I’ve had some problems with accepting compliments lately. In fairness, the problems have really been with the compliments themselves, in two separate but equally awful forms. Addressing each individually, we have the “offensive sincere compliments” filing to the back of the bus, while the front seats are reserved for the “gracious insult compliments.” From back to front:
I am cold after finishing a running event one evening here in the miserable February elements. By “cold,” I mean my snot has frozen to my face in an elaborate spiderweb, and the mudsicles that are my socks have rendered my toes completely vestigial. I’m not the only one, and in fact, I’m lucky: as a generously-padded woman, I’ve got whale-science on my side; at least I’m not the scrawny marathoner who shivers next to me. Now, by “running event,” some of you know I mean that drinking-club-with-a-running-problem that I spend an inordinate amount of my time with, so like virtually everyone else, FreezerPop is at least pleasantly sauced, if not half in the bag, as he approaches 6.0 on the Richter scale before my very eyes. Before his lips actually turn violet, I cozy on over and try to spark up some body heat to stop the seizing. We’re friendly, so this isn’t any sort of momentously relationship-altering event, although we haven’t seen each other in probably 6 months. He immediately folds his Popsicle-stick arms around my waist, with minimal improvement in his overall shake intensity. I suggest that his hands might be warmer down my drawers (I’m subtle like that, right?), and he promptly wraps the frigid flappers around my bare heiney.
At which point he says, first, completely appropriately: “Ohmygod, you are so warm. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.” ….. so far so good. And then:
“Wow…I like your ass way more now that there’s so much more of it.”
I’m sure he felt my burning ass cheeks clench mightily as I struggled to make some sound emerge from my choking throat. I couldn’t quite muster “thanks” — ultimately I aspired to merely “giggle,” which wound up “asphyxiating gurgle,” but happily, he didn’t seem to notice any awkwardness.
Now, I legitimately, wholeheartedly, dance-on-grammy’s-grave believe that FreezerPop meant that as an unreserved compliment, with no ill judgment influenced by society’s immense pressure that thin = pretty, fat = lazy and undisciplined, and noticeable -and-impressive-weight-gain-over-six-months = serious unresolved emotional problems. I know, in my Spock brain, that FreezerPop is of the Sir Mixx-a-Lot school of lady-appreciation, and was merely expressing the actual and sincere appreciation of his man-brain (by which I mean his penis) for my newly-generous posterior. I understand this, and I want to accept the remark for what it is: a sincerely-meant compliment that is offensive through really no fault of his own, although it displays a marked obliviousness to the cultural standards, pressures, and norms of the society we inhabit. I want to be cool. I tell myself to be cool.
But I leave within minutes and cry all the way home. And after. For a long time. And almost now, while I’m thinking about it.
About 20 years ago my great-grandmother turned 80, and we all trucked down to Florida to spend some precious time with her (she ultimately lived to be 94 – we were a little premature on the “crap! we’d better celebrate this one big because it might be her last!” birthday planning, but we couldn’t have know that then). We sat around chatting with the TV in the background, which she happened to notice was tuned to “Ellen,” and interjected into the conversation, apropos of nothing: “I am just so glad these queers are getting the respect they deserve.”
My grandmother meant well. Her heart was pure and her intentions were oriented correctly (pun totally intended), but the way she expressed her support was less-than-kind at best, downright offensive at worst. In the same way, I know that FreezerPop’s exclamation was a genuine outburst of appreciation of my ampler-than-remembered assets. But I’m not proud of my ass-enlargement; it wasn’t really something I drew into the life blueprints, and his acknowledgment of this tangible sign that I can’t control even the expansion of my own territory was too much for my ego to accept at face value as the compliment it was. But I am trying to do so, because it’s not his bullshit damage that made it hurtful — it’s all my own.
In stark opposition to the front-of-the-bus riders: the “gracious insult compliments.” Settling into a diner counter today to have a coffee and read the paper (I may live in Portland, but I hail from the midwest, and a DINER is the place to do that), the gent on the barstool next to me and the amply-proportioned waitress are still chuckling about the feller who told her that “for a big girl, she had such tiny feet!” and seemed to expect that would be a successful pickup line (or at least be taken as a compliment).
Which reminded me of the insult-compliment that’s been slow-burning for days: this weekend I had someone repeatedly — REPEATEDLY — tell me how attractive my friends were. (“Dude! You have the hottest friends! I mean seriously! Your friends are the two most attractive women here! OMG!I can’t believe you have such hot friends!” …repeat ad nauseum.) **Note for the peanut gallery that both friends are 5’2″ and 115# soaking wet; extremely useful for if you have to carry them home because they’ve been struck by lightening or dropsy, but about as different from “what I look like” as aesthetically possible.
Anyone want to help him with why this “compliment” is really an insult? And this part isn’t my damage. This one is just bad manners, and it’s not kind. I’m going to go take my fat ass elsewhere to get complimented for real by a whole bunch of idiot wankers whose hearts are in the right places, even if their tongues aren’t keeping up the bargain.