I'm going to tell you something good about yourself.

My ex-Kawaii-Girl turned me into a Camera Obscura fan about a year and a half ago. I have a distinct memory of sitting in her grandparents house about six months later on a gray morning listening to their work over an Apple laptop of some kind. It was haunting and graceful and beautiful and sad. Come to think of it, the previous sentence could have described that memory, the weather, the music, and my mood. But in a lot of ways it was a good thing.

In any case, this is post is only marginally related to my addiction to beautiful emo-girl music.

In particular, it's about a quote, and a concept.

I went for a walk today, killing time between lunch ("Welcome to Moe's!") and work (Fat Tuesday was good for us. I broke my previous most-tips-in-a-single-shift record). As I walked around the lake and looked at the geese, and thought about my life and experiences, I came to an absurd conclusion. Absurd only because it is so obvious and natural but so rarely made an intentional part of our lives, or at least so rarely spoken of in these terms.

Relationships are 4 directional.

Allow me to explain. In any conversation with a person with whom you are close, you tell them things about yourself. And that person will tell you things about herself (gender chosen arbitrarily).

Thus: two primary directions, and sources.

In addition, when you are in a healthy relationship, there are times when you will be able to tell someone else something about herself.

"Let me tell you a little about myself. Let me also tell you something about you."

I'm not just talking about the usual things people tell each other, like Girls that constantly insist that they are ugly which causes their boyfriends to constantly tell them they aren't. I'm talking about deeper, more important things.

Things like being told "I've always loved spending time with you, because I knew that if I really needed you for something, I could depend on you to help me." Or "I've always loved the way you laugh, because it lights up a room and makes the air seem clearer." Or "You've always had a way with telling people to reconsider their choices that I never learned. Teach me." Or "You're too abrasive. Sometimes you insist on being right too much and it's going to cost you a friendship one day."

These are the healthy parts of a relationship that allow people to learn things about themselves that they couldn't learn alone.

In the Camera Obscura (remember the introduction?) song "Eighties Fan", the entire line is

I'm gonna tell you something good about yourself/ I'll say it now and I'll never say it about no one else/.

Well, it's an interesting sentiment. We all know that some sayings lose meaning the more times we say them, and some just become outright lies. So the idea that something good can be said about someone is so important that it can be reserved for them alone, as a message they need to hear so badly that you're willing to never repeat it about any other person on earth is a powerful and valuable statement about friendship, isn't it?

So here's my fortune-cookie-style advice for today: Tell someone you love something about themselves. Maybe it's good. Maybe it's bad.

Maybe it's a teacher that you've always admired. Tell them you like the fact that they make the tests hard, because it makes it worth trying. Tell your lover that when they smile, it makes you want to stop time. Tell your family that you miss them, because when they are around, the wonderful chaos they create is comforting and pleasant, even if at times it is hair-raising and frustrating.

Tell someone something about themselves. Say it now, and never say it about anyone else.

Update - 5:27 AM: Today's thing that someone I'm not close to should hear about herself:

To Tequila Mockingbird: You are the first and only writer who has ever, via the quality of her writing, kept me reading despite the fact that you do not capitalize your Is.

I find the practice so deplorable that I will abandon weblogs, ignore friends, and refuse to reply to e-mails in order to avoid encountering 'i' all by itself on a page. Yet your writing is so strong, so graceful, so vulnerable and so inviting that I do not mind or even notice that you don't capilize the first person singular pronoun.

Congratulations. This is far greater an accomplishment than you might realize. I don't expect you to be overwhelmed (in fact, I don't expect you to ever find this comment), but please understand that it is a far greater compliment than any other I could think of to pay to any writer in the virtual space that blogs inhabit.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


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