DECODEDThat's Not A Compliment, ActuallyTatti Ribeiro

I feel like half the time I get a compliment, if I think about it for a second I realize I was actually being delicately insulted. Do these people even know what a compliment is? Have they ever gotten an actual, real compliment? I’m just confused about it because I grew up knowing what “compliment” meant. It was synonymous with “kind”, “thoughtful” and “nice”. I remember getting them because I’d break out in hives every time. I still do that. I’m currently doing that. Something happened around my freshman year of college, though, where people – HUMANS – all forgot what “compliment” meant. I remember because it was really scary, and also because they still gave me hives.

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This is the image that comes up if you search “making friends in college” – that’s why the main pic is a lazy selfie. This doesn’t look like a good way to do anything. This looks scary. This guy is scary and he’s making those girls look at something horrible, but they’re embarrassed so they’re pretending it’s okay, BUT IT’S NOT.

A freshman in college is only doing one thing: trying to make friends. It’s a very desperate time for people. I thought I’d be fine because I already learned how to make friends.  I learned how to make friends in pre-school, in elementary school (I went to like, six schools, but don’t feel bad for me – JK DO FEEL BAD FOR ME!) and then AGAIN in high school. That’s a lot of experience in friendship-making. I figured college would be the same, because people in college are just people who were in high school 12 weeks ago.

Here’s a pretty basic rundown of how I learned to make friends with strangers.

1. Find someone who has something in common with you… physically. Same shoes, same bracelet, same iPhone cover, bangs, whatever. Find them, and then point it out and start a little conversation! Get to know them! Make a FRIEND!

2. Talk about someone else in the group (I DON’T MEAN JUST GOSSIP, FOLKS). Was that girl in the front with the really loud bracelets just rude to the tour guide, and now you’re uncomfortable? Feel it, girl! Then see who else feels it. Then bond! Did the girl next to you just make a joke you wish you made? Tell her! Start some conversation.

3. Give a COMPLIMENT. Say something nice. “Hey, I like your ____!”

Isn’t this how the first few steps of making a new friend go? When you are forced to make friends out of thin air, what else can you do?

College got CRAZY and mixed it up. People started doing something really wild. They’d start out nice and then sneaky say something like this:

“Good for you for not caring what anyone thinks and wearing your hair in a ponytail to this.”

Thank you… I think? WAIT, WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?

Good for me for not caring what anyone thinks? I do care! I care what everyone thinks! And now all of a sudden I especially care what you think! How come your hair isn’t in a ponytail? Is this not an okay thing to do with your hair?

“You actually seem really good tonight!”

Yeah, you know what, I am actually really good thank y–WAIT, YOU DID IT AGAIN!

Do I usually not seem good? Can you see my nerves? Why “actually”? Are you surprised? WHY ARE YOU SURPRISED?!

“You look so pretty when you smile, why aren’t you smiling?”

BOYS WHO SAY THIS TO GIRLS AT PARTIES, STOP IT. I’m not smiling because I’m tired, bored, sad or because this is how my face looks – whichever it is, it’s none of your business. At first when people did this I’d smile and blush and think, “That was so nice, so curious, so intuitive of them!” Then I’d get home, get in bed and my thoughts would be overwhelmingly negative about the conversation. Did I look so unhappy someone felt the need to come all the way across the room to tell me to smile? Do I look miserable, mean and unattractive if I’m not consciously putting a smile on my face? But yo, I figured it out. No one was being deep, kind or curious. They were NEGGING me. Negative complimenting. Bringing you down so they can bring you back up. It’s some sick thing guys do, and it’s horrible.

The other half of these “compliments” weren’t from guys, though, they were from girls. And that’s confusing when it happens, too. You don’t really know how to react, or what to make of it later, because it doesn’t make sense. It’s counter-intuitive. It’s actually a difficult thing to do gracefully. So why do it? Why do people say mean things and disguise them as nice things?

HELLO?! I’m actually asking! I don’ know.

I know it’s the worst. I know it makes you feel horrible. So hey, you guys LETS  NOT!

