Monday, August 31, 2009

A Wicked Backhand

It is considered bad manners to offer an uninvited observation on someone's appearance.

Even to give a compliment. If someone has not directly asked you, "How do I look?" it is rude to offer your opinion on their appearance.

Today, the wisdom of that was reaffirmed to me.

"Deb, what are you doing different?" my colleague asked me in the hall at lunch. "You look pretty."

Was there ever a compliment more badly phrased? I'm sure there was. But this one was a doozy. I have failed to capture the semi-awed tone implying that I was unfit for viewing in daylight before in print, but it was there.

Fortunately for us all, I know this lady is a sweet, kind, amazing individual who teaches kindergarten. A saint, in other words. I know she meant to pay me a sincere compliment, and her chagrin when she realized what she said was genuine and a little painful.

Also fortunately, I am a survivor of foot-in-mouth disease, which has plagued me for years. I'm constantly reviewing what I say or write in fear of saying the wrong thing. Every time I relax my vigilance, something slips through that causes me to spend the next six months writhing in mortification every time I remember it, which is every second of every day.

So, to my wonderful colleague, thank you for the lovely compliment. I accepted it, and continue to accept it, in the spirit in which I know you intended it.

And I'm pretty sure it was the haircut. I am pretty cute, if I do say so myself...

Happy Monday!!


Mark said...

My apologies for not telling you yesterday that the haircut looks great! I was too busy enjoying Princess' antics to remember to tell you that the new "do" is cute.

Kristina P. said...

Yikes! Yes, very awkwardly phrased. But you are as gracious as ever.

Debbie said...

My fear is that I do that to people. Oh, I try not to, but I think I do!

Barbaloot said...

That's like when people tell you "You look so comfortable" when you're wearing lounging clothes. In other words, "You look like you spent 5 minutes getting ready today."

susan said...

So funny! As teenagers, "You look FINE" was code for, we're gonna be late and five minutes more isn't going to help you look enough better to make a difference. Proof that sometimes even asking for a critique isn't well advised.

I hate that re-play for re-mortification part of our psyche.

Glenene said...

It's kind of like someone asking you in a concerned tone, "Are you OK?" (Did I look that bad?!)

I like the haircut!

The Domestic Flunky said...

foot in mouth... yum. :) i remember the first time i wore my hair curly to school. one little boy walked right up to me and told me i looked crazy. another girl asked if i forgot to brush my hair. um, no. this is why i am a strick straightener.