it through the next three stops, trying to work up the courage. I could say, “I love your outfit!” But what I really wanted to say was, “You are gorgeous!”
The doors slid open at my stop and I got off. I walked right by her. I couldn’t do it. It’d be too weird. Damn. Damn. What if no one told her how good she looked? What if she went through her entire day, wearing that astounding outfit, with her bold makeup and fabulous face, and no one acted appreciative? Well, maybe she was just doing it for herself. But still.
2. I was talking with a casual friend about the dating scene in NYC. She was telling me about her adventures with online dating, and she made a comment like, “But you know how it is. This city is full of models and stunning women. I’m not kidding myself. I’m fine, but I’m not—“ She didn’t complete the sentence. Just shrugged and left it at that. I thought, “You’re totally beautiful!” But I didn’t say anything. I was worried she’d get awkward and wonder why I was being weird.
OK. Let’s just take a moment here. When’s the last time someone who wasn’t a sleazy guy told you, “You’re totally beautiful,” and you thought, “Weird. What a weirdo,” and didn’t feel the slightest bit flattered?
Here’s what I think. I think that it’s my responsibility as a woman to compliment other women. I know how self-conscious I feel about my appearance. I know how stupid I get about it. I know how competitive and sometimes hopeless it feels. I know how much support I need. Every single time one of my friends compliments me, it means something. It means a lot.
It sounds like a little thing– just saying someone looks good– but, you know, it could change the world if everyone did it. Like sustainable energy. Recycling. Charity. Asiago cheese. What? That stuff is amazing! Seriously. It is. And seriously, compliment a woman today!
If I ever see that woman from the subway again, I have no excuse.
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Un-roast: Today I love the way I look in shorts. I just got denim short shorts, and they’re really hot. I wore them out with gold sandals and a white tank top today. Pretty sweet. My legs aren’t very long, but I have a curvy little Jewish girl look with the shorts.
Everyone: Do you ever compliment strangers? What about friends?
PS from Virginia:
Notice how I’ve been doing these cross-posts lately? Want to be part of the fun? Email me at beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com if you’ve got something to say. (Sorry Kate, for hijacking the bottom of your post with this shameless plug. You are pretty.)