Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back-handed compliments

I can’t get over how good you look.
You’re
so lucky.
If I ate like you…I’d look like a house.

You don’t look happy in that.

That sweater is…interesting.

I just think it’s a little young for you.
It’s a hat, all right.

You’re more of a “street smart” kind of guy.

You’re not the kind of girl guys date; you’re the kind of girl they marry.

You're so evolved…for a man.
You’re so real.


As a perfectly bred broad, let me be perfectly clear.

The back-handed compliment really should be called a back-handed cutdown because there’s absolutely nothing complimentary about these sort of comments. Worse than actual criticism, they drip with condescension, as though I am too thick to pick up on what you’re really saying. Oh, I get it. And it sucks. You suck.

Spit it out and say what you mean, or keep your rude trap shut. If this dress makes my skin look like a rotten cantaloupe, I’d sorta like to know. If you think I said something inane, keep it to yourself. With loads of etiquette options in front of you, don’t secretly delight in choosing the road less mannered. Don’t rationalize away the passive-aggressive comment by believing you’re refraining from saying what you really think. Instead of demonstrating tact, you’re just putting the ass in class.

And in case that was unclear in any way, that’s not a compliment.

What less-than-kind "compliment" sticks in your craw?

(photo: puntabulous.com)

29 comments:

cathie filian said...

agree!

mduette said...

I think my favorite one is my mother's default backhand: "Oh. You're wearing THAT? Well, it's not something *I'd* wear but I guess *you* can get away with it."

Meaning WHAT, exactly? I'm so fugly nothing matters either way? Nothing can be improved upon OR worsened here? See, the 'not something *I'd* wear' part eliminates me being able to say "Yes, it IS a little young for you, Mom" to the second part. She's a genius.

In other news, 'your ass in class' line is my favorite this time. :)

Pixie said...

My MIL and FIL don't like what I cook, so rather than just say that, or just don't say anything, my MIL says (without me asking if they liked it) 'Oh, the sweets you made were nice. The fudge was a bit sickly, but I liked that other one. Don't get me wrong, they were good, but I liked the peanutty one the best'.

this is something I have heard over and over again...they like it, but...blah, blah, blah. So, I just don't cook or bake ofr them anymore. Easy fix.

Pixie said...

My MIL and FIL don't like what I cook, so rather than just say that, or just don't say anything, my MIL says (without me asking if they liked it) 'Oh, the sweets you made were nice. The fudge was a bit sickly, but I liked that other one. Don't get me wrong, they were good, but I liked the peanutty one the best'.

this is something I have heard over and over again...they like it, but...blah, blah, blah. So, I just don't cook or bake ofr them anymore. Easy fix.

Kevin said...

So true. Just read an excellent article in this month's Esquire, by one of my favorite writers, Tom Chiarella. In "The Perfect Compliment", he summed it up perfectly:

"I learned that a compliment is a partnership, because the pleasure of giving it lies in its effect upon the person receiving it."

Unfortunately, the article isn't available online yet, so I can't share a link, but it's worth picking up this issue just to read it.

Artistic Accents by Darla said...

I totally agree!!

Sayschnicklefritz said...

"You got your hair cut! It looks so much better!"

How about a simple "Your hair looks great"? No need to tell me I'd been walking around looking like shit before, especially since I'm pretty sure you won't be winning any Wella Balsam contests anytime soon.

Julie said...

How about "you got your hair cut". Period. No "it looks nice" or "OMG, why did you do that". I know I got my hair cut. I was there, dumbass.

WhatTheWhatsit said...

How about, "You look really great today! Did you put makeup on?" or "I'm not saying you look fat, I'm just saying that you're a SOLID-looking woman."

Ugh. Why don't you just slap me and stick a fork in my eye, you wank.

scott said...

DAD: "That's the first smart thing you ever said!" Nice.

Chris said...

'You have a pretty face!'

Here's what all these comments are about: control. People have some kind of idea that they can control your behavior or your emotions or your attitude by blabbing their every fucking thought. They want to show THEY have the judgment that counts! For some reason, they think we give a crap what they feel about something!

In other news, I certainly don't look as ancient as I am. I mean, I just heard that about TWELVE TIMES yesterday.

bastads

priti.lisa said...

As an artist, the worst thing to hear is "That's so cute...I could make that"
Firstly, My Art is not cute, It is my SOUL, you ape!

