“You Look Tired.”

posted in: Tips 20
This image is attempting to communicate "etiquette." Photo of "Catherine's Castle" via Wikipedia.
This image is attempting to communicate “etiquette.” Photo of “Catherine’s Palace” via Wikipedia.


I’ve been dashing around taking selfies, praising Colleens and celebrating art and beauty and quilts, but I thought it would be good to remind everyone that I can be grumpy. I don’t get publicly grumpy very often because a lot of the time it turns out I was wrong about the thing I was super self-righteous and grumpy about and that’s unbecoming. Besides, I tend to change my mind a fair amount, so it’s just confusing for everyone if I’m tutting or squawking and then cooing five seconds later.

But, from time to time I fail in my zip-lip approach and air a grievance. Remember how I said no one should ever ask anyone: “Aren’t you hot in that??” This is like that.

It hasn’t happened recently, so no one who knows me or who has met me in the past week or month needs to worry that this is a super passive-aggressive way to talk to you about how you made me feel bad. No, no one has said to me in many months:

“Hi, Mary! You look tired.”


This statement is problematic. I gently suggest that you refrain from using it in the future. Here’s why.

Ideally, when I’m tired, I’m in my fluffy bed, reading something amazing or perhaps writing in my journal. If you see me looking tired outside of my ideal “I’m tired” environment — mere moments from sweet sleep — it means that conditions for me at this particular moment in my life are suboptimal. Let’s not bring it up.

Then, what does it mean to look tired? I think the three words, “You look tired,” are really communicating four: “You look like crap.”

Tired people do not look their best. No one disputes this. No one meets the love of their life and says, “When I met you…you looked so tired. I knew in that moment I’d be with you for the rest of my life.”

When I’m tired I have have circles under my eyes. This is partially due to low baseline iron levels, but when I’m super tired it’s more noticeable. When I’m tired I squint and am dehydrated, probably — another normal state for me that gets worse when I have been traveling and studying and reading and writing and having stress. Saying, “You look tired” to me means I do not look well. I would only say, “You do not look well” to someone I thought was physically impaired or ailing in the extreme. In that case, those words would actually mean, “You look like you need the ER.”

Is there any good time to say “Mary, you look tired”? I’m not convinced there is.

Say you are in bed with a heavy-lidded me and see me there reading happily in my favorite pajamas, snug in my bed (lucky you!) Saying, “You look tired” would be like saying, “It’s nighttime,” or “We are in bed,” or “We will sleep soon.” I would look up from my book, look at you and say, “Yeah, what’s your point?” It would behoove you to say something else instead, like, “Mary, you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” or “I can’t keep a secret: I bought you jewels today and they’re under the bed,” or “You’re the queen of America. It’s headline news. Look: my iPad.”

I know some of you are saying, “But I say that out of concern!” and that is true because you are all good people. (Yes, all of you, so you’d better be acting like it.) After stating my case, I think it’s better to chat with the tired person first and then, once a rapport has been established, say something like, “Hey, how are you? Things going okay?”

I promise: The tired person will jump at the chance to say, “I’m okay. I’m just tired.”