“You’re so beautiful.”
I keep trying to give these words a second chance. I try to smile, to feel warm and a bit serene. I am beautiful, and I like to be noticed. These words, said to me right, can be a little treasure I clutch beneath my pillow before I fall asleep at night.
Yet, when I hear this sentence from a stranger, I steel myself for what’s coming next. It is almost always….bullshit. Last time I heard these words (Halloween @ Rich’s), he put his hand on my shoulder, then as he ushered me past him, his hand slid down my back. If I hadn’t known better and placed my arm as a blockade, his hand would have slid across my ass.
Earlier that night, a boy said these words to my friend from LA. “You’re so beautiful,” he repeated. She was and is — stunning dressed as a vampire and one of my favorite people to look at. She thanked him and smiled genuinely. Then, he asked her if she was from South Africa. “Fucking people from San Diego!” she said after she turned away. First of all, wrong Africa, and second of all, go die.
It’s not just strangers that ruin “You’re so beautiful” for me. You may have heard about my “friend” Chuck. The one who was ‘helping’ me by forcing affection…
Do these people feel entitled by telling us that we’re gorgeous? I just dispensed one compliment coin in you and now I have earned the right to further objectify you! It’s like we owe them our gratitude, and with that we owe them patience or friendship or smooches.
I’ve noticed I get this less when I wear black eyeliner and shimmer eyeshadow (which is seldom). I don’t think that I’m necessarily hotter sans makeup, but I’m definitely more approachable. I think some people read “no makeup” as naive, not-yet-jaded. They think they’re telling me something I don’t believe. They may or may not want to exploit my insecurities, but do operate under the assumption that I have them and they are doing me a favor by saying something “nice” to me.
That’s where I got the idea for my number one defense against “You’re so beautiful.”
Tell me something I don’t know.
I say this: “Tell me something I don’t know,” with eye contact and a playful smirk….or a sneer if they have been gross.
It disarms. They can no longer assume I’m deeply insecure and need their praise-food like a puppy dog needs to eat what the people are eating. They have nothing to say to that. The nasty ones don’t have enough imagination or awareness to answer, and if they dare to try, I simply repeat, “Tell me something I don’t know.”
The beauty (ha) of this defense is in its inherent diplomacy. It’s subversive enough to stun, but gives space for the more innocent offenders to recover. In friendlier situations it can be a flirty challenge. I’m letting you know I’m not easily impressed by the standard compliments.
Some people do just want to say something sweet. Some people think “You’re so beautiful,” is an acceptable way to initiate flirting, but had no intention of getting creepy on me. Some people are stupefied by my glorious hair and can’t think of anything more creative to say. I don’t want to punish these people.
Yet, I do crave original thought. Give me something with more substance. Notice my efforts, not my freckles. Engage my intellect, not my vanity. Make yourself memorable with a fraction more thought given to the compliments you choose…
I just want people to tell me something….well, you know.