I thought you should know


Advance 8129

I've decided that, from now on, I'm not going to pay any attention to any statements that begin with the following phrases:

"I thought you should know,"

"No offense, but,"

My highly unscientific study of these phrases has led me to believe that they are only used when the speaker wants to convey something unpleasant to the listener. And not something unpleasant and urgent, in the sense of "Your hair's on fire!" but something unpleasant in the sense of "I want to tell you something insulting, yet I do not wish you to feel directly insulted."

What I want to know is, has anyone, in the history of these conversational openers, ever replied like this?

Speaker A: "I thought you should know — that dress makes you look fat."
Speaker B: "Oh, how kind of you to tell me! I forgot that it was my sacred duty to look thin. I'll run right home and change. Can you come with me, just in case I pick the wrong thing again? Also, how's this color on me?"

Speaker A: "No offense, but you're too old for that style."
Speaker B: "I thought I hadn't slapped on enough Youth Instigator this morning — say, you wouldn't have a tube on you, would you?"

I've often wondered about the motives of people who say these things. Do they really, truly, believe they're doing their listeners a favor? And do they respond rationally when people do it to them?

Speaker A: "I thought you should know, that color makes you look sallow."
Speaker B: "Oh, thank you! I'm so glad you told me. But you should let me return the favor — those earrings are a touch gaudy. I'm sure you'd be happier and less … conspicuous in little studs."
Speaker A: "You are so right! I never thought of that before."

No? You don't think that happens? You think that the Speaker A's of this world only feel better when they are able to make other people feel worse? (Especially when they can do so, Anonymously, on the Internets?) Huh, what sad and lonely lives those Speaker A's must lead.

If for no other reason (say, basic human decency) you should be kind because unkindness doesn't work. In fact, it's often highly counterproductive, if your stated goal is to "improve" other people. It would be one thing if offhand "No offense, but you look fat," comments from strangers actually caused people to lose weight (if they wanted to), but, alas, they don't. Never have. Would you change your behavior, whatever it was, based on anonymous comments online? No? Why, then, do you think that YOUR anonymous comment is going to change the world?

If you really wanted to "do someone a favor," you'd do it under your own name, so that you could take the credit. Heck, you'd send me a private email and ask me to pass it along, so a conversation, a real discussion, could take place. That's what you do when you want to help. When you want to hurt, when you want to feel momentarily better about yourself at another's expense, you leave an anonymous comment.

I'm not going to make the comments on this blog real-name only. But I would like to remind people of a few things:

— You can comment, by name or anonymously, all you like to tell me that anything I've done is crap, pure crap, highly-crappy crap fashioned lovingly from raw crap, and that you don't know how I live with myself. I understand that running a blog is the equivalent of hanging a sign that says "Criticize here."

— BUT, I would like you to treat the guests of this blog with kindness. Remember the Golden Rule? Please follow it.

(And if you say "But I'd WANT someone to tell me if something made me look bad," you should think really hard about whether or not that's true. How did you feel the last time someone told you something was unflattering? Did you act on it? Or did you come up with a reason to ignore their "advice"? Do fee free to send me a picture of yourself so that I can find someone to perform this service for you, if you want it so badly.)

One last thing: aesthetics are highly variable. What you consider the dernier cri is probably not that of the person next to you. So why would you act as if your vision was the only true one?

[Today's pattern is from LanetzLiving, who is offering a SPECIAL EXTRA DISCOUNT to us … put "turkey20" in the discount box and get a 20% discount on all patterns from her site. They'll ship next Monday after the holiday. Oh, and the woman in the red jacket is telling the woman in the white jacket that busy florals don't suit her. The woman in the white jacket is pretending the woman in the red jacket doesn't exist.]

0 thoughts on “I thought you should know

  1. I find that people who offer unsolicited advice rarely if ever receive criticism well. My solution is to think to myself, “I am glad that I am not married to that person.” Today, I am a 45-year-old woman wearing flower-embroidered cowboy boots – and if someone has a problem with that, I choose to believe it’s really a problem they have with themselves.

