What’s the best (or rather, worst) backhanded compliment you’ve ever received? If you can’t think of any — when’s the last time someone paid you a compliment you didn’t actually deserve?
“Don’t be fooled when someone tells you that you’re photogenic,” my mom said. “It means you’re only pretty in pictures. If you were pretty, they’d say you were pretty, not photogenic.”
Peste! I thought then. That’s what most everyone says I am. Photo-genic.
Since then, I’ve never really believed compliments thrown my way. And because of where I’m from, where the stereotype is that of a caring, loving mail-order bride, or a caring, loving caregiver, housekeeper, or nanny, the only reason they’re probably giving me that compliment is because they want something from me. I once worked at a physical therapy office where we treated these big Hollywood legends, and sometimes they’d bring their camera crew in to document their ‘journey’ to healing.
One day, I got called in from another client’s session to do something for Ms. Former Legend. When I walked into the the cramped treatment room, spotlights blinding and all, she cooed, “Oh, you’ve got such great hands!”
“Why, thank you,” I said. I’m a massage therapist, I thought. Of course I’ve got “great” hands.
She asked me to come over and handed me a nail polish bottle. “Can you fix my nail? The paint chipped.”
I looked around me. Fifteen people in the room, and not one of them could fix her damn nail because they weren’t Asian, nor were any of them, apparently, a manicurist.
So, no, I don’t believe compliments at all. But if it’s about my writing, and it moves you (or not), I’ll pay attention. Just don’t say anything about my hands…