I went to dinner with a dear friend who now lives on the other side of the US. She had invited a bunch of her favorite ladies to dinner and I was one (an honor, to be sure). I don't really know her friends though I may have met one or two of them so I was mostly amongst strangers. I wasn't going to go at all because I don't ever hire a sitter unless its for work anymore but she knows the kids and said I should bring them along.
A number of the women remarked to me that they also had children but they left them at home. Subtle hint that I am an asshole? Possibly. Do I care? Not even a little bit.
But then, one of the women said, "Has anyone ever told you that you look like XYZ?"
Mind you, she didn't say "XYZ." She named the wife of a celebrity.
I said that no one ever had and that I don't know what she looks like.
She said that the resemblance is uncanny and she began hunting for a photo on her phone.
As it should happen, this particular celebrity wife is pretty darn unattractive. I'll bet she's awesome. Smart and funny and charitable. I'll bet I'd love to be her friend. But this individual did not tell me that my humor and penchant for philanthropy reminded her of this woman. She said I LOOK like her. So, shallow as it is, I am left to judge this woman, and, by comparison, judge myself, based upon looks alone. And the resulting emotion was humiliation.
My daughter (bless her soul) shook her head emphatically upon seeing the photo. I responded with a polite, "Oh....uh huh...."
To my horror, she then demanded the attention of the other women at the table and showed the photo to all of them and asked them to scrutinize my face. Isn't it amazing? Do you all see the uncanny resemblance our new friend bears to this woman??? (who, by the way, is 10 years older, a good 30 pounds heavier, and, in the photo she was showing, not wearing a lick of make-up).
I wanted to crawl right through the floor as stranger after stranger looked at the photo, examined my face, and then nodded. Now, in their defense, no one enthusiastically agreed or anything - they all just politely nodded - but no one except my daughter rushed to my defense, either.
Look, maybe this unspoken rule needs to be spoken at last.
Do NOT compare anyone to anyone else unless looking like that person is a clear step UP.
I have a friend who, in my opinion, looks like a combination of Michelle Pfieffer and Gwyneth Paltrow but I'm not sure I've ever mentioned it because Gwyneth Paltrow is annoying. She IS beautiful, though. And she was great in Shakespeare in Love. But still....
Rule of thumb: It is generally OK to let someone know they look like Heidi Klum.
It is NOT OK to tell a woman that she looks like Ru Paul...or Robert DeNiro....or the Elephant Man...or anyone who might not be a fantastically beautiful actress or supermodel.
Because dinner with a group of strangers is hard enough, man.
And I even put on make-up AND brushed my hair!
I'm not sure why we need to make comparisons, anyway. We can all just be wonderfully and fascinatingly individual and if we need to make small talk, we can ask each other about our dreams or the things we're most proud of.
Or, you know, if we can't say something nice, we can shovel spicy cabbage in our blow holes.
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