“I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”
– Erica Cook
A woman stepped in front of me on the narrow stairs exiting the subway. I was so close to her hair that I could practically taste it. I let the sharp edges of my bag hit her khaki pants so she could physically feel my annoyance. I didn’t know a thing about this woman, but I hated her.
This was normal. Living in NYC, getting cut off by someone or stuck behind someone walking too slow or just being too close to strangers all of the time, had made me angry and made people I didn’t know my arch nemesis. I’d become not-kind about strangers, especially women, and I’d started doing things like criticizing their outfits in my mind and just thinking mean thoughts.
But, then, during my umpteenth viewing of “Legally Blonde” the other day, I noticed something I never really caught before. Elle Woods was a phenomenal person. We all know how she defended her stuttering classmate while he was being rejected by two mean girls and how she went out of her way to get her manicurist’s dog back from her hillbilly ex, but you need to really pay attention next time to see how nice she really is. The moment hit me when she had Chutney on the stand. Elle had the epiphany that Chutney was actually the murderer of her billionaire father and was lying to the whole courtroom, but she still found a moment to genuinely compliment her:
Elle: You know, a girl in my sorority, Tracy Marcinko, got a perm once. Even though we all told her not to … curls really weren’t the right look for her—she didn’t have your bone structure.
Watching Elle do this small thing really made me want to be a phenomenal person.
So that was it, my resolution was set: Instead of looking a girl up and down with a stink face, I would hone in on what I liked. Turns out, women are all gorgeous! Wrinkles, dimples, earrings, shoes … everyone had her own style and everyone rocked it. I now sit on the subway and admire hairstyles/outfits instead of finding ways to mock them. I support other women.
It seemed like I was finally channeling my inner Gloria Steinem. But instead of being a bra-burning protester, I found my own way to be a feminist. (If you’re not sure if you’re a feminist, I suggest you read this.)
I took it further by applying my new found mantra to a co-worker— one I knew said nasty things about me behind my back. It had been months since the last report I received of her gossip and, over time, her fake smiles faded into pretty genuine ones. One day, I took an opportunity to actually open my mouth and speak to her– instead of forcing my lips to pull into a struggling grin– to compliment her great outfit. Her eyes lit up, and she laugehd. That was it. Instead of being enemies, she was now a friend, an ally even. It never rang more true than that moment: We’re all on the same team. And we all need to start acting like it.
I want to vow, with you readers as my witness, to always channel my inner Elle Woods. I will try to see the good in people and give second chances (not third chances though, I may be changing, but I’m no Mother Theresa). It’s never too late to be good or kind.
Now, go out there and compliment someone’s outfit! It will make their day!