The other day, I came in to work in the morning and noticed the dress my friend was wearing.
Immediately, I said to her, “That is such a cute dress.”
“Thank you!” she beamed, as I instantly realized:
I really don’t even like the dress that much.
I gave my friend a compliment about her dress that I didn’t mean. So why did I go out of my way to say it?
Well, I could tell by her body language – the bounce in her walk, the smile on her face, and the way she fiddled with her hemline – that SHE liked the dress. She obviously felt good about how she looked in it and how her body felt in it. Being her friend, I wanted to agree with her. I wanted to compliment her taste, which I do overall appreciate. Essentially, I wanted to make her feel good, and I did it by telling her a lie.
What’s more, I know for a fact I am not the first person ever to do this. Women in particular tend to do it all the time to each other, with the best of intentions. We love our friends and we want to make them happy, but we have been force-fed the false information that the only thing that matters about a woman is her looks. We cannot help but zone in on appearance when we focus on something good (or bad) we want to say.
In some ways, this is not always a negative thing. Women are taught to feel (at best) humble and (at worst) self-deprecating about our appearances, so supporting each other’s choices and reinforcing positive ideas of beauty is not the most harmful way of interacting with each other. However, there are many other ways to accomplish this bonding experience without placing emphasis on physical appearance, and you are especially not required to lie to your friends in order to compliment them. It’s a bad habit to get into.
I could have told her I enjoy the energy she brings to the room. I could have told her I was stimulated by our conversation in class last night. I could have just told her I was glad to see her. When we make a conscious effort (and I do think it requires effort) to see beyond people’s looks, we expose and celebrate what is best about them. My “me-ness” has very little to do with my new dress or my haircut and everything to do with my intelligence and kindness and wit. If we all focus on what lies beneath our glittering exteriors, there might be fewer Regina Georges hanging around the hallways of this world.