I was laying next to G the other night when I let out a loud laugh. It’s not the type of laugh you’d hear in France very often, because, as an American, I’m apparently louder than the French. But what mattered was that it was a genuine laugh, hence the volume, and not one forced or weak, pushed out under obligation.
“You have such a sexy laugh,” said G.
“No, I don’t,” I answered, “It’s just loud. You’re probably confused.”
“No! It’s SO sexy. You are SO sexy!”
It was at this point that laughed again, but awkwardly so. I sighed my usual “Whatever,” and hoped that’s where the scene would end. But it did not.
G proceeded to list out the things about me that he found sexy — from things I say, to “Amanda-specific” mannerisms, to my physical “beauty.” There are no words for how angry this made me; I seriously considered telling him to leave my apartment and never come back again. Instead, I chose to argue with him.
“Could you just stop?” I asked. “You’re really upsetting me and I know you’re full of shit.”
His response to me involved mumbling several things in French I couldn’t quite understand, and he telling me that whoever fucked me up in the past was an asshole. I explained that although I had known someone in my recent past who was pretty fucking cruel when it came to verbal abuse, that was not the case. What was the case is that compliments, especially ones about my body, make me physically ill.
G pushed it; he told me I was going to learn to take a compliment. I told him he was going to lose a testicle if he didn’t shut up; and so he did (shut up, not lose a testicle… yet.) I guess the Frenchman may have realized he wasn’t going to stand a chance in the compliment debate.
I have never been able to take a compliment. Whether someone is complimenting my writing, my body, the way I bake a cake or even how “perfectly aligned” the photos on my walls are, I just can’t do it. In professional situations, I can say “thank you,” but it’s a forced response. What I really want to say is, “Shut the fuck up and quit being nice for the sake of being nice.” I associate compliments with either obligation, or someone wanting something from me. In my world, a compliment is just another attempt at buttering someone up.
When I pay someone a compliment, a true deep-rooted, full of heart compliment, I feel just as awkward. Even if I mean what I’m saying without a single inclination of wanting something from that person, my immediate thought is that they’re just going to assume I am prepping them to ask for a favor of sorts. In my assumption that they’re going to assume this although that isn’t the real reason, my deliver, I imagine, probably comes out insincere. Basically, complimenting, both giving and receiving, is the root of all evil.
I understand that compliments are meant to make people feel good. I get that, for some, compliments actually do have this intended effect and that others truly get off on them, and need them to sustain their ego or even self-worth. I wish I could figure any of those emotional responses into my way of thinking, but I just can’t. I try, I really do, but even compliments from my family and closest friends fall upon my ears like an ear-piercing gun that misfired and did some internal damage instead.
Saying I’ll work on it, seems like the right way to handle anything about oneself that is a bit off. But I just don’t think I have it in me to really love giving or taking compliments. Maybe it’s an insecurity thing, or maybe it’s that spoken words can only hold so much. Compliments that aren’t spoken, the ones you have to decipher through body language, seem far easier on the stomach. But that also may have to do with the fact that you’re too busy trying to figure them out so you don’t have time to let the compliment linger in the air, awkwardly waiting for a half-hearted, “Great. Thanks so much.”
I’m probably broken in this regard, or human… or both.
Do you have a compliment-taking method you’d like to share?