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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

From my Front Porch

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Well-meaning thoughts can be downright rude

How should one respond when a supposedly well-meaning person says something that could be construed as hurtful and downright rude? The sticks-and-stones-may-break-my-bones-but-words-will-never-hurt-me line comes to mind, but it seems a bit childish, and besides, we all know it isn't true.

I think it is interesting to note that some of the most cruel words ever spoken have been prefaced with, "Now, you know I love you, but ..." You can pretty much be guaranteed that love has nothing to do with it.

I am just thankful I have been blessed with an oversized self-deprecating funny bone and a bad memory because I have had plenty of well-meaning words sent my way. For reasons I do not understand I seem to bring out the best of the worst in people when it comes to unsolicited face-to-face comments or commentary, especially about my personal appearance.

Oddly enough, many of the so-called truths unveiled for my edification have been revealed while in none other than a church setting. For instance, when I was much younger it was during the prelude of a Sunday morning service that a beautifully glamorous friend of mine leaned over and whispered to me, "Barbara, you should wear makeup." I just smiled and nodded as the appropriate comeback, "But, why? You're wearing enough for both of us," failed to make a timely arrival.

Then there was the Sunday evening comment made by a well-respected pillar of the community. I must have caught her completely by surprise because she literally gasped in horror when she saw me as I walked towards her down the center aisle of the church and said with a dramatic flair, "Oh, my goodness, what have you done to your hair? It was your one redeeming feature." (For the proper effect, read this with a genteel southern accent, putting extra emphasis on the last three words.)

To this day, I ponder that comment in search of what in the world she could have meant by "one redeeming feature." Maybe she was implying that she considered my looks to be something that needed redemption? Who knows?

Unfortunately, it was not the same hairdo that prompted this thought from one of my favorite aunts, "I don't guess you'll be using that hair color again." I find some solace in knowing that this same aunt told my balding husband who is somewhat sensitive about the issue he had "plenty of hair, it's just all down around the sides."

And then there is the occasional comment that probably was meant to be a compliment.

We had been in the hospital for several days with our youngest child who was recovering from pneumonia and I had just finished attempting to look somewhat presentable by washing my face and putting on some fresh makeup when a friend stopped by to visit. As she walked in the room she said, "It must be nice to look just as good without makeup as you do with."

Good grief. Where was she during that prelude, so many years before?

Granted, I have always leaned toward the low end of the beauty maintenance spectrum. I was a licensed driver for over 10 years before I started wearing lipstick, and clear nail polish is still my favorite. Even now, my teen-aged daughter has a bigger makeup bag than I do, which, come to think of it, is probably not all that unusual.

Nevertheless, I prefer the fresh-faced look of the unencumbered and Miss Clairol and I parted ways a long time ago.

So, how should one respond when someone inadvertently says something that could be considered insensitive and rude? For the most part, I find it best to just smile politely and let it go. Life is too short for anything else.

The one exception is the question, "So, when's the baby due?"