Wednesday, April 04, 2012

MEMO TO MEN: Double-edge compliments

MEMORANDUM
TO: Men all over the planet
FROM: Melissa
RE: Compliments! Yikes!
DATE: April 4, 2012
It should be quite obvious, shouldn't it, boys? A compliment is just that -- a compliment. Neat and obvious. Like a pretty little present in a nice little box tied up with a pretty pink bow. It makes you smile. It gives you those fluttering butterflies in your stomach. It let's you know that someone thinks you're cool enough for a glowing -- and equally cool -- compliment. We all love compliments. They boost our ego. They make us feel like, yes, we're doing something right in this world.

And yet..sometimes even the best of the best compliments can enter that murky, uncharted, confusing territory. Sometimes, instead of walking away smiling and feeling like you're on cloud nine, you walk away thinking, "Wait, what was that? Was that a compliment?" I know, I know, boys. I'm sure you don't mean to serve these compliments on a cutting-edged plate, but sometimes, they're just all too bittersweet. On the outside, it's sweet. But on the inside, once you peel away that sweet, delicious layer? You're left with a bitter after taste that you just can't seem to shake. Take these examples, for instance...
You're my best friend
This is fine if that's all you want to be -- best friends. But hearing those words when being best friends is the decidedly last thing you want to be can cut like a knife.

You remind me so much of my sister/mother
Remember how I was only a few credits shy of a psychology minor in college? Well, that background comes in handy for this back-handed compliment. Freud would have a field day with this one. Sure, maybe you love us like you do your mother or sister, but that leaves me, well, a bit creeped out.
I know it's not just you, boys. Women are guilty of this too. Maybe we're just not aware of what comes out of our mouth and how it's being received. In our minds, it could sound perfectly nice and logical, but the second it leaves our lips, it gets twisted and tangled before falling on the ears of its receiver.

So, what about when it's not so clear? What happens when the metaphorical compliment line has become so blurred that it's almost rendered invisible? What happens when a compliment just doesn't come off as sincere as the person intended it to be? Can you ever take an awkward situation like that and make it not-so-awkward? xoxo

[Photos via Le Love]

17 comments:

Stephanie said...

I totally love this post! It's so true...it should be easy to just say something nice, but then again I think people (women especially) read way too much into compliments sometimes. Maybe it makes men feel like they have to be veiled or stingy with with their words. Who knows. It's also really hard to accept a compliment sometimes. It should be as easy as paying someone a compliment and having them just say "Thank you."

Anonymous said...

Er, not sure how these qualify as back-handed compliments. Sorry. They may not be exactly what you want to hear, but there's a big difference between 'you're my best friend' from a guy you secretly wish was your boyfriend, and something like 'Your style is so..interesting. I admire how you don't care what other people think.' The examples you gave may be bittersweet if you are unhappy with the current situation, but they aren't candy-coated insults delivered with a smile.

April said...

gotta agree with anonymous. trust me, guys really, really do not give compliments like that with hidden intentions and meaning to say something else. guys really put as much thought into it as girls do, and what they say is literally what they are thinking in this situation. one thing i've learned is there is no reason to analyze what guys say because it really is as simple as it sounds on paper as to what they mean.

Anonymous said...

Probably the worst one I got was from a guy I liked who told me he didn't want me to be his girlfriend but not to feel too bad because I was his "runner-up". Ugh! On a postive note, we laughed about it years later. We were both pretty dumb at that age.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anonymous. The statements you posted were not back-handed compliments. They may have hurt your feelings, but they aren't back-handed. It's mostly women that back-handed compliment. Men can be snarky, but it's not usually their nature. Some women use the words "different" or "unique" as insults.

HayleyKiah @Classy In KC said...

I guess for myself I just point out the fact that I'm not sure if it was actually a compliment or not. I feel like just speaking your mind is usually the best route to take!

Sweet Posy Dreams said...

When I got accepted to grad school at U of Chicago, someone said, "I didn't know you were that smart." Um, thanks?

Bowerbird said...

"You're so skinny, you look just like a model!" (turns to other girl and says loudly) "Models are so gross."

Of course, that was middle school. The girls who pulled this kind of thing either grew out of it, or got a lot better at it (ie more subtle). The truly skilled can insult you in the midst of a crowd without anyone else noticing the barb (until they're the ones being targeted), and therefore without damaging her reputation as a 'nice girl'- this does double damage, since it simultaneously hurts and isolates you; makes it appear that you're picking a fight for no reason if you just try to hit back. This kind of sneaky nastiness seems pretty unique to girls/women, maybe because men don't have nearly as much societal pressure to be (or appear to be) 'sweet.'

Lena at A Crimson Kiss said...

Oh, the backhanded compliment–isn't it the very best? I really loved, "You remind me of my mom!"

iaca ramos said...

Big check on those things mel. LOL. Maybe that is why they view us, women, as the hardest creatures to understand but the sweetest one could ever get. ^_^ <3

Anonymous said...

Those "compliments" are sometimes little hints that you are trying to drift over into bf/gf territory. We don't want to be mean and outright tell you that we will never see you as anyone more than a cool person to hang with. Imagine how we feel when you can't or won't pick up on the signals we are desperately sending. It's awkward to tell you that you are too --insert negative quality here-- to date us.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with some of the others; I think that the examples you gave aren't necessarily backhanded compliments. It all depends on the way YOU interpret them. I've had many guy friends tell me the same thing and I've never taken it for anything but what it was -- a nice way of saying "You're special to me." If you have feelings for the other person, hearing that you are like a sister or best friend would be disappointing, but only because it wasn't what you wanted to hear. Why not just enjoy the company of men and get comfortable hanging out with them without any expectations except to have a good time and see where it goes? You have the power to decide how you want to react to the things that people say to you. You can't stop men from speaking their minds and saying what they think, but you can control how you react to what they say. You have more power than you know.

Anonymous said...

It's not that they aren't genuine compliments, it's that you were hoping for different ones. Big, big difference. Please, for the sake of all that's good and holy, stop trying to script people! They operate independently of your wishes, and when they say or do nice things for you, please try to appreciate it instead of blaming them for it not being exactly what you wanted (and didn't ask for).

Anonymous said...

To say to someone....."I love you like my mom and/or sister" is not "creepy". I think what it really means is the guy is trying to tell you (nicely!) that he's just not that into you as girlfriend material and probably never will be. If someone says these words to you (and HAVE they, by the way??), just smile politely and write him off. I agree, it's probably not the words that you want to hear, but it IS a polite way of somone telling you............"naaah, not gonna happen!!!"

Melissa Blake said...

Second Anon -- runner-up? How mean!!

Melissa Blake said...

Sweet posy, i hope you didn't take that statement too seriously!

Melissa Blake said...

Last Anon -- true, that is probably a polite way of letting someone down easy...

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