The other day I was sitting in the outdoor setting of a restaurant, and unexpectedly a girl wafts past with the back of her dress tucked in to her underpants. There she was, strutting about with a pal, unbeknown to her that she was exposing her knickers to the line of flabbergasted diners in the restaurants down the street. Obviously her friend didn’t notice, and it probably wouldn’t be until she discovered a full length mirror that she’d become acquainted with her dress ‘n’ underwear malfunction, although it was mainly just her polka dot undies on show. Even after she had moved way past my line of vision, I couldn’t stop fretting over whether I should’ve done her the favour of running up to her and conveying the situation to her, or inconspicuously brushing past her whilst pulling down the dress without managing to look remotely creepy, or to simply continue chewing on my dumplings and hoping she’ll realise sooner rather than later. And if I had the guts to tell her, what would I say? ‘Um hi, sorry but myself and everyone else is seeing a lot more cheek than you’d probably be comfortable with.’?
This led me to place myself in her shoes and ask: what would I want? If a stranger walked up to me and informed me of my accident, I would probably walk away quickly and feel positively humiliated. However if I discovered the surprise at the end of the day, I’d crawl into a hole and endlessly imagine random passer-by’s reactions and revel in my own painful ignorance, which is ultimately the more torturous solution.
What about the classic spinach in your teeth business? It’s naturally mortifying, but you would want someone to inform you of it so it saves you any future embarrassment. That also includes the lipstick on the teeth/food on chin/unknowingly flirting with your good friend’s ex scenario etc. And to be honest, I’d prefer that someone would have the directness to tell me, no matter how brutal.
So is it our unspoken duty to make a person aware of their prominently apparent physical mishap? And if we are describing something that makes a person appear worse or reasonably awkward looking, then doesn’t notifying them of their hideous clothing combination become automatically included? Or is it exempted because it was that person’s decision and would possibly hurt their feelings, no matter how eye-scorching the junners look was/will always be? There is no doubt that there are people out there who ain’t got a clue of how to dress, which is why stylists are so in demand. So within this theory of duty, it would be common courtesy to give a stranger a little piece of constructive criticism that will see them moving on to a much better place in the fashion world, right? Wrong, unfortunately. It is mildly offensive and inappropriate because it begins to cross the line, the line which is so faint that you have to ramble on and compare various scenarios in order to come up for a solution to a girl-behind-display situation.
I had my own situation when a random lady called me love and told me that my top button to my dress was undone. It was no mistake that it had been left undone, and I kind of mumbled a ‘right…thanks’ and turned away. If theoretically speaking it was part of the duty theory and she believed that it was a mistake or was causing offence to myself or others, (don’t be swayed, it was completely respectable looking) THAT was the line crossed, because a stranger shouldn’t automatically go around making assumptions. I’m sure that random lady was lovely and was only looking out for my wellbeing, but unless it is something that is undeniably necessary to communicate, it is none of your business.
That top button was undone for a reason, and maybe people think that panda eyes looks great on them and that junners are cool. But I don’t think that girl meant to display her knickers to the world. I hope everything went well for her.