Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Maskenball, 1911.
It recently occurred to me that there is one aspect of parties I actively dread. It’s not the socializing. It’s not the dressing up—although it’s true I am not burdened by talent in the hair or makeup department, and begrudge the expense.
What makes my heart sink is the thought of all that obligatory mutual admiration: “You look beautiful.” “You look great.” Hoping to be the first to get it in; not wanting to sound forced, yet absolutely compelled to join in the ritual.
And the thing is, everyone does look “great.” People—especially women—have in such cases taken extra care and time with their appearances, and it is natural to want to acknowledge this effort. But it’s a bit like saying I love you—while no words can be more powerful, they’re easily cheapened, too.
I propose that we proceed under the assumption that we all look great. That it’s so obvious as to not need saying. That it’s implicit in our greeting and our smile and our presence and our obvious temporary agreement with the same social mores. I don’t expect it to catch on, but how sincerely I wish it could!
Earlier this week, I happened into a conversation at the drugstore between two employees when I went to pay. “You really shouldn’t have called that customer ugly,” one girl was chiding her coworker. “Do you have anger issues or something?”
“I do!” he replied happily. “I’ve gone to therapy and everything!”
“Well, I think you need to go back.”
“Yeah, but, she was ugly, though.”
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.
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