You Are Very Beautiful

What the hell IS it with this compliment? Or conversation filler? Or… what? I don’t get it, but it seems to be an eastern hemisphere thing. I am routinely made extremely uncomfortable by people saying this to me at completely wacky times. I present the evidence:

Russia. Disembarking from the train, I was greeted by Nadya, who you all remember as my Couch Surfing hostess. We made quick small talk and then she said: “You are very beautiful.” Now, I love a compliment as much as anyone, but I KNOW I wasn’t very beautiful in that moment. I was famished, dirty, disoriented and wearing hiking pants. I fumbled over a response that sounded something like “oh, wow, ha, well, I really love your coat, I think houndstooth is such a fun print, and I find Russia women on the whole very stunning, you too, Nadya, is it?”

Mongolia. Again, getting off a train. Kongorzul (Zula) and her aunt Ema greeted me. After we dealt with monosyllabic English pleasantries, we got in the car. I threw my pack in the backseat and let out a heavy sigh. The girls were chattering in Mongolian in the front seat. Zula turned and looked at me. “You must be tired. And my aunt says you are very beautiful.” Again, no good response came to me and I said something ridiculously over-effusive like “NO! YOU ladies are SO beautiful! BEAUTIFUL! YOU! Both of you! She could be your sister, she’s so youthful! And you, whose name I still don’t know, you’re a fresh-faced belle!”

China. Today, on the awful bus ride you’ll read about in my next post, I was suffering silently under the weight of my backpack on an insanely crowded bus, trying not to over-torque my elbow on the hairpin turns, when my gracious companion struck up a conversation with the women sitting on the bus. They were talking about me, clearly, and so I began with the cartoonish smiles and over-eager friendly looks. The girl, whose name I can’t remember, turned to me. “They say you are very brave to travel alone.” I was ready for this one: “No! I’m very crazy!” I said, making cross-eyed crazy face expressions. “Crazy to travel alone!” The girl translated and turned back to me. “She says you’re very beautiful.” And the best response I could muster was an enormous eye-roll and a muttered “now THAT’s crazy.”

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2 responses to “You Are Very Beautiful

  1. It could be that they expected you to look like Paris Hilton, and they’re very grateful that you don’t.

  2. Christine Waller

    Beautiful post – oh sorry, I’m being one of them. Miss you AM!

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