A handy guide to commenting on other people’s personal appearance.
It’s commonly accepted, nay expected, that should I update my Facebook status (see also Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, ello, Vine, Tinder, Instagram, Tuesday Night Writes, Foursquare, etc.) you will pass judgement, you could post comment, you should press ‘like’. When I update my social media portals, I am inviting comment (personally, I welcome it, I lap it up).
I wonder if this is the cause then, of an increasing and increasingly alarming trend in personal, real-life commenting.
Why is it accepted, or even expected (in my case, feared) that if I update my face (see also wardrobe, hair, body, piercings, tattoos, cleanliness, accessories or accoutrements, etc.) that you should comment, in person, to my face?
I have witnessed this kind of conversation, born of awkwardness, merely to fill a silence, but it can only create more awkwardness by drawing attention to a person’s physical appearance. The following actually happened in front of me quite recently; imagine an office environment, an ordinary day:
HER: You’ve had your hair cut.
The end. Painful. What is wrong with you people? If you can’t say anything meaningful, don’t say anything at all.
Now, there are times when a person (ahem) gets, for example, a full back tattoo and comes into the workplace wearing a vest-top. They may well be inviting looks or even comment. If you are fascinated, impressed, want to see the whole thing, then by all means say something, ask if you can have a look. Consider, perhaps, if you hate tattoos, or this specific tattoo, or this specific person, not saying anything at all. Or even if you do like it, consider maybe liking it in your head, without saying a word.
Even if someone has made a more moderate update to their appearance, based on the size of their work/domestic/social environment, you can imagine they’ve had at least a dozen people making blush-worthy (and largely meaningless) comments on their appearance, all day long, e.g:
HIM: You’ve had your hair cut.
HER: I know.
Painful (x12, at least). Why does everyone keep mentioning it?
There are some very shy people in the world. There are some very shy people who cover it with loudness and confidence. But I don’t think there are many people who relish having the same conversation twelve times in one day, especially when it’s about their own face. Some of the awful, fumbling sentences I’ve botched together in response to a comment (even if it’s a complimentary comment) have made me feel even worse than the awkward comment in the first place. E.g. Her “Oh I’ve got that dress.” / Me “Oh I bet it looks much nicer on you, because you’re not a whale, ‘call me Ishmael’ hahahaha.” Shut up, Janners. Or, her “You’ve had your hair cut.” / Me “Yeah, I do it myself because I don’t care what I look like, can’t polish an old, fat turd amirite hahaha.” Seriously, will everyone shut up, please.
There’s a funny telly/luvvie thing where we tend to feel the need to include an appearance-based comment in every conversation – “Oh I love your jeans, Stella”,”Hey, Stella, is that a new pencil-case?”, “Where did you get that chin-jazzle, Stella?”. I know, because I do it *all* the time. Well I did, I’m going to stop.
I have a very wonderful workplace proximity acquaintance who, for over a year, has had to put up with me saying, around once a week, “Are you tired/hungover?” to which the answer has been, every time, “I just don’t have makeup on today”. What an unconscionable twonk I am. As a feminist, I have about seventy-two objections to my own behaviour here. As a person, a further twenty-nine. What’s wrong with me?
When we post a status to social media, the expectation of judgment is implicit, we all judge each other all the time anyway (don’t call it ‘judgement’ if you’re uncomfortable with that word, but that’s what it is). When we make changes to our appearance, we can expect that people may judge, and hopefully our rational mind will be able to get over that. It’s another thing altogether to have to expect that when you walk into a room you’ll have to face comments and deal with other people’s explicit judgment – even if it’s positive. Perhaps I don’t want your approval, even if I don’t court your disapproval.
Why mention all this now? Well, I badgered my optician into a prescription for spectacles. And they’re fine, I like them. I’m going to tell you now, my employer was willing to pay £30 towards a frame so I’m stuck with making up the other £5, but I moved some things around. And here they are.
Comment, don’t comment, up to you. This is public.
But just assume that if I wear them for the first time on Monday, by 3pm that afternoon at least the people nearest to me will have all said something, out loud, to me, about them. So you don’t have to.
PS The duck-face pose was a joke, but fuck it, I’ve lost two stone, if I want to pull a selfie face I will and you’d better all be like *damn* girl, you’re so thin you’re disappearing. Kidding. If you comment that I’ve lost weight I’ll just hate you for thinking I was fat before. You can’t win. So don’t say anything.