    Like

  2. The other “I’m going to insult you but don’t be insulted” phrase is “with all due respect.”Hate that one! Just tell my what you want to say directly or don’t.

    Like

  3. Love the red suit! I can look past the snooty woman wearing it. I can still hear my mother’s words “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all.”It may be corny but at least it’s kind and in this world we certainly need more kindness.

    Like

  4. Some of what I read yesterday was something no one in their right mind would say in person to the object of their critiques. I know these kind of hurtful comments are a problem over at The Sartorialist too.

    Like

  5. Gee, one would think that if you spend the time to read a blog about vintage dresses, you really like vintage dresses. Those people out there that like to leave nasty comments for Erin have too much time on their hands to feel sorry for themselves. Volunteer! It will help cure that desire to be mean to others and get a grip!

    Like

  6. Amen, Erin!While reading yesterdays comments, my beloved step-mama’s advice kept coming back to me: “You don’t have to say everything that comes into your head.” And there’s the classic, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” etc. etc.

    Like

  7. As I read today’s post, I was going to write, “what happened, Erin, to prompt this post?” but having just read yesterday’s comments, now I know. Shame on you, anonymous commenters!

    Like

  8. Terrific and spot-on post, Erin.I’ve long long had a large problem with wussy anonymous comments, if you really want to be taken seriously, use your own damn name!As for the Marcia Brady dress – MAN that brings back memories. My sister was a Marcia-Marcia-Marcia wanna-be and that dress looked exactly like one she had! I love it with the boots! Gives it quite a kick!I used to work in a cube-farm like that, at a law firm here in Seattle and we had some very creative outfits there, I miss that spirit!

    Like

  9. the momma chronicles, I have to say, I’ve heard the “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” adage from whence I could make sounds, but I really like the scathing but saccharine modernity of “You don’t have to say everything [your brain craps out].” Right on for the plethora of options for cracking that whip with a smile when deserved and needed! I’ll be using that one soon!

    Like

  10. Well said! I have pretty much stopped blogging due to rude comments. We tend to forget that there are real people, with real feelings behind those pics, comments, posts, ect.

    Like

  11. No offense, but those posts made the anon posters look petty and mean.I think it takes a lot of courage to send in a pic of oneself, especially to display something that you’ve made yourself. It’s awful that that kind of courage should be punished.While the Marcia dress is not my style (I tend toward the 40s and 50s suits and “playclothes”) I thought it was adorable, and suited her quite well. Congrats on a job well done, Andrea!

    Like

  12. Another cop-out phrase, down here in Texas, is “Bless her heart!” “That hat looks like she made it out of a fresh squirrel skin — bless her heart!”While agreeing with EVERYTHING that’s being said about the unnecessary cattiness of some commentators, I’ll defend the anonymous comment. I have a name that’s very unique and googleable. And when the internet was young and I was stupid, I posted a lot of comments on various discussion boards, just for fun. At the time, they weren’t searchable. Now, however, they are. So googling my name pulls up all sorts of goofy comments on goofy websites, that are just goofy enough that I wish that prospective employers who are checking me out wouldn’t see them.So now, even when I’m commenting on a cool, cool, cool website like this one, I’d rather be anonymous than have this added to my long list of google hits.So, to summarize: Cattiness bad. Anonymity good (sometimes). 🙂

    Like

  13. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but…”No, dear. You probably shouldn’t.Friends of mine and I were ragging on dear David Tennant, who has disastrous taste in clothing and was last seen in public wearing a velvet jacket two sizes too small, when another friend said a very wise thing. “You just know he looked in a mirror, said ‘Damn, I look fabulous!'”, and walked out the door. Good point. Worth remembering.

