Monday, March 30, 2009

Hold the compliments, mom

It started innocently enough, and the comment I made was meant in the most innocuous way.

I was complimenting a co-worker's hairstyle, and she pulled the hair back from her forehead in frustration. (She did not like her 'do of the day, needless to say.)

Then I said it: "You have a beautiful widow's peak. You should draw attention to it."

And she replied: "That's what my mother always said."

She called me her mother -- which amounted to calling me my mother, who always offers this back-handed piece of advice to me: "You should keep your hair short. It always looks so nice when it's short."

Which means, from her view, that my hair never looks nice when it's not.

Why do we do that -- offer advice, innocently or not, when they person you're talking to hasn't asked for it? It happens all too often. Not so long ago, I stopped at the store for a few things and ran into a distant acquaintance who looked at my kids and asked if they were mine. I thought she wanted to make a little small talk. "He's getting a little far away from you," she said of my son -- as if I would let my 4-year-old explore the store on his own. And then she went on her way.

I didn't need that advice. And my friend at work didn't need my input on her hairstyle.

A very wise friend of mine has vowed not to give advice to friends and family, even if it's solicited. She'll listen to you intently. She'll ask how you how you're feeling or leaning. She'll offer support. But she won't give advice. It rarely works out well for her, she says.

Maybe she has the right approach.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the title of the blog should actually be "Hold the advice, mom." Nothing wrong with compliments, but you should stop when you feel yourself about to give unsolicited advice.
On another note, moms are notorious for hair comments. My mom inevitably gives me unsolicited advice or comments about what is wrong with my hair. Often in the middle of me asking her a question or telling a story that I think is important. I now take it for the grain of salt it's worth.

Trenchard Gordon said...

Welcome to the politically correct, overly sensitive, land of the offended 21st century. None of this comes as a surprise to me. As a young professional male, I have learned never to compliment people on their appearance, especially a woman lest she be offended and a harassment suit or complaint come my way. It is a sad commentary that common friendly discourse is seen as crass, coarse, and reason to be offended

Anonymous said...

"be careful or you will should all over yourself"
I remember these words of advice given to me years ago (with a smile), from someone much wiser than me. Good advice I smile and remember today while reading this blog!

Anonymous said...

Uhhh...maybe you women ought not spend every waking moment of your lives subtly psychoanalyzing every comment made either to you or about you. "What did they REALLY mean".