Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Complinsult.

If I say "ugh, I'm so fat" to a guy, I certainly appreciate a "hey, I think you're hot" in return.

But if I don't say anything of the sort (and I try pretty hard not to), if I'm just going about my day tra la la like I'm a normal person... it really weirds me out when guys come out of nowhere with "you know, I actually like your body" or "I don't mind a curvy girl one bit." I mean, gosh, thanks.

Hint: statements like that translate into "I assume you think you're ugly, and I assume a lot of people agree, and I was just now thinking about how generally-considered-ugly you are, but hey, I'm willing to tolerate your flaws, aren't you lucky?"

If you want to compliment a fat girl, tell her that she's pretty. Don't tell her that she's pretty anyway.


  1. Oh dear god, I get this. Last year, at a training course, a rather graceless woman gave me this artless and backhanded compliment: “Can I just say, dear, you’re carrying a bit of weight, but you are gorgeous and you dress beautifully” This was public, too, right in front of several people. The layers of compliment and assumption within that one statement were so manifold that I didn't have an adequate off-the-cuff response other than to say thanks, and to tell her that I didn't think anyone should wait until they are a socially acceptable size before treating themselves with respect and dressing in a way that makes them feel good. She seemed rather taken aback, and so she bloody should have.

  2. Yes! I've always felt weird about "compliments" such as these (whether given to myself or others) but couldn't pin-point why they bothered me. Thanks for fleshing this idea out. I really think that people who say these types of things aren't meaning their words to be insulting but they are insulting none the less. We should all be aware of what we say, before we say it. This strikes me as similar to saying to a pregnant woman, "Wow! You're huge!" It's amazing to me the kind of comments people make to pregnant women. Suddenly because you're obviously pregnant, it's acceptable for perfect strangers (and anyone else) to say all sorts of bizarre and possibly insulting things to you. I think the moral should be: really consider how your words *might* be taken whenever you feel compelled to comment on someone's appearance.

  3. The man version of this is the "You really carry the weight well" family of left-handed insults. It's not quite the same as the "You don't sweat much for a fat chick" iterations you referenced in the post, but it's annoying sometimes.

  4. Yeah, I carry the weight well!
    It also makes for more impact when I percussively correct various acts of bumptiousness.

    After all, we gotta make sure Holly stays gainfully employed..

  5. You can almost see the wheels turning in their little minds and hear their Mom saying "If you can't say anything nice ..." but for some unknowable reason they think they have to say SOMETHING.
    Another good bit of advice - never comment on a womans pregnancy or even ask if she's pregnant unless you can see the infant crowning.
    Good luck on your move. The culture shock will be bracing, but don't let it scare you, Boston grows on you fast.

  6. A lot of the time, I think guys give these compliments to unconventionally pretty women because they're hoping to be the first person ever to say something nice--and that the woman will be so filled with gratitude that she'll offer to blow them on the spot.

    It generally doesn't occur to these people that lots of others doubtlessly find the woman attractive just the way she is, without a trace of pity or compromise or backhandedness.

  7. I shaved off most of my hair six months ago (and dyed the remainder first pink, now blue). A woman at work came up to me the first day of the new haircut and said "That actually doesn't look so bad." You know, as though I had approached her in tears going "Oh my god I asked the hairdresser to do a tasteful blonde pageboy but LOOK WHAT SHE DID! I want to die!"

    Except I hadn't in fact asked for an opinion. She just came up and said it right out of the starting gate.

    Most other women tell me I'm "brave" for buzzing my hair so short. This, I've realized, is because men aren't attracted to women with short hair, and if men don't want me then my existence is pointless. I am STARING HEADLONG INTO THE VOID, PEOPLE!

  8. You know, I'd agree it's brave to shave your head, but it has nothing to do with men - I know a few who would think it incredibly hot. For me, it's brave because without hair to 'hide' behind I'd feel very exposed. Also, I'd be so worried about my head looking funny and fat and having women judge me. But also, to go so against the social norm, that alone is brave to me...people will notice that sort of thing, and I generally don't like to be noticed, it's far too often bad attention, and I hate that.

    Also, backhanded compliments, of any kind, piss me the fuck off. I, thankfully don't usually get them about my weight, likely cause I'm too big for most mainstream men to even pretend to like... But I do get them about other things, and they make me see red.

    When I say things like 'ugh I'm so fat", "I hate how I look", my finace will tell me 'I like how you look' or 'I love you anyway. No, I just love you." He really is great, I'm so lucky. It really is nice to be loved and lusted after **just as you are**. :D

  9. I hadn't actually thought of the vulnerability and attention-grabbing aspects of a naked head, Melissa. You've given me something to think about. Maybe people don't think I'm doomed to die alone, after all. :P

    And yeah, quite a few guys find the hair (or lack thereof) totally sexy. Primarily boys who like to mess with gender roles - which works out well because I loves me some crossdresser strapon action.

    And congrats to you for having an awesome fiance. :)