I’m a shape shifter (be thankful you’re not)

Ah, my favorite self-portait photograph. I look the same each time you see me.

Ah, my favorite self-portait photograph. I look the same each time you see me.

If there is anything I don’t understand about human nature, it’s the propensity or desire to comment on a person’s looks when you greet them. I’m not talking about a “hey, you look great,” or other generic comment. I’m talking about something more specific – a detailed analysis or critical review of the way the person looks.

It’s happened to me most of my life.

I would understand if I gained 500 pounds thanks to a bacon-chocolate and Cheetos addiction, and it came as a surprise to the other person. Yes, I get it. Comment on how I look. I understand. I’m giant now, a man-sized Oreo. I have a problem. I’m quite different from the last time you saw me. Critique away. You have my blessing.

Or, what if I shaved my head and had a bright red target tattooed on my noggin? I might receive, and deserve, a comment or two. I get it.

But what I don’t understand are the people who comment on subtle differences in one’s looks – the proofreaders of human appearance.

“You look fantastic,” my business colleague said to me after an extended break from bumping into each other.

Now I’ve established that that’s a nice way to greet someone. Nothing wrong with it. Nice, perfectly delightful.

But he didn’t stop there, adding the tagline: “Yeah, the last time I saw you, you didn’t look so hot.”

Okay, rule number one after saying, “you look fantastic”: stop there. That’s a winning line. Nothing more need be said. You can only get in trouble if you add anything (especially if you’re a man speaking to a woman at work, which can only lead to a possible dismissal based on sexual harassment charges).  Again, you can only screw it up after the first compliment.

And this was dude to dude. Do we guys ever comment on each other’s looks when we meet – other than maybe a, “looking good, man.” “Yeah, thanks, man. Been hitting the weights hard, eating lean.”

The most recent comment: “You don’t look like the same person,” the carpenter helping me build my picket fence said to me after not seeing each other for 5 months, and for only the second time ever!

How is that possible? Not the same person? I guess it’s the 10K I spent in Argentina on a face transplant. And to think I thought no one would notice. 

Now, most normal people might ask for more detail: “Hey, what do you mean by that? Is that good or bad?” Not me.I don’t want to know because I either look bad now or at some point in the past. So, I don’t want to spend the day fretting about how I’m deteriorated since you saw me last, or how I looked like crap the last time.

I guess it’s just part of my life and the sign on my forehead that reads: Tell me how I look. Win a pony.

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3 thoughts on “I’m a shape shifter (be thankful you’re not)

  1. This reminds me of a (non-American) co-worker I once had years ago when I was far healthier-looking than I am now. If I rode my bike to work, I would sometimes apply makeup in the restroom in front of the mirror (so I could look somewhat professional; I’m by no means a heavy-makeup wearer). Occasionally she would walk in and comment how I didn’t need any makeup and looked fine the way I was (a compliment in lady-speak). Would’ve been nice to stop there. However, on the occasions where I DIDN’T wear any makeup, she would comment how I looked sick and always asked if I was ok. At first I was offended, then after the second time confused, and finally after repeated instances of the same rigamarole (“why are you wearing makeup?” and “you look sick; are you ok?”) I finally put two and two together and realized that she has 1) no concept of appropriate adult social etiquette (she was 35), 2) no idea why or how women wear makeup (to cover up the tired!), and 3) is quite rude. From then on, I just giggled to with a much older lady coworker when I would profesy that said coworker would make a comment about how I looked sick today. Bottom line: people have no tact or verbal filter anymore. Stop when you’re ahead. Society is failing at teaching this now. As annoying as it is to have Grandma fuss that I’m not wearing pantyhose or wearing sandals before Easter or how I really shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day, it’s the same sort of unsaid social ettiquette that would’ve caused someone’s verbal filter to engage before commenting how awful someone used to look just after giving them a compliment.

    • Dr. Nanos,

      Wow. Impressive comment. You could have gone into a different science had you wanted to. I see it happens to you too. A CF thing? I guess to some degree when someone tell us we look sick, they’re always right. We have a major disease – we’re always sick, it’s just what degree of sickness. Still, I wish the woman in the restroom would shut up.

      Is it society not teaching it or our dependence on electronic devices and texting that made us lose this skill.

      All best the to you, as always,

      John

  2. After a lifetime of hearing, “but you don’t look sick!” and being irritated by it, I wish someone would tell me now…

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