A Lesson I’ve Had to Learn Over and Over and Over

I have had to learn the hard way – meaning, I’ve had to make this mistake many times with three different daughters – before I understood a basic truth in life: Nobody wants you to tell them the truth (if it’s negative) when asked, “How do I look?”

My girls still bring up my multiple “wrong” answers when they were heading off to school or a party and I thought maybe their outfit needed a quick ironing or was not quite as flattering as it could be. Even when they had the time to get out the steam iron or change into a different top or pair of pants, I received a death stare from each of them accompanied by the words, “Thanks, Mom,” in that sarcastic tone that communicates total loathing.

In my mind, I’ve always thought it was a kind thing to offer a second set of eyes when looking at an outfit, but after far too many “I can’t believe you just said that to me” looks, I’ve learned to smile and said, “You look very nice.” I’ve come to realize that freshly ironed clothes are not as much of a thing these days as they were when I was growing up. (My parents would have not let me out of the house in a wrinkled shirt.) Also, what I consider “cute” doesn’t always match my daughters’ ideas on that subject. So, I keep my opinions to myself and just smile. Of course, if there really were a problem with the outfit – like a stain in an embarrassing spot or something glaringly wrong – like a tear – then I will mention it. However, now that I’m thinking about it, I have received death stares for those observations in the past as well. Maybe I need to reassess if that sort of feedback is helpful after all.

I have a feeling that pretty much every husband in the world has learned this same truth. ”You look beautiful, honey,” will clearly receive a better response than, “Did you realize your bra strap is showing?” Just count me among those fellows who have been a little slow on the uptake. Ironically, I get as mad as my daughters if my own husband doesn’t respond in a positive manner when I come downstairs and say, “Will this work?” Apparently, my response to any negativity from him has sent him straight into a permanently traumatized state. At this point, he just raises his hands in the “I surrender” stance and says, “Go ask Rachael.”

Rachael, to her credit, will tell me if she thinks my outfit is working or not. She also offers suggestions. However, when I try to return that favor, she just looks at me and says, “Mom, please don’t tell me I need to iron my shirt.”

At this point, I’m pretty good at just keeping my mouth shut. But it has taken a LONG time and countless scowls from my daughters. Somehow – even without my advice – they’ve figured out how to emerge from their homes looking pretty cute. I guess all that unsolicited advice early on had at least a tiny positive effect.

Or maybe they just learned on their own how to ignore my fashion advice and trust their own instincts instead.

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