Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pretty in Pink

Ever since I mentioned my compulsion to compliment strangers, I’ve been trying to think of a way to express my thoughts on the value of compliments. It seems fairly self-explanatory that compliments from the people you love would have more value or weight than those from people you don’t know or don’t like. That’s universal right? As much as we might try to expand our minds and our hearts to have love and compassion for all of humanity, there are millions of people that we just don’t know and so can’t value them except in an abstract way. The way that I love and care for the poor and destitute in disaster areas or third world countries or inner cities or in the city where I live is different from the way I love and care for my spouse, my family, my friends. Which doesn’t really have anything to do with compliments, but that’s the line of thinky-thoughts that I’ve been thinking. It’s stating the obvious, but when you have a relationship and a history and feel like you really know someone and they know you, the things they say mean more… they feel more real, more grounded in common experience… or something. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m over analyzing, maybe this is one of those social rules of the universe that’s just meant to be understood and not spoken of because it’s awkward to put into words. But that’s sort of one of those things that I do… try to put awkward things into words, awkwardly.

Back to what I was trying to talk about! There are times when a compliment from a complete stranger means more than all the heart-felt words of my friends and family. The example that comes to mind is from this weekend. There I was, wandering the Faire grounds, talking to small children, surly teenagers, families, etc. I had expended a considerable amount of energy in my excessively bright and fluffy costuming, in the sun and I was sweaty and ready to sit somewhere shady for a bit before hopping up on a stage that is approximately two miles from the sun to sing. I’m sure I was still smiling, because I’ve had enough training (and seen enough pictures) to keep my stage face on most of the time, but I was just walking through one of the eating areas, on my way to relax. A lady whom I had seen earlier in the day, but hadn’t yet spoken to, waved me over. I’m not one to turn down an opportunity to chat with strangers, and she seemed a sweet lady, so over I went. She beckoned me closer, like she had a secret to tell. Her secret was this:
She told me that I was the most beautiful thing she had seen all day, from my head to my toes.

My flabber was completely gasted. It wasn’t the first time a random stranger had told me I was pretty. It wasn’t even the first time that day that someone had told me I was beautiful. Both of those things in and of themselves tell me how lucky I am. I often feel pretty out at Faire. Even before I was a giant pink fluffball of ruffles and lace, I felt pretty and the people I worked with made me feel pretty. When I became an enormous pink monstrosity, I had to adjust to the number of little girls who would wave at me and tell me they liked my dress. The dress is a sight to see for sure. Sometimes I feel like walking around as a tart-seller, a fallen flower, a working girl, is just about the most ridiculous con around.
Lillianne Grover-Lady's Maid

Celeste Brown, Astrologer
I mean, I felt like I could be convincing as a lady’s maid or a geeky astrologer. I feel like I’m fairly convincing as a feather-brained little-sister, Diva wanna-be too. I don’t always feel like I’m convincing anyone that I’m sexy. Pink bows and ruffles, stripped stockings, ribbons and flowers… it’s certainly not my definition of sexy. The Queen looks like a queen. The milk maid looks like a milk maid. I look like a Barbie doll. And this is a tangent that isn’t going anywhere, though I have a whole lot of thoughts that have also been percolating about “types” and a sliding scale of attractiveness that lives in my head and makes me both rude and oblivious at the same time…
Flora Thornton, Tart Seller

Back to my stranger with a secret to tell me! Something about the combination of the complete strangerness with her sweet, mother-like demeanor and the words she chose… it just made my day. I think often times compliments from strangers on external things like beauty are easier to accept because you can’t justify or explain them away. “Oh, he’s just saying that to be nice.” “She’s my mom; she has to think I’m pretty.” I know I’ve it said more times than I can count. This nice lady had no ulterior motive. She wasn’t trying to butter me up. There was nothing behind the comment other than honest appreciation. And she was brave enough to tell me. I’m so very grateful that she did.  I feel a bit better about my desire to compliment strangers.  And I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.  It's just hard to believe that will all the amazing things there are to see out at Faire and all the people that are around, she thought I was the prettiest.  Pretty, yes, that I can believe.  Prettiest... that's harder to wrap my brain around and leads to a whole different discussion about comparison, which goes back to my sliding scale of attractiveness that I'm now color-coding in my head as we speak, and I'm already almost 1,000 words into this post, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead and save those particular ramblings for another day.

Bottom line, Faire makes me feel pretty, even if that's hard for me to understand sometimes.  Also, compliments from strangers can sometimes mean just as much as compliments from loved ones, even if that's totally bass-ackwards and weird.

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