She said it simply, without malice or motive.
The thing is, I had thought the same thing. I had sat next to the complimentee at lunch, a gathering of women I did not know. We exchanged pleasantries and both of us participated in the lively discussion during the meal, centering on parenting and later blogging. The woman was a bit less made up than the rest of us, and a physically striking face and a warm inner beauty came through. She was on the soft-spoken side, with lines around her eyes that made her resting face appear to be lightly smiling.
I thought to myself, “You’re really pretty.”
But I didn’t say it. What in society stops us short of paying such a compliment? To friends, acquaintances even, I frequently toss off, “You look great!” or “I love your hair today,” or “Cute shoes!” but it is much more rare to express an earnest compliment, especially to a stranger.
Her face lit up when she was told she was pretty. It seemed factual, her symmetric attractiveness, but maybe it had been awhile since someone said it. Or maybe it was the delight in hearing it unexpectedly.
I have many friends who are good moms, good writers, good friends, good cooks. Too often I give them encouraging words when they’re in need of them, when one of these things has come into doubt. Through the phone I’ve cooed to tears on the other end, “You’re a good mom, my friend. Truly.” I’ve meant it, of course. But how much more authentic to offer these words out of the blue, on a Thursday afternoon.
A woman I barely knew ten years ago recently got engaged. I only know this because we are facebook friends and she posted photos. She looked so beautiful in the pictures, calmly effervescent. I wanted to tell her, but I stopped myself. It seemed inadequate to post on someones online space, she’s now practically a stranger. Why is this so? Did my fear of appearing completely random and bizarre outweigh my desire to lift this woman up? Sometimes it does. Too often.
I meant to follow a friend’s lead for Lent and say nothing negative for 40 days. Well I blew that all to smithereens in the first two hours. So instead, I’m trying to be more positive, which is not the same thing.
Encouraging without reason, that’s what I want to do. Meaning without motivation. It sounds like a t-shirt.
If I wore it, would you tell me it looked cute?