Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sassy Shoe Thursday: A Conundrum

I was at my salon today. (And for those of you involved in the ongoing discussion, no, I did not go dark. I wanted to. I was ready. It's a long story. Hopefully in January.) I love going there. They treat you well, everyone feels like a good friend. I'm sitting in the chair getting my hair prepped for my cut when I hear behind me,

"Those are great boots!"

"Thanks," another voice replies "I wear them all the time. My fiance's Rottweiler seems to like them, too, because he's always chewing on them. I don't know why. They're not real leather. You'd think a dog would chew on shoes that were real leather."

"Huh," the first voice says, "Well, good thing he doesn't destroy them. They're cute."


I look in the mirror to see whose standing behind me, stretching my neck to get a glimpse of the great boots. I can see the girl, but not her footwear. Darn it. I'm about to turn around when I catch a break and she walks past my chair.

Wait a minute. Was that the girl who just received the compliment? Her boots aren't cute. They're actually outdated and boring. But the other girl just said they're cute. Maybe the boots ARE cute to HER. I glance to my right to see who it was that made the compliment. Oh, my gosh. She's adorable and stylish, totally trendy with her cute asymmetric pixie cut. Thoughts are flashing through my head. Did she really think they were cute? But she obviously has style, therefore knowing they're not. Wait a minute...


it was an empty compliment. She didn't think they were cute at all. It was obvious she was showing the first girl around the salon, was she just trying to make her comfortable? Was she trying to "get in good?" Compliments can do that. My mind flashes back to that scene in Mean Girls when Lindsey Lohan figures out that the head mean girl was lying when she said she liked her bracelet.

Now, it's not always fully possible to be truthful in a situation when you're cornered. A friend and I were talking about that a few weeks ago. If a friend is totally ecstatic about the top she just bought and, "don't you just LOVE it?" comes flying out of her mouth, what do you say? If they're a close-close-you-talk-about-everything-friend and you're not out in public you might be able to say, "Hmm, well... it's alright. I think that a different fit would be more complimentary." (Now, if you're at a dinner party and she asks you what you think, you tell her she looks amazing and break the truth gently later.) But, if it's someone that would be crushed by your honest observation, what do you do? Especially if they don't often make attempts at fashion and you're so proud of them for at least TRYing something outside of their comfort zone? Maybe a spoonful of sugar will make the medicine go down easier, but when we withhold the medicine altogether.

What if a friend tells me the "truth" about an item of clothing and I don't agree with her? We all have different tastes, and "to each his own." But when I attempted to convey to a friend last spring who loves her slightly pegged, high waisted jeans that maybe she should try a lower waisted straight-leg or bootcut jean because it would be more flattering to her figure, and the response I got was something akin to, "but I've worn this style forever. It's so comfortable. And who really cares..." ugh.

"To each his own," but your "own" makes you look like you're in the Saturday Night Live Mom Jean commercial.

Now, in the salon situation the compliment was not sought out. No opinion was ever asked for. The second girl just gave the empty compliment without warning. Now, I've also had this conversation. A friend caught his wife giving an empty compliment and confronted her about it later. "You didn't like that woman's shoes at all. I'm not even a shoe person and I didn't like them. They were ugly. Why did you compliment her?"

"Oh, babe. Sometimes things like that are just necessary."

Now, this statement also seems true. But, again, I find myself wondering if people have given me empty compliments because "it was necessary." Would I want them to do that? NO! So, would another woman want ME to do that to HER? Probably not. And yet salon girl 2 just did it to salon girl 1.

If honesty is what we're striving for, then why do we do this? Over the last few years I've truly been trying not to. I've made a conscious decision to not offer up compliments unless I really think they are warranted. I don't want someone to give me one unless they really think it's true, so shouldn't I do the same for others? Sometimes it's difficult. When I'm with a group of girlfriends and compliment one on their shoes, do others wonder why I didn't compliment theirs, too? At times it is that I only notice one pair in particular, or the conversation shoots in another direction too quickly to return to the original observation. But other times it's just that, well, I don't want to give an empty compliment. If I tell friend 1 that I love her necklace, but don't say the same thing to friend 2 who is standing right there and also wearing a necklace, am I shunning friend 2? Does she feel on the outs? Is it awkward? Oh, my thoughts could drive me crazy.

Maybe we should just always, always be truthful no matter what. I mean, that's what I teach my kids! (Except at weddings, and then you tell the bride everyone is gorgeous and she could not have POSSibly chosen better bridesmaids' dresses because they are so incredibly perfect for the occasion.)

So, to salon girl 2 I say that you should have withheld the compliment from salon girl 1. The boots were not attractive, and you knew it full well. If the compliment was absolutely necessary to break tension, build relationship, change the subject, she's your boss, whatEVer... then you should have picked something better. Her green sweater was fine.

So then, that raises another issue, are we perpetuating bad fashion... or a lack of good fashion... by giving empty compliments? When salon girl 2 goes to put on her outdated, boring boots is she going to think they're just fine because salon girl 1 told her they were cute, and, after all, salon girl 2 was cute and stylish? So she must have been right. Right? But it will be wrong. And when what she really needs to do is go treat herself to a nice, stylish new pair of boots she'll keep wearing the outdated, boring ones because she'll think they're cute.

Oh, the humanity. The humanity of it all.

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Jeremy said...

Thoughts??? many...let's see, 1) I'm glad I'm a guy, and 2) Sarcasm doesn't really come across well with typing which eliminates points 3-5.

Brandi said...

I understand exactly what you are saying. I often run into the same problem with my 'group" of girls at school/work. If I HONESTLY compliment #1 should i empty compliment #2?

Or when someone complimets you search for something to complimet them on? It's so hard being in these situations.

I just try my hardest to tell the truth, especially fashion truth with my friends. We all have children and are on *limited* budgets. Just because something is on clearance or cheaply priced does not mean it looks good.

So most of the time i just bite my tounge and try to change the subject as quickly as possible.

Jor said...

I love the mom jean SNL, one of my very favorites......
here is my thought...I often say when I see bad fashion, "your friends lied to you,and if they'll lie to you about clothes....what's next?" it's one of my many favorite phrases.

*emmy said...

This one has always been a tough one for me because it goes back to the Ugg-ly shoe comment I left you.

I am so scared to wound someone or burst their buble for something so frivolous. I will always be opptimistic ( But, if they look absoluetly ridiculous of course I will intervene) unless I am asked straight out for my oppion.

And when I am honest I will very careful on how I word it. For example if I have a friend who has no fashion sense but is trying to more "girly" and fashionable I will first give her kudos for trying and praise her effort. And then very carefully tell her my oppion on the outfit or shoes.

But, if my oppion is not requested and a girlfriend shows up to my house wearing ugly or outdated shoes or clothes I honestly don't care. I love my friend for her heart and if she is happy in those shoes I am happy.

I feel like I did so much rambling that I hope this made sense.

Amber Joy said...

amen with Emmy, and please! PLEASE! Dear friend, tell me! TELL ME!

Thany said...

Yep, what Emmy said.
I won't compliment if I don't mean it but I don't give an opinion unless asked. (Assuming that it isn't something bad like "Oh look, I can see your bra right through that shirt. Nice flower pattern.")

However when in a situation where a compliment is expected, like when there is a new baby at church and said baby just needs a few more days...or months...or years to actually look cute, I will FIND something to compliment. Like, "Look at all that hair!"

(And yes, SNL Mom Jeans ROCK!)