You look tired too, you conniving snake
Someone told me I look tired today. I’m about to blow a fuse. What do I do?
—Sleep Deprived and Simmering
Dear Sleep Deprived,
I HATE PEOPLE LIKE THIS. You should be angry; your anger is totally valid. “You look tired” really means “You look worse than usual, and I can say this under the guise of concern.” This phrase might seem innocent to the person saying it, but to the person on the receiving end, it’s just one more bad thing on a normal or maybe subpar day.
If I “look tired,” it’s generally because I’m not wearing makeup, and my eyes match my posture—droopy. In my state of unkemptness and complete exhaustion, to have this exhaustion pointed out is just plain rude. It’s kicking a person when they’re down. I never hear this and think, “Aww, they’re so sweet, they really care about my well-being!” If you really cared about my well-being, you’d ask, “How was your day?” or “Everything OK?” or “You don’t look like yourself today, what’s up?” These are questions that implore me to share with you why I may or may not look like a drowned rat. They make me think you care about my well-being rather than just my appearance.
The only responses to a comment or a question like this are some well-chosen expletives, “I was about to say the same to you!” or terminating the relationship immediately. The best answer would probably be to explain your feelings respectfully and open the dialogue. This explanation is usually not received well, though—no one likes to be criticized! Suddenly, it’ll turn into a conversation concerning your hyper-sensitivity, and then you’ll find yourself trying to defend every decision you’ve ever made (or maybe that’s just me).
One strategy that’s been brought up to me is just to always look tired. If that’s your main look, no one can ever comment on it being out of the ordinary. If you never try, no one will ever have expectations for you. Never put on makeup, never shower, never sleep, never eat and simply look on the brink of death 24/7. Just kidding—please don’t do that. It is an interesting sentiment though. It’s kind of like when a person with naturally curly hair straightens their hair once a year and then everyone freaks out and doesn’t recognize them. (This happened to me once and I can’t tell if I liked it or not.) If you only try once or twice a month, then you being tired is never commented on, and you looking nice is always commented on.
Another strategy would be to just never look tired. Easy, right? I guess you could just always get plenty of sleep and never get sick. Or you could be one of those scary people who refuse to go out in public unless they look their best. It is a good sentiment, but it puts the blame on the victim of this insensitive comment. Maybe we should be teaching people to have tolerance for those of us who don’t look like we stepped off the set of “Riverdale” every day.
People who make this comment are usually inherently insecure. It’s a way for them to feel good about their own upstanding appearance that day. So maybe what you should do is compliment them. Give them that little bit of a boost, hype them up and they might emerge from their self-involved bubble to ask the real questions about the inner you, not the outer you.
I don’t want to alienate all of the people who have ever said this with no ill intent in mind. I could see someone saying this just out of surprise. If you have such high regard for someone, sometimes you don’t think of them as a person who could be tired, and it throws you off. Even though they’re saying, “You look tired,” they might really mean, “You’re a real human, too? Since when?” In this case, it’s best to just ignore it. You could be mad that the guise is gone and that the jig is up, but if anything, this person knows you a little better now. If they’re going to hold that against you, then you don’t really want them to know you then, do you?
Moral of the story: I’m so sorry this happened. You have every right to be angry. I hope things start getting better. You have my full permission (which means next to nothing) to terminate the relationship if you’re feeling feisty or to gas them up. There’s no wrong answer in this scenario besides taking this insensitive comment to heart. You look tired. Humans get tired. You’re human. Being tired is a symptom of being human. I simply ask that you’re proud of the reason that you look tired.