Saturday, August 9

Evolution of a Complimentee

Zach and I came out of Giant Eagle just as two tan little teenage girls walked in. They missed the whistle of the boys driving by the entrance, and it landed on me and my hubby. I appeared to ignore it so the boys wouldn't feel stupid, but for a split second- my heart remembered the feeling it had the last time I was whistled at by strange boys in cars, and I blushed a little.

Happily, during that time I truly did appreciate my "teen prettyness," and never took it for granted. It was a gratitude born from some relatively unique circumstances. I grew up with two parents who didn't do the compliment thing- not to each other, not directly to their kids' faces, or anyone else. I remember a few random remarks of admiration about the way our sister ran so beautifully, or how pretty my friends were. Once my dad said he noticed how patiently I waited for my mom or someone to get off the phone, and for the rest of that month I walked around thinking "I'm patient. I am a patient person." But over-all, it was just not something that they were into.

In elementary school, I got glasses and became the lowest of the lowly nerds. I even had a group of kids chanting the "Freddie Krueger" song at me with my name in his place. It was bad. So, aside from a handful of some very memorable positive comments, compliments were pretty much a foreign language spoken in a country called "Adulthood."

After a few curious encounters with this language in middle school, (I still remember the Jackson twins saying I did a good job singing in 11th grade choir one day. I pretty much thought -and still think- they were the nicest people in the world) highschool rolled around. People actually talked with me, and I was thrilled. Boys flirted, and I was thrilleder. I dreaded the end of highschool when all of the nice people I had met would go lead lives without me. But it wasn't so bad. Graduation brought in a new era of employment and dating; and it thrust me unsuspectingly into the world of compliments.

My eduaction in Complementese started with my first dates. Of course, you're going to be complimented by your date... it's just polite. But I wasn't used to it. At all. Had absolutely no idea how to react. Usually, I just plain disagreed with whatever I didn't believe. Which was pretty much anything subjective. I appreciated and understood compliments about my artwork, or things I had worked on- but if it was about the color of my eyes, or my smile or something- they might as well have said "I think you are like a pair of utility scissors."

Finally, someone I'd been dating awhile said, exasperated, "Just say 'Thank you!' Don't you realize how frustrating it is when you don't just take a compliment? I want to give it to you. So take it!" That sunk deep. And not because I now believed all compliments. I simply now realized, embarrassed, how annoying it was for someone to go to the trouble to take a second to make me feel a bit happier, and me turning it into a minute. So after that I really tried to shorten my reply to "Thanks."

But I still found myself unable to restrain the inclination to explain compliments away. If someone said they liked my hair, I'd say "Thanks! It doesn't actually grow this color, though." My cute outfit wasn't picked out by me, being thin was only a side-effect of being tall, being tall was okay- at least I could reach things for people, if you thought my eyes were blue, you should see my sister's.

Unfortunately the explain-away inclination was still in full effect when I received what I fondly recall as my favorite compliment.

Picture it: Sicily.. 1923. Okay- no that's Golden Girls.

Picture it: Salt Lake City 1997. I'm working at JayLynn Studio, and today I curled my hair and wore my favorite dress from Haroon's. You know the kind they had that was made with layers of light- fluttery material? With wildflowers on them? You'll see a video of it in a future post I've been working on. Anyway. There was a customer waiting alone at the front counter, and getting impatient. I came out of the back room as soon as I could and saw a guy in his mid-thirties and a suit with a frown on his face. He didn't hear me coming, and turned in my direction to come find someone. I startled him. His jaw dropped as he looked me up and down and stammered accusingly, "Y-Y- You're beautiful!" then proceeded to almost literally stick his foot in his mouth and try to get back to business- as if he couldn't believe he had just said that out loud. Ha! And what did I do? I said "Thanks! It's probably just this new dress."

Plphhh!

Thanks to the kindness of many people who did do "the compliment thing," over the years I have had practice reacting more and more normally to an originally almost painful situation. Although it started rather awkwardly, I even learned how to give compliments. And then found myself thinking effortlessly of more and more compliments to give. Maybe the evolution is complete. Maybe I've a little way to go, yet. We'll have to try it out:

You've made it to the end of this completely self-absorbed post! What a great blog-reader you are!

