Thursday, October 21, 2010

You Don't Say

Dear Grace:
The other day I was given a vivid reminder about how to remark on people's appearance. I was with a friend who was wearing a wig, post-chemotherapy. A woman came up to her and kept saying: "My, you look SO different." She would not stop commenting on how different my dear friend looked (and clearly did not know the circumstances ). My poor sick friend had to slink off to the bathroom to have a good cry. Your thoughts?

Grace Says:

Where is a good muzzle when you need one?

Remember that old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything"? Clearly this hag needs a refresher. (Ok, ok, I do love the version attributed to Alice Roosevelt Longworth: "If you don't have anything nice to say, come and sit by me." but that's not the topic at hand today.)

If you wish to remark on someone's appearance, be positive. Don't say, "You look different," say "You look fabulous" and move on.

Another minefield: avoid comparing a person's appearance to a celebrity's unless the celeb in question has been on People Magazine's cover profiling the Sexiest Man/Women Alive: George Clooney, say, or and Angelina Jolie . Pointing out a resemblance to Gilda Radnor from a Saturday night live skit or Weird Al Yankovich may offend. Keep that to yourself.

We joke about what comes from the mouths of babes and horses. We cringe at some of the things that come from the mouths of adults. I offer some general guidelines that should keep you on the Gracious side of the conversational divide:

Matters a Grace never brings up:
-Income. Hers or yours. (Only spouses and the IRS need know.)
-Bedroom antics. (If you disagree, this might not be the Blog for you.)
-Dietary Regimens. ("I never eat carbs/sugar/food; I'm watching my weight, but you go ahead.")
-Anything involving stirrups that is not in the equestrian arena. (Gyn appointment? Bikini wax? No details, please. In fact, no broad strokes, either.)
-Reproduction. ("You never had children? How sad." Or "Why?" "So, when are you going to make your twosome a threesome?" "Poor Johnny seems so lonely. He really needs a little brother or sister." "When are you due?")
-Age. (The only reason to ever ask adults how old they are is if you are selling them life insurance.)
-Expense. (It's no one's business what you paid for your Maserati. Or your mozzarella.)
-Less Than Marvelous Looks ("You look exhausted." "Have you put on weight?" "Rough morning?")
-Your child's brilliance. (No one wants to know. Really. Except perhaps the Princeton admissions office.)

Upcoming post: how to respond when someone sends a less than Gracious comment your way.

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