    Like

  14. (I have to be anonymous because I’m not a blogger or even an other.) Stewarts Fabrics?!? OMG, does that bring back memories of my childhood. My mother shopped there a lot and one of our neighbors had a job there. I got great scraps for my doll clothes from her. But I hated having to wait while Mom picked out fabric. Who knew I’d grow up to be a tailor?

    Like

  15. It was also interesting yesterday that once one person made a rude comment that others joined in. It reminded me of being hazed on the school playground in third grade. I wore polyester doubleknit before it became a punchline and so I don’t wear things from that fashion cycle, but I think the dress is darling and very well done. The colors are also flattering to the wearer.Amy

    Like

  16. Ok, I will say something here, “I thought you should know, that dress makes you look like you are a refugee from Ethiopia. You really should eat something, you look half starved!”Not that I would say that, I just thought that it should be said sometimes. Look at me, I weigh 179pounds, I am 5’7” tall. I am not skinny by any stretch of the imagination, and my doctor has me down as “Obese” on my records. I am not obese! I just happen to have a little cushion!By the way, I think the dress from yesterday was cute too!Linda (My real name)

    Like

  17. I think your dear old “Speaker A” has cornered me more times than I can count.If my dress was accidently tucked into my nylons (remember that scene from designing women?) I do want you to mention it. Otherwise, no……

    Like

  18. My favorite intro is, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” or, “I’m no expert, but…” Sometimes I get the urge to yell or say something rude. When I am driving and my safety has just been compromised by some other driver’s actions and I feel threatened. It’s not as if they’re even going to hear me. And the person I most harm by doing this is me (and my passengers if I have any.) What I try to do is imagine the offending driver is someone I know. (She looks like my sister Vanessa, or that guy looks like my neighbor Will…) I then see them as more human and, almost immediately, I calm down. Often, I give them a smile and a wave as if to say, “we’re both okay and I hold no grudge”. I think that passes to them a good feeling which, if they pass on, has the potential of being infinite in its effect. Ramble conclusion… like the Golden Rule, or the Ethical Question (“What would it be like if EVERYONE did what you did?”), putting yourself in another’s shoes is a good starting point when you are about to say or do something harmful, be it yelling a curse in your car, or posting mean comments anonymously on a blog. Become the person you are potentially harming for one moment and decide if it’s worth it. You can hide behind anonymity, but you can’t hide from yourself.

    Like

  19. We’ve been having this discussion with our kids, believe it or not. Consequently, Evil Mean Parents have banned the phrase “no offense” from the house. It didn’t stick with the youngest until I used a “no offense” on her–a “no offense” of the mildest sort, you understand. But she snapped to pretty quickly.Regarding different aesthetics: my own aesthetics change from outfit to outfit. Every once in a while, I will get the urge to wear a long full skirt though it makes me look like Friar Tuck–and so I do. The following day, I may want to wear tailored trousers that make me look more like Katherine Hepburn. And the following day, I may wear a wrap dress that my husband swears looks like a funereal bathrobe.I figure that unless I tackle you and force you to wear it, too, you shouldn’t care that much about the clothes I choose to wear.

    Like

  20. I just read the comments from yesterday (curiosity, of course) and I have to say, I live for costumes! I love dressing up and wearing clothes that are from different eras, Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I do Eighteenth Century, Civil War, and WWII reenacting with my husband (Hoop skirts are not as easy as you would imagine. Broke my toe two weeks ago at a Ball doing the Virginia Reel…My middle name is Grace!) People who are overly concerned with current fashion or “business attire” make me crazy. Life if for living and what is life without a little fun!?!Linda

    Like

  21. Yes well, the woman with the white jacket should really dress her age. The little strumpet.I too didn’t really know what Erin was talking about because I don’t always read the comments. But man… some people’s kids, I tell ya.

