An Open Letter To People Who Say ‘You Look Tired’


Once a week, a stranger looks at me and gasps, “WOW—you look tired.”  

These people—doormen for buildings where I don’t live, women in dressing rooms, elderly in elevators, deli workers, tourists with maps in the middle of the sidewalk, men selling spa day vouchers, etc. I’d like to explain the impact they’ve made.

To all approximately 1,144 strangers, one of ten poignant responses surely covers you:

1. While I may look like a ghost, I’m obviously not Casper, and I’m not wearing a sheet over my head, so there’s no need for jaw-dropping alarm.

2. I look tired… as opposed to all of the other times you’ve seen me (never mind you just met me) and I looked refreshed and well-rested?

3. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt; you are just being friendly. A little tip: telling someone it looks like they may fall over and die in the near future really doesn’t lift their spirits. OR (a second benefit of the doubt) you are giving a term of endearment, but you missed the 21st century class on social norms (because you overslept, naturally). I’m sorry, but all I can say is, “Well somebody just woke up from a long winter’s nap,” and that pretty much separates us instead of endearing us…

4. What do you want me to say—“YES I’m so tired” followed by a long, long, long sob story as to why? That’s out-of-the-small-talk-left-field. Even my mother taught me to keep quiet and say, “I’m fine” (even when I’m clearly not fine). OR If I actually am not tired and slept all morning* would you like me tell the truth? You’ll look stupid, and I have manners.

*To the woman who said it to me on President’s Day, this one is for you. Nobody works tirelessly on President’s Day in Manhattan.

5. In The Women, Candace Bergden looks tired for 112 minutes. Finally, she gets Botox. She says, “I just spent thousands of dollars to look well rested—-of course it hurts.” So I guess my only option is (1) emptying my bank account, (2) bracing myself for pain and (3) getting a facelift.  

But I don’t think there’s anything to lift at age 22…

6. To the young men who point out my fatigue: are you assuming that an opener like that will lead to my saying, “Actually I’m headed for my bed right now; want to join?” And even if I said that, wouldn’t we be talking about legitimately sleeping together instead of sex? Interesting.

7. The next thing you often say is, “WHY are you so tired.” It’s as if you believe I voluntarily didn’t sleep. I voluntarily packed my schedule so tight that there was no time to (A) sleep, (B) watch Netflix, or (C) go buy ointment for the baggies under my eyes. And that implies that I’m not only tired but also irresponsible. Thanks.

8. We all know the truth. It’s not that I’m tired; it’s just that I’m not wearing any makeup, and that makes you uncomfortable. Glad we had this talk.

9. Nancy Meyers really hit the nail on the head in her screenplay, The Holiday:

“Severe stress makes women age prematurely because stress causes the DNA in our cells to shrink until they can no longer replicate. So when we’re stressed we look haggard. This is just women not men… And remember when they used to say that single women over the age of 35 were more likely to get killed by a terrorist than to get married? Okay, that was horrible but now our generation is also not getting married and, bonus, real terrorists actually became part of our lives. So the stress of it all shows up on our faces making us look haggard!”

10. Little girls, start wearing anti-wrinkle cream now. Moms, if you have a three-year-old daughter, go out and buy her a lifetime supply of Olay. ‘Cause you’re looking haggard and we never know when you’ll drop off, and even your toddlers need to be prepared (or at least look like it).