Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back-handed compliments:Thank you or F**k you?

Not too long ago, I was attending an event with a friend. We ran into a past classmate there. As we exchanged greetings, the classmate remarked on our current looks. I remembering thanking God that I actually decided to put some effort into my appearance that day. "Girl you look great!", she said to me, "Who knew you could be so cute?". Blank stare. Who knew I could be so cute? How in the heck was I supposed to respond to that? With a Thank you or F&%k you?I mean, was that a compliment or a diss? If I looked good or "cute" as she put it, she should have kept her comment to just that. Instead, she wrapped her words in an insult known commonly as the Back-Handed Compliment. Adding the "Who knew?" was just unnecesary.

And maybe she wasn't trying to be rude or insulting. Let's face it: many of us have put our foot in our mouths plenty of times. Many years ago, I recall having a conversation about how I just had to lose the 10 lbs. I had gained over the Summer. The friend (I hope she doesn't call me out if she reads this) asked, "You look fine, how much do you weigh?"

I replied, "I weigh about 130lbs!" I exclaimed"I'm so FAT!"

She squinted her eys at me and replied, "That's how much I weigh"

Scrambling, I quickly replied, " Yeah, but you look good with the extra weight." YIKES!!! It took a LONG time for her to let that one go. But again, I was in no way trying to be insulting and she knew that. Unfortunately there are people who intentionally give insults wrapped in a would-be compliment.No one's a stranger to back-handed compliments or passive-aggresive insults as they are called in pysychology.

Anyway, the rude girl I ran into comments that day got me to thinking about where these unnecesary comments come from and why. This what I've come up with:

1) Simply put: They hatin' on you. Okay, I dislike the term 'haters' mainly because most people do not have haters, they are simply disliked and for good reason (yep, check yourself first before you declare haterism people). But in the case of the back-handed compliment, if only for that moment, it's quite true. If a person cannot accept the fact that you either handled a job well, performed above measure or simply looked exceptionally well without reproach, it is what it is.

2)They want to put you in your "place", i.e., "I'm still better than you". So imagine that whenever you walk into a room people constantly compliment you for work achieved or perceived everyday. All of a sudden, one day or several days in a row, someone comes along and takes away your shine. It's a little disturbing, is it not? Well, that's what happens when certain persons put their confidence and attractiveness in other people's hands other than their own, their so-called confidence is easily shaken resulting in a not-so-nice comment towards you that is determined to shake your confidence as you did theirs.

3.) Maybe we're genetically inclined. Africa has a long history of checking people in a different way than we do in the Western hemisphere. For instance, it is expected that when attending an urban event or party that people will not arrive on time and it's suggested that it comes from some tribal beliefs in parts of African culture that it is rude to show up to a party on time. Guest are expected to arrive anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour than suggested. Another belief from the African diaspora is to not over compliment or praise someone for their actions, work or beauty.For example, you may call a women very pretty but then also suggest that she may have worn larger earrings or a different colored headdress. This was done so to keep people from being overly confident or getting too comfortable with their achievements, what we call getting a "big head". Not a bad idea when done for a good reason.

These may very well be the reasons people say some of these ugly things. But what's more important, since the only thing you can control in the situation is you, is how to respond. The number one thing I reccomend is IGNORING it or WALKING away. Nothing would frustrate the insulting peson more. But if you find you are in a situation where you simply cannot ignore or get away from the person or it happens more than once. Call them on it!I've come up with several snappy answers to a few common back-handed comps:

1)Your pretty...for a dark-skinned girl.
A) I think I'm pretty period, don't you?
B) But what if I were Asian, would I be as hot?

2)'re pretty smart for a blonde.
A) And I was just thinking you're not bitchy for a brunette!
B)Thank you! And I don't care what anyone else says... you're not an a$%hole.

3)Wow... you actually look GOOD today!
A)Thanks! What about yesterday, did I meet your approval?
B)And you actually smell nice! We both stepped it up today! Yea for us!

4)You look great for your age.
A)Thank you! You have the greatest inner beauty of anyone I know!
B)Aww, I wish I was like you and could leave the house looking any kind of way.

5)For an athlete, you're pretty smart.
A) Yes, I'm not afraid to use all those big words I learned in college like "the' & "and".
B) Well, I earned a 3.0 while practicing twice a day, playing three games a week and traveling. What were you doing while you earned your 2.5?

What are some back-handed compliments you received? What did you say/do?

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