I appreciate a man who’s inspired, who knows this and that about anything and is competent at what he does. Great hair would be nice and I certainly think that a voice box dipped in honey would be fantastic. Oh and there are things that I haven’t yet labeled that I look out for – like the style with which he wears his skin and how he controls the rhythm of his mannerisms to suit the atmosphere around him. Some of these are not things that you capture with “Oh! He’s handsome”. So I don’t! This explains why describing someone who got my attention is always a delightful speech punctuated by gestures and mimics and onomatopoeia. People are too rich in themselves to be treated like a monotonous maroon-themed ensemble. People are rainbows.
The day I learned of the word “sapiosexual”, I was glad that I found another adjective that could describe people, perhaps even myself, without making them seem too plain, like vanilla-flavored muffins. I do not consider myself to be simple; the blend of full brows, bold eyes, full lips with a perfectly shaped cupid bow and a forest for hair are not simple on any face. My mind on the other hand has always been a whirl pool of anything that fits right in. Again, not simple and after rocky phases that led to finally rising above most of my insecurities, I honestly don’t care for stereotypes and cheesy punch lines in describing me. So perhaps, the harder I am on the tongue, the more convinced I am that you’re getting close. And every smart woman can tell apart the texture of flattery from her truth. J
I guess the point is that there is no right place for stereotypes or single stories of people and what they embody and this holds true even when you think that your motivations are right. You do not set defining walls around your idea of a person using just what irks or fascinates you the most about them. Even when you intend it to be a compliment, an over-used label or impression of a person tends to lose its complimentary effect and become grating on the nerves. Because, a person is a great communicator and loves it when you brandish words like eloquent, expressive, articulate etc. in describing them, does not make it okay to forget that they are dynamic people with the capacity to evolve or thrive in other spaces.
I recently had a personal experience in which a friend ticked me off. This person apparently has a knack for intelligent, highly driven women and was probably drawn to me for the same reason. Even though he’d acknowledged some other traits of me that he found endearing, everything always circled back to me being brilliant. It was great to be seen as more than just a pretty face but intellectual prowess soon became the underlying explanation for anything that I did right. I could make a choice on a whim to do something that I felt was interesting or even purely random and this friend would come up with a theory of how some realm of intelligence was responsible. Sometimes when I did things that didn’t fit into neat boxes of brilliance or were silly, I could sense the disorientation it brought to the idea of me. On one occasion, I went off on him because even though the underlying intent was meant to be approving, it started to stifle the idea of me being anything than a few neat adjectives that he felt were apt.
I know that it can be easier to fall into the habit of describing or addressing people in a certain way, even when we have the best intentions. However, it can have a counter-effect on the subjects. When we label people – especially in relationships – either through the way we describe them or treat them, we are unconsciously building a narrative around them and creating reference points that will form basis for evaluating their actions and inactions. It’s also essential to be sensitive to the whether there is an aspect of themselves that the subjects might seek to express at a particular time. In as much as, most people (and I think I speak for the women here) would appreciate not being describe with cheesy, textbook lines all the time, we also do not want you to take that one remarkable thing about us and turn it into walls that we can only pray to jump over.
The thing about stereotypes is that they do not have to be totally false. On the other hand, they also can be hinged to pleasant attributes. However, what makes them negative is the idea of people holding them to be true and obtainable at all times, despite varying situations that may have caused change to occur. While this may seem like an issue relevant to only relationships, it is noteworthy that all aspects of our life are fed by the quality of relationships that we maintain whether personal o professional. I also think that empathy has a great role to play in how we address, treat and even describe people.
It is truly rewarding (in both romantic and platonic relationships) to be intentional about how we label the other person especially when we communicate these impressions of them with. And for heaven’s sake, let’s be done with tasteless adjectives when we’re trying to win the other person over. Take them all in and make an attempt to articulate the miracle that they are.