Why? Because people are really interesting! This past weekend, my neighborhood hosted our annual Old West End Festival. Thousands of people descended upon our historical neighborhood to pursue garages sales, view parades or look at our grand historical homes (well, not mine. I live there, but mine isn’t quite in the same category as “grand”…more like old-fashioned lived-in.)
As the visitors walk and gawk, residents like me spend the weekend just watching the crowd. It’s like the annual all-you-can-see people-watching buffet and I never had to leave my seat.
So, it is the people-watching experience of this weekend that inspires this post. There are lots of different kinds of people-watchers, but today, we’re talking about my two favorite types. First, the group of folks that I call “weird-watchers.”
Do what you gotta do…
Weird-watchers are folks that follow you with their eyes just a little bit too long and a way too intense. Truthfully, I may have accidentally weird-watched someone at least once or twice – like people who have tattoos with lots of words.
This week, a friend posted on Facebook that a weird-watcher was staring at her while she was sitting on the train in Chicago. She was a little freaked out by his persistent gaze, even though she was safely on the opposite side of a window. Like a good friend, I offered some handy Facebook advice to her – because on Facebook, we all LOVE to give advice. With weird-watchers, you’ve gotta fight fire with fire. My advice: “Stare back at him and pick your nose.” #nailedit
My favorite form of people-watching is body-shopping. I’m a body-shopper. That’s the kind of people-watcher that I am. Body-shopping is like shopping in a store, except there’s no store and the clothes are on moving bodies. One of my biggest pet-peeves in the store that the cellulite-free mannequins don’t realistically demonstrate how something could really fit. Yet, every woman is a real-life model and so I get to see how lots of different clothes look on a variety of sizes and shapes of bodies.
For me, body-shopping begins once I see a necklace or accessory that captures my attention. It’s often a necklace or another accessory to turns my head and makes me smile. This is important: body-shopping isn’t about looking for something to criticize. People-watchers are known for their biting criticism or rude, whispered comments. When I body shop, there’s no room for Judge Judy, rather it’s more like channeling Paula Abdul from her early days on American Idol. Remember how Paula could always find something positive to say about someone, no matter how bad they saying or looked.
Body-shopping Rule #1: Compliment, never criticize!
Yesterday, a lady walks by wearing this phenomenal long, white summer dress. It was a chilly morning, so she layered it with white, cropped jean jacket, summer flip-flops and gold jewelry. My favorite part, she finished her look with a big smile. I’m a guaranteed train wreck waiting-to-happen when I wear white. Yet, this lady looked so lovely that I started to wonder what I could look like if I had such a dress. Sure, I’d have to send the day in a bubble only drinking clear pop or water, but it might be worth it!
As the lady walked by, I simply said: “Wow, I love your dress. It looks great on you.”
One of the most important rules of body-shopping is to let the person know that you love how something looks on her. Just compliment just one thing, though. Don’t be like “Oh, I love your dress. Wow, you’re shoes are amazing. What gorgeous eyes you have! Those earrings are just EVERYTHING!”
Unless you’re talking to your best friend, don’t do that. Don’t compliment everything. That’s creepy.
Body-shopping Rule #2: Find out where and how long ago it was purchased
I don’t know where she was heading to, but after my compliment, the lovely lady’s smile grew wider and she stopped. This is one of the great rewards of body-shopping: You can make people smile. Everyone loves a compliment, especially a genuine, unsolicited compliment.
Lovely dress lady told me that the dress was purchased for one of her favorite stores, which turned out to be one of my favorite stores, too! Which brings me to one of the next most important features of body-shopping: you must ask how long ago they acquired the item. Lucky for me, she mentioned that the dress was purchased just a few weeks ago. I’ve got plans to stop by the store later this week and I’ve got a gift card!
Sometimes, my body-shopping inquiry will be an item purchased long ago or a treasured hand-me-down. I’ve heard great stories over the years about jewelry bequeathed from a relative, a garage sale treasure or a special gift from a loved one. Not only do I love hearing those great stories, but it brings people such joy sharing them with me.
Yesterday, I engaged in a little more body-shopping. A long-time friend wore sparkly eyeshadow as an eyeliner across her top eye lid. She looked amazing! Usually, sparkly eyeshadow is a Friday night weekend thing, but she wore a light-colored sparkle shadow as a thin liner that made her bright eyes even brighter on a Sunday morning. It was a perfect match her personality and style. So, here we go: Rule #1: I told her that her eyes looked amazing. She smiled big. Then, Rule #2: I asked there she purchased it from and when. She mentioned a company that I have been watching on Twitter for a few months, so I made the mental decision to check it out.
But this happened, too:
Me: “When you applied that eye shadow this morning, weren’t you just giddy? You knew that it looked fantastic, right?”
Super cute friend: “Really? Does it look that good? Like, I knew that I looked nice this morning, but I wasn’t sure.”
Me: “You look spectacular. That shadow highlights the sparkle already in your eyes!”
(Then, I asked her out for a date. Ha! No, I didn’t. Calm down.)
What happened here? I shared a compliment about something that I hoped that she already believed for herself. This particular lovely is a highly successful business woman who is smart and stylish. Yet, even those who look the most confident still need encouragement and affirmation. We should never build Our identities on the words of others. But, we should affirm and encourage each other, especially other women.
It’s always about connection…
As much as we hate to admit this: Humans judge people based on what they see. God looks at the heart, but He designed us with eyes that pay attention to facial expressions, postures, features and clothing styles. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what we do with is.
Here’s my thing: I people-watch with purpose. Body-shopping has opened the door to some pretty cool connecting moments over the years. I’ve made new friends, discovered mutual acquaintances and gotten some great inspiration for my own closet – all through just paying attention and using my voice to encourage another.
You can do this, too.
I CHALLENGE YOU: Try some body-shopping this week. Pay attention to the women around you and if you’re brave enough, engage in the body-shopping experience just once this week. If you’re an introvert, you can choose someone that you already know that feel comfortable with to start.
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