When I was at the Mall of America this week, I was called “gorgeous” and “Miss America” by two different strangers. They were in their mid-twenties. They were working at a couple of beauty product kiosks at opposite ends of the mall. They were women. I was offended.
The young women’s accents revealed that they originated from somewhere other than the U.S. So, I assume that they were instructed by their boss to use those lines on middle-aged women appearing in desperate need of compliments. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally needy when it comes to compliments, but I prefer that they come from people who actually know me and that they be about my intelligence, my creativity, my humor . . . A comment about my physical appearance delivered by a stranger who wants something from me is simply offensive and makes me feel violated. Even though I try to be as physically attractive as I’m able to be, I do so for myself and nobody else. It’s nobody’s business what I look like, especially not a stranger’s.
I tend to be overly analytical in every situation. My immediate reaction toward the two women commenting on my appearance was not one of flattery. It was an urge to point out that their opening line eliminated any possibility of making a sale with me because of their blatant contradiction. If I already look gorgeous or like Miss America, why would I need to purchase their beauty products? (My life would be so much more enjoyable if I would just let those kind of words tumble out of my mouth at the people who deserve to hear them, instead of keeping them bouncing around my brain where they give me a headache.) Their sales pitch would have been so much more effective if they said, “Oh my gosh, you appear to be so analytical!” That would have gotten my attention. Then they could have said, “We have the perfect product for helping you correct that permanently furrowed brow without injecting Botox. Would you be interested?” My response might have been, “Why, yes. Yes I would.”
I’m disappointed in myself for caring about what my forehead looks like, but I am bombarded with daily messages that I shouldn’t show signs of aging – or thinking. Thanks to skin cancer, I have scars and wrinkles on my face that simply can’t be repaired. So, I’m trying to do what I can with facial creams and diet to avoid getting completely crucified by the visual assessment coming from this shallow society we have become. If it isn’t bad enough to have men since the beginning of humanity reducing the value of women to their visual sex appeal, we now have young women disrespecting other women’s right to own their appearance, just so they can make an easy sale from their kiosks. I want to live in a society where people can see beneath my scarred skin and are eager to comment about what I’ve got going on inside – without seeking any benefit for doing so.
I wish someone would set up a sincere compliment kiosk at the Mall of America to assess what is truly valuable about each person passing by:
“You’re respecting the space of the shoppers around you.”
“You’re being patient with that elderly person you’re with who is moving slowly.”
“You brought that disabled person to the mall because they couldn’t make it on their own.”
“You are paying attention to your child during your shopping trip instead of looking at your phone.”
And so on . . .
That is something I would buy.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved.
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