How did that compliment come across? Awkward?

11 comments:

Mother Goose said...

::preens:: I'm a good blogreader.
::a little louder::
I'm a GOOD blog reader
::Looks over shoulder and announces::
I'm a GREAT BLOG READER
::calls out::
Hey! DID YOU ALL KNOW I'm THE BEST BLOG READER THERE IS??? Yeah, uh huh, someone said so...

ok, so do you think I let compliments go to my head?>

In all seriousness. My parents were the very same. They never or rarely gave out compliments. Occassionally we would hear a few good reports. They always thought it was bragging and when they would have to endure other parents bragadocious rants they vowed they would never do that. (too bad, they couldn't find balance) Because it left me feeling a bit insecure and I too, would explain away all of my compliments. To this day I still find it very uncomfortable to take credit or acknowledge a compliment seriously.

Breezi said...

Summer, You are so cool that even if you still had dorky glasses, I'd want to be your friend.
Just thought I'd let you know.

and that part where you said "Picture it, Sicily 1923....." yeah.. my mom and I do that all the time when we're trying to describe a past story...
I'm so glad we aren't the only dorky, I mean cool ones that do that!

here's your compliment:
You're a good Blogger

Marsie Pants said...

My dad gave me a compliment one time. I played in a recital and when I was done, he said, "I think that was a little flat." Oh wait...that wasn't so nice. Anyway, maybe you should teach me what a true compliment is. Meaning you should give them to me all the time. I'm coming to your house when I get off work in 4 hours just so you can tell me how great I am. Really, I'll be doing you a favor because you'll be able to practice giving me a compliment.

Kelly Durham said...

Ooh, good topic! My dad was VERY strict and I remember getting lectures on more than one occasion on how to receive a compliment. Don't dodge the compliment by explaining it away; it make the complimenter who was doing something nice for YOU feel dumb. Don't keep talking about it and fish for more. Just say "thank you" and move on. Yes, accepting compliments graciously was burned into my brain at about age 5.

Now that I'm a mom to girls, I try to give compliments frequently and to give ones that go beyond their appearance. I think it backfired. The other day I complimented my three-year-old for being smart about something. She said, "Don't forget kind, Mommy! I'm very kind." I may have created a complimentee monster!

Thanks for the great post!

Michelle said...

you crack me up with your posts...you are so intellectual and smart that i read your blogs to further my education!! no seriously you are a wonderful mom and a really great friend!!

Melissa said...

Wow, I loved this post. I think you've hit on something a lot of us deal with. When someone gives me a compliment I sometimes feel like I'm being prideful if I don't explain it away or dismiss it. Compliments are are easy to give yet often hard to accept. Anyway, next compliment I get I'll work on acknowledging it with a thank you. BTW, I agree with the guy at Jay Lynn you are beautiful and you're an amazing writer.

Erica said...

I have to say, I enjoy your blog :D

River said...

I applaud you in learning how to take a compliment... It is like there is something in our genes that is violently opposed to compliments. right on.

Magirk said...

Thank you! ;-D

Megs said...

haha Sum. It's so true. Though, I remember wishing I were you cause you did the whole modeling thing. And your pictures are still showing up on JayLynns TV Ads. I see your face and go...huh...my sister is on TV. Again. Weird.
As for the running thing. HAHAHAHAH! I just told Mike about that the same day you wrote about it! I HATED that compliment more than any other because it made all my gym teachers make me run just to see me "run like a deer". ugh. I will never accept that as a compliment...cause it isn't one!
My favorite compliment was Dallin's when I said I no longer had "Thunder Thighs" and he said: "You're right! Now they just have a slight rumble"

RhondaLue said...

dude..best post ever!

I think it's an across the board problem with many women and accepting compliments.

I didn't grow up hearing many either and now when people say something nice to me I always wonder what they want from me. Or I think that they probably didn't know what to say so they just SAID this blouse looks great on me.

I am a bit envious of people at church that walk around so willingly accepting of compliments and they believe them too! I think that requires confidence or something like that...another thing I didn't grow up getting. HA HA

p.s. LOVED the Sicily joke. classic!