Compliments, by and large, are easier to give than to receive. I have no trouble sincerely complimenting someone for a host of reasons. A job well done. An achievement of a goal or milestone. A kind act performed. The compliments roll off my tongue readily and easily, and I enjoy giving them to others. This is in stark contrast to what happens when I am on the receiving end of a compliment.
When someone pays me a compliment, more often than not, I will smile sheepishly, before countering the compliment with reasons why what they said could not possibly be true. It is the equivalent of someone giving a beautiful gift, only to have it promptly handed back, unopened and unappreciated. While some compliments incite this rapid fire verbal barrage that obliterates the compliment, some compliments leave me tongue-tied. That is precisely what happened yesterday morning.
While killing some time before my annual eye exam, I ducked into the adjoining store to use a forgotten gift card. Shortly after entering the store, I heard a woman’s voice cheerfully proclaim, I love what you are wearing. I immediately looked up to see whom she was talking to, as I was curious to what the person was wearing. I was taken aback when I caught the woman smiling and looking directly at me. Me! The very same person with whom a friend staged a fashion intervention not that long ago.
I stood there, sporting sunglasses, blue jeans, a long-sleeved crew neck brown t-shirt, a dark green wool poncho/cape, and brown clogs. Other than my shoes, socks, and sunglasses, my entire wardrobe was courtesy of The Gap, and everything I wore was several years old. Not exactly a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination at all.
At first, I suspected that she was paying me a compliment in an attempt to transform me from a potential customer to a paying customer or that she was merely being polite. Later, I discovered that neither assumption seemed to be true. I stammered out a thank you and quickly brushed aside her compliment, as I continued to shop. When I checked out, and she gave me more than my receipt.
While she rang up the casual dress I had selected, she made small talk about my purchase, before turning to me and saying, What are you going to wear with this? Usually, when someone poses that question to me, it is because they realize that I have limited fashion sense and quiz me to make sure that I know how to make myself look presentable. Her tone and the expression on her face alerted me that her question was not a test of my style savvy or lack thereof, though.
I must have appeared a bit startled, because she quickly added, I never know what to wear, and I may get this dress for myself, but have no clue what to pair it with. You are so well put together that I thought I would pick your brain. Now, I was truly startled, for I can count on one hand, and not use all five fingers, the number of times anyone has sought out my opinion when it comes to anything remotely connected to fashion. This was foreign territory for me, and I stood there with no compass or map to guide me.
As I tried to discern what would possess her to ask me of all people such a question, I simultaneously tried to put together some sort of response. My initial thought was to beg off her inquiry and list out why I was not the best person to ask, for fear I would fail both of us. Then, as I glanced at my newly purchased dress, I found myself sharing with her the legwear and footwear that I had thought of pairing it with. As I responded, she smiled and nodded in approval, and then, she thanked me for my help.
As I exited the store and made my way to my eye appointment, I thought about this seemingly insignificant interaction. It had left me feeling uncomfortable, which had nothing to do with the woman who complimented me and everything to do with me. As I dissected my thoughts and feelings associated with this transaction, I stumbled across a few realizations.
I do not eschew fashion, but I don’t exactly embrace it, either. I want to look my best, but I do not want to spend a lot of time, money, or energy on clothing and make up. The fact that I can pull it together for two days out of the year, the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, is a fashion feat in and of itself. I tend to be a living version of #nofilter, and I am not just referring to the thoughts and feelings that I put on full display. Most of the time, I am comfortable in my own skin, that is, until I compare myself to the people whom have earned the title of fashionista.
I appreciate beauty in all forms, and that includes those stylish souls who look like they are runway ready at all times and who could make a burlap sack look like a couture gown. I regard with them awe and admiration, and I have felt unworthy in their presence. Yesterday, I was reminded that I need not be a knock off of anyone else. I just need to continue to be myself.
Not everyone appreciates my inner or outer attributes, including myself, at times. I do not always see myself the way others see me, and it tends to be easier for me to accept their criticisms than compliments. As I confronted my discomfort, I made peace with the fact that someone viewed me as a fashion do, instead of as a fashion don’t. That realization made me smile, and I did not attempt to refute it or apologize for it. I am who I am, no matter what I wear. Authenticity is always in style. Always.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story