What have we become as a society when a simple but genuine compliment regarding a person’s appearance evokes outrage among American citizens. Announcer Brent Musburger’s praise of Katherine Webb, Miss Alabama and girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, during ESPN’s coverage of the BCS National Championship Game last week was met with such controversy that ESPN felt it necessary to offer a public apology (by the way, this isn’t about loyalty to one team or another).
During the game, as the camera scanned to Ms. Webb, Musburger said, “You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman.” Even Ms. Webb admitted that the subsequent apology was unnecessary and that she was in no way offended by Musburger’s comments. Yet, in today’s ultra-sensitive, sexual discrimination-oriented society, even an innocuous statement can damage one’s reputation and sometimes lead to termination as a result of public outcry — no matter how innocent the motivation.
Don’t get me wrong — sexual discrimination exists and has no place in the workforce, the public arena or otherwise, but even then, the offensive conduct is revealed to the perpetrator, and he or she is provided an opportunity to correct that behavior. Society is not very forgiving when accusations of sexual discrimination are sensationalized in the media, however; and the “crime” at times doesn’t warrant the consequences.
A long time ago, I decided that I would consciously and deliberately give a compliment to at least one stranger every day. Sometimes it’s a simple, “If I ever own a restaurant, will you come work for me?” to a fantastic waitress, or “I so much appreciate you taking the time to help me,” to an extra-helpful store clerk, or “You set such a great example for the rest of us,” to a colleague. While it backfired on Musburger, “You are beautiful” goes a long way, too.
When I say those words to someone, as I often do, it isn’t always their outer beauty to which I am referring. One day my husband and I were at a restaurant. The little gal waiting on us was exceptionally pleasant and cheery; her physical beauty significantly paled in comparison to her inward beauty. When I told her what a beautiful gal she was, she literally appeared more beautiful. Though I was initially referring to her beautiful temperament, I’m guessing she didn’t often hear the words, “You’re beautiful,” and the simple gesture gave her an even spunkier jump to her step. For the remainder of our meal (and perhaps the remainder of that day), the smile never left her face, she raised her head a bit higher, and the confidence in her voice permeated the room.
Yes, inward beauty is what counts the most. But simple, authentic words of admiration can make someone’s day — heck, make their year! Listening to Musburger’s compliment of Ms. Webb, it is clear he truly appreciated the beauty she possesses and was well meaning — she is beautiful! It’s a shame that a simple and kind acknowledgement of someone’s appearance can become so skewed in today’s societal mindset. If in the end Musburger’s greatest crime during his life here on earth was to compliment a woman’s beauty, then he has lived an honorable and respectful life.
Lori Nunnink lives in Sacramento.