    Like

  22. “I thought you should know…” this is a WONDERFUL post. Kudos to you! I had to go back and read the rest of the cat-fest comments from yesterday to find out where the conversation had gone. Kind of scary how mean people can be, especially since this is a blog I visit in order to gain nourishment, lift up my spirits, and enjoy the sisterhood-spirit of the other commenters. The “we’re all in this love of vintage together”-ness. This isn’t a high fashion snob fest. This is a Hooray! We love this! blog. I mean, I don’t want to get *too* saccharine, but cripes! I don’t really want to see people wielding scythes through the place, either. Anonymous Amy, you’re right: it was just like a third-grade hazing. Something I cringe to see in adults specifically because I surround myself with people who have outgrown that type of insecurity, and I’m shocked every time I see it. I was glad to see, however, that there seemed to be just as many people on board with labelladonna in being kind.Andrea’s dress was wonderful and she perfectly evoked the spirit of the dress in her fabric choices. Colors that not only look good on her but also *are* contemporary. In case anyone missed the memo, retro and retro colors *are* in. They may not be the *only* thing in style, but they are part of it. I saw plenty of gold and earth-toned clothes in stores just this week. Granted, I’m more of a 1953 & pink & green gal, myself, but I love to see other people sporting their own joie de vivre. I’m sure I look just as ridiculous to people who are finished with old-timey as the wearers of the latest cookie-cutter fashion industry look to me.

    Like

  23. I too didn’t know what Erin was talking about until I went back to the comments.Yesterday’s dress was fun, looked cute, and obviously made the wearer happy. What more could you ask from a dress?

    Like

  24. Andrea, are you reading this? Your “Marsha-Marsha-Marsha” outfit was absolutely fabu – ESPECIALLY given the fact that the photo was taken in an office warren. Your hair was fetching, the dress was cute and quirky, and, as others have said, you rocked the boots.Note to the universe: if you’ve got legs like Andrea, flaunt ’em. (If for no other reason than making little runts like me GREEN with envy.) Note to Erin: you rock in so many ways I’ve lost count of them all.

    Like

  25. Hi, I’m Anon 11:22 from yesterday. I did not expect to start a cascade of snark-I felt that I stated an opinion about the dress posted without one of those self-responsibility-negating phrases like “No offense” or “I thought you should know.” I believe I said “I think.” I would never put the responsibility for my opinion on the other person; I also had an adage passed down by my mother-“Opinions are like a**holes; everyone has one.” I have posted on this site with my opinion about how “successful” I thought a project was in the past with no ill feelings. I sign in under Anon because I don’t have a Google account-I will gladly give my name from now on. I also know that Andrea will wear her dress with pride regardless of what I think, sartorially speaking. The adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is simplistic and doesn’t encourage any real discussion. I always thought we were people who liked dresses and liked this website because of the language and that Erin did not feed us “OMG so CUTE!!!” pablum. I do agree with the earlier poster who said that one “should not say everything one’s brain craps out” but when does it turn into “I like it” “Me too” “Me threeSincerely,Melanie

    Like

  26. Beautiful post! I hope Andrea’s feelings weren’t hurt by those rude comments yesterday – I absolutely LOVE the dress, the boots, the photography, everything! If you need to start a comment off with a disclaimer, just stop yourself from commenting at all. Breathe, relax, and try to think of the other human beings out there and how they’d feel if you continued.

    Like

  27. I used to know a priest who pointed out that whenever certain churchly folk want to say something really, really nasty they start by saying, “Let us, like Paul, speak the truth in love…” I don’t know if they ever then proceeded to tell him that chasuble made him look fat, but the strategy is the same.

    Like

  28. Speaker A: “I thought you should know — that dress makes you look fat.”I’ve looked down at myself and said to the speaker “I’m FAT?!?! Oh my God, I’d never noticed without you telling me, thank you so much!”I’ve had to say that a few times in my life, including to a couple of doctors who didn’t quite understand the difference between muscle and fat (I was a competitive dancer, 5’4” and my weight during the competition season was 230. I could bench 300lbs, though, so I wasn’t terribly worried about it.)

    Like

  29. For those who say they use anon because they don’t have a google account, sign the bottom of your comment, or click other and put your name in the name field.

