The Way You Look Tonight

You have to hand it to the crooners of the 1950s. In song, at least, they knew how to pay a compliment. Sinatra, Martin, Davies Jnr, Bennett… the list goes on, they each had the looks, the charm and the patter. And yet, it was clear that the whole charade was just an obviously cheesy attempt to seduce the lady in question. Yes they were impressed by the woman’s appearance but had ulterior motives for telling them.

Paying compliments is not always easy and can sometimes seem to be problematic even, but only if your motives aren’t pure. If you genuinely just want to make someone feel better about themselves then there is nothing to fear so why wouldn’t you just come out and say so?

Well, there are rules.

Not only that but not all the rules apply all of the time.

Not only that but the rules keep changing all the time.

The thing is though that we all know what the rules are and for whatever reason, we choose to ignore the rules or we use those self same rules as an excuse for our behaviour.

What do I mean by this? Well the crooner of the fifties knew where the line was when it came to what they could get away with in their seduction and they kept pushing up to and beyond that line to see where it got them. They generally did it with sufficient humour to get away with it, they would be seen as a loveable rogue – best avoided, but not really harmful. But how many men at that time will have emulated this behaviour and not stopped when they should have? Too many is the answer and old blue eyes gave them licence to do so in their opinion. A modern equivalent would be a man ‘joking’ about a woman’s appearance in a derogatory and demeaning manner and at the same time bemoaning the ‘fact’ that you can’t say anything to a woman these days without causing offence its political correctness gone mad

The truth is though that it’s not, it’s boorish male chauvinism at its most despicable and it should stop. In both situations, past and present, everyone knows what the rules are, they just don’t like them.

Not surprisingly, I hope, this is specifically not what I am advocating here. So much of what I am trying to depict in this second part of the book is to be found in resisting and rejecting idealism – yes, of course, it would be lovely if the world were run by lovely people intent on making things fairer and more equitable etc. but it plainly isn’t. That is, perhaps, the bad news. The good news, on the other hand, is that we can all make each others lives a little bit better by just being a bit kinder towards one another. Elsewhere, I have writen about our use of language and how we can appreciably improve our shared experiences by employing a more positive and supportive vocabulary with one another and my intention in this particular essay is to further extol this idea. It’s perhaps something of a culmination of appreciating what people are going through when they try to change their appearance and the use of kinder words. There are so many ways in which we can pay compliments that are not in any way patronising, lewd or downright crude. Compliments that uplift people and make them feel good about themselves rather than belittle or demean them.

There is a problem, however, as all you can do is considerately bestow your compliment – once you let it go you have no control over how it is received. Well that’s not entirely true. The manner in which you pass the comment will go some way in determining how it might be received – don’t smirk, wink or stick your tongue out are 3 ways to avoid rejection but less obviously, perhaps, is passing your remark quietly and directly to the recipient. The last thing you want to do is to draw potentially unwarranted attention and subsequent embarrassment on someone.

I am sure you get the idea, be nice, be kind, be thoughtful and be considerate.