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The Slice: Don’t let casual compliments cloud your sense of fashion

Editor’s note: Paul Turner is taking some time off. In his absence, we’re diving into the archives here at Slice Central. Today, we revisit Aug. 7, 1999.

No doubt some compliments about clothing are sincere.

But let’s not kid ourselves. A lot of that “Such a pretty blouse” stuff is just a socially acceptable alternative to dead air. Often, it’s about as spontaneous as a bank statement.

Here’s a guess. Maybe half of all compliments about outfits are a direct result of the speaker being in a chatty mood. (Writer Anne LaMott once described the on-an-airliner equivalent as “feeling mingly.”)

And some additional percentage stems from workplace managers believing they can check your name off their “touch base” list if they say your sweater looks sharp.

(We won’t even get into “compliments” offered out of malice or sarcasm.)

The thing is, even though many of us recognize all that, we tend to remember flattery about our attire.

It’s crazy, but it’s true.

Long after the person who praised your blue shirt has forgotten she ever said anything, you can find yourself staring at your closet and wondering.

“Maybe I really do look good in that? I could use a Personality Plus day today. Maybe I should wear it.”

The lesson here? Be selective.

If we hold out the possibility that at least a few clothing compliments are on the level, just remember to consider the source.

Does the person who said it resemble someone who thinks life is an old Jimmy Buffett album? Would it be fair to describe his or her fashion sense as “Say it with Spandex”?

If so, you might want to think hard about the implications of such an individual admiring your taste.

But if someone with a winning style gives you a thumb’s up, well, that’s got to be good.

Of course, that person probably didn’t mean it.

The in crowd: Ever noticed how people tend to describe those who share their recreational interests as neat or appealing?

“It’s such a dynamic group!”

That always cracks us up. As if someone saying that about his fellow cyclists or stamp collectors isn’t being nakedly self-congratulatory.

OK, we get it. That must mean YOU are unbelievably groovy, too.

Beep, beep, beeeeeeep: How many personal electronic gizmos have been dropped in area lakes this summer?

Today’s Slice question: What would drivers seeing you sing along with the car radio assume about you?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098. Who is your family’s worst photographer?

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