    Like

  30. I thought you should know …I really love this website.No offense …to a lot of other authors whom I enjoy reading, but Erin’s blog always makes my day. Sometimes it’s the only worthwhile part of my day.Amy, I think it’s heartening, though, that there were plenty of people joining in to stand up to the snarkers.With all due respect …I do think it’s perfectly possible to discuss the dresses that are presented in such a way that an actual discussion does, in fact, take place. There’s a lot of room for verbiage between “That outfit is wearing her,” and “”I like it” “Me too” “Me three,” verbal hiccups to which Erin’s readers are not, in fact, generally prone.

    Like

  31. At what point do we decide the desire to share our opinions isn’t as important as using someone else’s feelings as the filter between the brain and the mouth? Dellaina

    Like

  32. Beautiful post. I had followed yesterday’s comments and found myself looking at the dresses I had painstakingly (and not very evenly) made myself and wondered what everyone must be thinking about my bigger than stick body in them. I had planned to send Erin a photo of me in my first Duro and decided against it. So for anyone who thinks that their comments don’t hurt or that the maker will go ahead and wear the item with pride and defiance anyway, I am here to say that you don’t know what effect your words can have on someone else. You don’t know what else that person has had to deal with. Your “little” criticism may cause the recipient to throw that dress in a wrinkled heap in the back of her (or his) closet and go back to wearing sweatpants and crocs. Or worse. We should be cheering on creativity, not destroying it.

    Like

  33. Erin, I thought you should know that your blog is utterly delightful, and thank you so very much for brightening my days a little bit with your lovely dresses and on-the-mark commentary.

    Like

  34. While I agree that we should cheer and encourage creativity, I also know how often I cringe when I see certain items on the internets, and then read all the “wow, that’s just fabulous” comments that follow, wondering what world these people live in, or if it’s just a rule that we all be polite and say it looks great even when it doesn’t. I’ve seen sweaters that were obviously knit/sewn together wrong, and not one person in the comments bothered to point it out. I’ve seen clothes that were seriously too small or big, and it wasn’t intentional, and no one bothered to point it out. I guess it’s because I think we all have a right to wear well made, flattering clothing, of any style, but in colors and patterns that fit right, and flatter our skin tones. The freakiest outfit on earth looks great when it fits, is made well, and is in colors that suit the wearer. As someone who knits and sews and blogs, I guess I just wish we could all find a place between politely lying because of manners, and telling the truth in a rude way.

    Like

  35. Amen amen amen, Erin! I would like to say that when my baby was 6 months old, she looked like the michelin tire baby. Unbelievable how many people would say, loudly and with gusto “That baby is FAT!!!” Made me want to scream “So are you!!” And along those lines, I must say, as a recovered anorexic, it greatly grieved me when I hit 90 pounds (as in, up from 69 pounds) to still hear rude comments such as “Man…don’t you ever eat???” Hey, what’s up with that? I could never get away with “NO, but YOU obviously do.” Guess I just wanted to input that it is just as wrong to commment on someones lack of weight, as it is their excess weight.By the way, upon casual observation, I would like to say, you are absolutely gorgeous as in your mode of dress, face and body type. For further proof, I refer you to the vintage films of old where women did not need to starve themselves to be considered beautiful.Regards, Sue Melin

    Like

  36. Btw, Erin, I wanted to thank you so much for your secret lives of dresses. I read the mountain girl dress post often, and it brightens my day. I came out of a bout of depression after reading it, came out of my house, and gained back three pounds that week. Whenever I stop eating, and feel bummed out, I stop by that dresses post.Sue M.

