You Look Nice. I'm Sorry I Said So.

One of the problems with people today (yes, feel free to groan) is our collective refusal to take context into account in our seemingly irresistible desire to feel offended. To whit:

People got mad at President Cheeto this week because he "complimented" the first lady of France for not being fat, saying, "You're in such good shape...beautiful."
The Reebok meme is amusing, and I love corporations standing up and trolling Trump, but DUDE! The "compliment" was skeevy because TRUMP is skeevy, not because there is NEVER a context in which is acceptable to compliment a woman (or man) on physical fitness. It would depend on who said it, how, in what context, what else was said, the expression on the complimenter's face, his or her body language. I can remember (and at this point it is quite distant) being in the gym and being quite pleased that a guy whose ass I had just kicked "racing" on the treadmill next to me said I was in great shape. I felt strong and tough and like all my hard work was paying off. (I can also imagine being creeped out beyond comfort if he'd said it in a different way. Context is everything.)

But now according to this meme it is never acceptable to comment, even positively, on someone's appearance, and I think that is so unfortunate. I was at the grocery store last week, and I told the girl bagging my produce that she had a beautiful smile, and she seemed genuinely pleased to hear it and thanked me. Was the exchange deeply wrong?

It's a particularly unfortunate bitter twist that this position is being taken as body-positivity and inclusive ideas about beauty are becoming more widespread. What if I want to tell a curvy stranger that she's rocking an outfit at the mall? Should I not?

Entering another minefield, there is a young man at the same store with hair that I absolutely love, but I have hesitated to say so because he is African American, and I don't know whether I am "allowed" to have an opinion on his head full of wild, utterly gorgeous natural curls. Would that be seen as racist? (And, oh no! Is it racist to NOT comment because he's Black? Shit! What do I do???)

I know I have no right to tell people how they are permitted to dress or wear their hair, and I never would. Wear skinny jeans, let your pants hang below your panties, sport a mohawk, don a cowboy hat. I personally don't care for those fashions, but I keep my mouth politely shut because "you do YOU!" But it is so very sad that my small attempts to make strangers' days a little brighter by saying something nice about them are now evidently against the rules of intersectional feminist (but genderless!) political correctness.

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