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  1. I totally get the smile thing. I used to work at a nightclub and regularly did the cloakroom. I’d always get random sleazy men approach me – “Cheer up, love. Smile!” I AM STOOD BY MYSELF IN WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY AN OVERSIZED CUPBOARD. THERE IS NOBODY TO TALK TO, NOBODY TO SERVE, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, NOBODY TO SMILE AT. WHAT TO YOU WANT FROM ME? If I was stood there smiling at nothing and nobody, I’d look like a right bloody idiot.

  2. I think the smile one was a little over thought bit I can see the others. I’ve said something similar to female friends etc. I isually say it when I want to see someone smile, and not because I think they are unattractive when not smile or any other negative reason.

  3. Hah this was really entertaining, and I definitely know what you’re talking about! I know one girl in particular who ALWAYS does this, and it confused the crap out of me. She once said to my friend “that’s a really nice dress, but I would totally drown in it”, my friend said thanks at first, then later on she was like whoa, did she just call me fat?!
    Anyway, I realized that some girls who say things like that are not really talking about us, even though it feels like it, they’re really just wanting us to notice or admire them. To say something to not full on hurt someone, but enough to make us notice that they are better in that area. (Why don’t you have a ponytail?!) So I figured it was an insecurity thing and dropped it at that.

  4. I had no friends my first year of college!!!! Thanks so much for this.

    Laura Donovan | 3/27/2014 04:03 pm
  5. How about “You’re so pretty, how are you still single?” FUNNY I HAVE THE SAME QUESTION EVERYDAY, DOUCHEBAG.

  6. I think that people who see things the way you do are just overanalysing and overthinking what people say.
    I wanted to compliment people many times and then they twisted my words so it seemed like I insulted them, when I actually meant what I said in a completely positive way.
    We don’t always have the time to pick every word we say and consider all the ways someone else can interpret them. I think that we just have to learn to accept a compliment. All this overthinking just points out some insecurities that you have.
    If someone says you’re pretty when you smile and asks why don’t you smile in that particular moment means that you actually have a pretty smile. You don’t have to twist their words and be mad at them for not knowing why you’re in a bad mood.
    Just accept a compliment.

  7. I’ve gotten a “compliment” from a guy who loudly asked my friend to tell me that I was “actually beautiful for a dark skinned chick”. Which was doubly insulting because he said it loud for me to hear it in the first place and he used the words “actually” and “for a”.

  8. My favorite non-compliment is the Statement of Fact. As in, “you’re tall!” or, “your hair is really long!” I’ve started just answering, “indeed.,” in a nasal drawl. The blank stares I get in return are priceless.

  9. I don’t feel like people do this to me. And I never to it to others. I’m sorry you’ve dealt with that.

  10. I get asked two things a lot: Is that your “real” eye color? (Asked more in the 90s when people were wearing colored contacts.) Is that your natural hair color?

    Thing is, if you like my eyes or my hair, just say, “I love your hair!”

    P.S. Yes, and no. But does it matter?

  11. Haha, one I remember wasn’t negging but a funny and embarrassing mistake haha! A few years ago, I had a day off uni and decided to stay at home and veg out all day. My house mate (a genuinely lovely and kind girl) looks at me and says “oh, was it raining?!” To which I look at her and awkwardly reply “no… I just haven’t showered yet today…” Both of us were incredibly embarrassed but it was also really funny! I wash my hair every other day, and hadn’t done it yet. Apparently it got really greasy really quickly haha!!! I quickly ran up, showered and made myself look like a competent member of society haha

  12. I work in retail and for years I’ve gotten so many of the “wow, that’s uhhh… I mean its not my style, but you can totally make it work!” or “I do not like this shirt, but I bet you would style it really cute.” or “You have such a unique style, I could never pull that off” etc etc etc…. I used to be really offended by stuff like that, but in the end I’ve come to realize that everyone has their own style; and while each of these “compliments” is really not exactly flattering, so be it… its really more embarrassing for the person who says it than for you.