    Like

  37. Well I suppose I am one of yesterday’s posters that would have been considered to have something rude/snarky. That is/was not my intention to be rude. I was under the impression that this blog was a place that we could comment about the different dresses we are shown. I have seen over the many months that I have been reading here, that unless we all say we love whatever is being shown, someone will jump on us in some way, some subtler than others. I refuse to give into the art of social lying (telling someone that their new hairstyle, dress, etc. looks wonderful even when in my opinion it is not). I actually appreciated the fact that some of the other posters didn’t like the dress otherwise I would have felt that I was nuts and something was wrong with me because everyone else liked it. Was this meant to be rude to Andrea herself? NO! And for that I apologize. I try to never be rude to people. I do however have opinions and if it is a negative opinion, I now know not to express it here.

    Like

  38. A friend of mine once told me that he made a point of disregarding everything I said before the word “but” in a sentence. And it made me realize that my methods of constructive criticism were in dire need of an overhaul.For those commenters who have since made mention of stifling their opinions to preserve the peace… perhaps you need an overhaul as well. It is possible to express a negative opinion without sounding rude. Because even when apologizing, it still sounds catty.

    Like

  39. There is a difference between withholding a negative opinion and fabricating a compliment. No one seems to be asking people to lie about how great something is when they don’t actually think so. Some of us just aren’t on board with mean-spirited criticism. It’s one thing to think a pattern is ugly or a dress being sold in stores or put on the runway is not so great. (By all means: critique away! Those people got paid to make that dress.) It’s another thing to criticize a dress that a real person and fellow blog reader made. This is not Fashion 101 critique panel. Yesterday’s post was merely an example of something a reader made. I saw it as encouragement for others of us to share our creations with Erin. Some of the mean-spirited responses have now probably had the opposite effect. Who wants to go before the chopping block?I, too, have seen some awful stuff on other sites, by the way. I’ve seen readers praising monstrosities that may as well have been duct-tape and safety-pinned together. But if those people like it, that’s cool. It’s obviously not the site for me. And I’m not about to go tell the person how awful I think it is. I wouldn’t lie and tell them it’s great, either. I’d just move on to the next site. (And I’ve seen good duct tape and safety pin dresses, too. Technique makes all the difference). Mainly, you have to consider context when leaving a comment about something. If Erin posted a duct tape and safety pin thing that was at an art exhibit or in a retail window, we’d probably be free to say whatever mean stuff we wanted. The designer would a) be making the thing for profit (or art viewing) and therefore open to criticism due to the public nature of the endeavor and b) be far enough removed from this space that his/her feelings would not be part of the equation.

    Like

  40. Last year I sewed myself and my dog matching Halloween costumes. I get to work, and a well-meaning co-worker says, “Listen, I thought you should know that that skirt adds ten pounds to your hips.”It also makes me look like a DALMATIAN. Who CARES?This reminds me of the sublime, “Does this dress make me look crazy?” post. I love the Marsha dress, except I’d be arrested for perpetrating that much of my legs on the innocent world.

    Like

  41. Absolutely nothing relevant to add to the discussion, but I’ve just gotta say: that is the BIGGEST darn handbag I’ve ever seen. (White Jacket Lady, ignore Red Jacket Lady at your own risk… she’s armed…)

    Like

  42. It seems to me that Erin gives us a big clue for sorting what kind of responses are appropriate when she uses the category of ‘guest’ for Andrea’s contribution. Most of us know how to behave toward a guest, and how we like to be treated when we are guests.As far as the ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything,’ I feel that this is useful only in social situations, and other circumstances that are social by extension, like this blog when Erin has a guest. I was so brainwashed with this dogma by my mother, that I failed to speak up for and/or protect myself in some critical ways when I was younger and paid a rather high price. Another instance of the importance of words and their stated and implied meanings, a subtext of this blog. I much prefer the precaution of not saying everything one is thinking. A good friend talks about the times her mouth engages before her brain does!Love the dress and jacket in both views. Speaking of brainwashing, I am almost always surprised by real women in vintage dresses made from patterns I know, because of the distorted illustrations! Where is that waspish waist shown on the pattern envelope?? Never mind that I do know that waists are becoming a thing of the past in female anatomy… I have to laugh at myself.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s