Secondly, Maybe you could "make that"
BUT YOU WON"T! Because it takes time, materials and, TALENT! And it looks like you spend all of your time oohing and aahing and saying things that aren't true. Your talent is crushing people you of whom, you are jealous!

Thirdly and lastly, Buy or Die. It's just a motto...LOL!

Darcey Howard said...

I don't know if you all know just how famous I really am - My Mother-In-Law actually INVENTED the back handed compliment. Yep! it's true, i am the proud daughter-in-law of the most manipulative but clever woman on the face of the planet (go ahead look it up in Websters - there's a picture of her next to this topic).

When my husband and I told her that we got engaged all she said to me was: "Well its up to the woman to GET her man".

Harvin said...

I live in the South where we slyly cover back-handed compliments with "Bless his/her heart!" Such as, "Bless his heart, he's so short, no girl would want to date him" or "your baby has the biggest nose I've ever seen, bless her heart!" I recently had a conversation about this trickery with some out-of-region coworkers. You can speak all the trash you want, just pepper it with some "bless yer hearts!"

Nicholas Crawford said...

I'd have to add what I heard today:

That's pretty complicated - I'm surprised you figured it out.

Karnak said...

I get the “If I ate like you…I’d look like a house” one a lot. I feel like I have to apologize for being skinny. Then, they usually say something about how my metabolism is going to change after I have children because apparently my reproduction is okay for public discussion too.

S said...

How about "friends" who say things like "I wouldn't date him but I think you should." Like, he's not good enough for you, but for me, he'll do?

nata_says_so said...

As a writer, I get the occasional person who says, "writing a book would be easy, because you can write whatever you want, because it's your story!"

...Really? Give it a try. Write your big-mouthed heart out. Just let me know how many people actually read it or think it is any good. Because if no one but you reads it, it isn't a book that you've written, it's just a diary of the scary world inside your head.

Jennifer Worick said...

nata_says_so: This irks me too! When I tell people I'm an author, I often get, "Are you published?" I'm like, "Uh, yeah. That's what that means." I know someone who put author on their e-mail signature even though they hadn't written the whole book and their proposal hadn't sold. DISLIKE. I'm not going to put "doctor" on my business card just because I self-diagnosed successfully. Fuck you. I'm a professional, went to school for this, and support myself with my PUBLISHED writing.

littlepoly2 said...

Worst backhanded compliment after losing weight...

"Wow you look really good, you are actually really pretty"

viagra online said...

I think everyone wants to look well, that is why it is vital to know how to dress properly! I love wearing black because I mark my facial traits, and I look thinner

Anonymous said...

If my step daughter says to you My Dad could of done alot worse than you. How should I take that?

Ruthy said...

My boyfriends mother's like this. I have usually always watched my weight and ate healthy and exercised apart from a couple of times in my life. About a year ago I started exercising and eating helathy again. I wasn't huge but because I'm short even a few pounds shows up more. Luckily, we don't get to see his mother often as she lives 200 miles away and only visits her familly a few times a year. Anyway, she came down recently and said to me with jaw on the floor like the OMG cat "I can't believe how much weight you've lost." I replied "I wasn't fat before." Then a little while after she was talking to my bf and said it again "oh your face looks really beautiful now that you lost all that weight."

Anonymous said...

"My, that was a delicious meal--I must have you cook for one of my parties sometime."

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Anonymous said...

I was telling my boyfriend that I believed that I had no complications at the end of my pregnancy because I was in shape. He snickered and added "you weren't in shape. Being in shape means jogging and doing something. You're just naturally fit". I asked if "fit" and "in shape" we're synonyms. He said "yeah I guess so, but you've never been in shape throught out your pregnancy". So I rephrased my statement saying "I believe that I had no complications at the end of my pregnancy because I am naturally fit". To which he replied "sure". It made me realize that he's jealous of me: I AM naturally fit! And he can't cut me down!

Anonymous said...

My ex Boyfriend told me that the reason he was going out with me was because he wasn't one to date attractive, pretty or beautiful girls. I was expected to be please and grateful that he was interested in going out with me. I terminated the relationship soon after.

Having said that though I have also delivered the backhanded comment. One recently was: "But he is only a little kid!" about a 17 year old guy in my class who was late with an assignment. I am 40 but as soon as the comment came out I thought, oops, I wish I hadn't of said that.

明忠 said...

I hate "You're a lucky man". It implies that you are undeserving of what you have and don't have the talent, diligence or ability to get it.