Jul 14, 2010

damning with faint praise

I remember, once, I showed a friend the house we had just bought, and with much enthusiasm gave him the grand tour, showing him our large living room with period built ins, or wonderful backyward, our dining nook surrounded with divided light windows. And he with much enthusiasm began to compliment...our basement.

Now, I imagine his compliment had more to do with his own basement...the only part of his regal and amazing house currently out of commission, than anything else. I imagine it was NOT meant to convey "I can't find anything to like so I'll express admiration for the least notable portion of your home". But it did.

And this reminds me of getting really dressed up once, and putting all this attention into every detail, and then having someone compliment...my fishnets. My 99 cent fishnets. The fishnets, no doubt, atleast 5 other girls were wearing fascimiles of at that same party. And my filling silly. Because I had bothered with the unusual and amazing shoes. And the dress that actually fit me and made my body look amazing. and the hair. And this person walked up and she half heartedly noticed...legwear everyone would be wearing this season. Causing me to wonder if I actually looked sort of fat in my dress. If my shoes really were as amazing as I had believed. If I even looked pretty.

But then one time... I also went to a party, equally dressed to the nines, with a great dress, and great shoes...and I had someone compliment my earings. Which were my grandmothers earings. And which I love. And I was excited. Because I chose those earings to compliment the outfit and I really felt like the outfit was not complete without them.

Which is to say, complimenting somoene on a possibly small detail is tricky business.

So the question becomes: what is the trick? What is the secret to complimenting someone so they feel rewarded for their attention to detail, their pervasive taste into even the smallest touches versus honing in on something so seemingly irrelevant that it conveys the message "all the other things are so lame I can't even bring myself to comment on them."

I don't know. Perhaps it is a matter of taste but that seems unfair. Because expecting someone to notice when something is done well is more a judgement on their perception than on their discretion. I mean, sometimes a tiling job really deserves to be the focus of praise, and sometimes it is the last thing you threw together. Sometimes an outfit is built around the shoes, and sometimes you just gave up and picked something that hopefully matched.

It FEELS like it is a matter of sensitivity but that seems slightly unfair too. After all, much of what people notice and judge has to do with what their current, personal focus is on. I always notice people's shoes. Because I am always looking for a nice pair of shoes. And bras. I love a good piece of lingerie, and am likely to notice the brastrap, if it's nice, even in the most dazzling get up.

So maybe it's best to play it safe. To be clear why you are subjectively picking out a particular detail.

And I am suddenly reminded of the time I was out, and a friend of mine walked up to me, and they said "you look gorgeous! and I know it seems silly, but I really like your ring. I collect vintage jewelry and that is a really unusual piece"

There? See how she did that? And I didn't even think about what she may or may not have missed.

That smart girl.

Sometimes the devil is in the details. Sometimes heaven is found in a grain of sand.

2 comments:

FRANK said...

your house is lovely. on top (actually beneath) of that, you have an awesome basement.

daff0dil said...

hee hee hee