Some descriptions are best done by comparison. When my mom was young, people often commented on how much she looked like Ingrid Bergman; and she did! And in the song a girl is compared to both Bette Davis as well as Greta Garbo:
She got Greta Garbo stand off sighsIt can only mean one thing, placed in that context; the girl is downright beautiful!
She's got Bette Davis eyes
When we compare people to other people, it is all about context.
If the person we are compared to has grace, is smart, funny, and has Bette Davis eyes ~ the comparison is meant to be a good thing. However, if the person we are compared to is loud, abrasive, well dressed and rich; things are not as clear-cut as the comparison may mean we are (too) loud, (too) abrasive. But it can also mean we are well dressed and generous, often depending on the conversation, opinion, or on how well liked the person we are compared to is.
This is even more true when we are compared to acquaintances or friends, than when we are compared to public figures. No matter which public figure we pick, each of them has something others may appreciate; something others would hope they could achieve. Whether it is a skill, an income, the house, the ability to move in circles most of us can only dream about…
Yet when we are compared to friends or acquaintances, suddenly it is more about how well we like that other person, rather than the perks and prices the other person possesses.
And just like that we have moved from innocent comparison into gossip and veiled insults.
First talking about someone behind their back, and then comparing someone to them hardly ever brings anything good into being…
But then, even innocent comparison has its drawbacks. As soon as we compare any person to someone else, whether we compare the person to a celebrity or to a peer, we stop seeing that person as the unique individual he or she truly is. We start thinking about that person as ‘dressed like …’, or ‘sounds like …’, or ‘can sing like …’ without appreciating the person ‘as is’.
And when less sought after qualities enter into the comparison, not only do we distract from who the person really is, but often we add just a tinge of insult into the mix.
So I, for one, am very careful not to compare people to other people.
Unless, that is, she’s got Bette Davis eyes!