Don't Give Compliments You Don't Mean

Unless it’s sarcasm, in which case, don’t let me stop you.

I have these iridescent Nike Blazers (mid) that I waited patiently for in an an online line while I was in a hotel room in New Orleans. It honestly did not take that long and they cost me $110 which is both a lot and not a lot of money, depending on which way you look at it. They are awesome as hell and every time I wear them people flip out and gawk and point and mostly just say “Shoes!” or “Wow!” Most of the time they don’t even say “I like your shoes,” or even “Cool shoes,” they are just observing the fact of my shoes.

This is totally great because the shoes are so outrageous they don’t invite you to have an opinion on them per se, just to see them for what they are: iridescent limited-edition mid-rise sneakers. Wow. Crazy. Silvery. Most of the rest of the time, we go around in life remarking on clothing items that stands out by saying, “I like your hat!” or “Cool sunglasses,” or “Nice cravat,” (Maybe because of that last one you can see where I’m going with this) when what we really mean is, “Hmm… better say something.”

I’m here to call bullshit on most of your compliments. Don’t lie! You don’t actually like my cravat and you definitely don’t think it’s cool. You’re just pointing out what you see, because it would be awkward not to mention the bright-pink visor, or the red tights (an item of clothing I used to own and frankly looks bangin’ with a black dress in the winter), or the neon socks. Using words like “cool” and “nice” in front of these words implies that you, the speaker, think said items are cool, when it is painfully apparent from the height of your eyebrows and the flatness of your voice that you just feel obligated to remark on them, but not to give your honest opinion, because that would be impolite. Thanks for holding back… NOT!

What should you do instead? Well for starters, [Mrs. Rabbit]. No one has ever gotten in trouble for something they didn’t say. (Yeah I know it’s a thing now to call people out for ‘remaining silent’ on issues, but I’m talking about private life, not public life. I can’t make you love me if you don’t, etc.) I think that’s actually the extent of the advice I have because if I’m telling you you can’t say “cool” or “nice” when you don’t mean it, then nothing at all is better than the next option, which is “I see that you are wearing very shiny shoes today.” Actually that would be kinda badass, but is impossible to deliver without sounding condescending.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Just like the guy last weekend in line in front of me at Williamsburg Pizza (erstwhile Awl podcast sponsor, whaddup) pointed out, “But isn’t that why you wear those shoes? Because people notice them?” To some extent, yes. Then don’t wear them if you don’t want people to lie to you! That’s one option, sure, but I love these shoes, and I think we can totally do better. White lies are important, you say. They keep marriages and friendships together; white lies make the world go round! I don’t know, it seems exhausting.

Why does any of us wear what we wear—because it looks good, hopefully feels good, and maybe makes a statement. I don’t know, I’m not a fashion scholar. Some people wish to disappear into their clothes. But I guarantee you most people want to look at least halfway decent. Others, like me, are probably just messing with your dials—sure, iridescent Blazers are a few decibels higher than most, but that’s just because I’m an IRL troll and I’m baiting you. Some of the best hundred-and-ten bucks I ever spent.