“I get these suspicions, even though I know you love me…” -ER

I have a hard time with compliments. I can give them, no problem… <grin> and while I am able to accept them… knowing that etiquette prescribes a simple “thank you” and if possible, graceful deflection to another (never a flat demurral or contradiction)… deep down inside I always find myself wondering what ulterior motive the complimenter had for making the comment in question. To look for a reason beyond face value seems mistrustful, cynical even, but it’s a tendency born of experience and, in a sense, sophistication.

Example: the sales woman at White House Black Market tells me I look beautiful in the dress I’ve tried on. “It’s perfect on you!” she enthuses. “Really?” I ask hesitantly, “I think this style might be better on a taller person…” “Oh, no! It’s very flattering! Absolutely beautiful!” she responds energetically. “Let me find you some shoes to go with that!” I know what she’s thinking. I wasn’t born yesterday. She’s thinking (and so am I, for that matter) about the commission on a $250 dress. Do I really look beautiful? Probably not. Is it the best style on me? I don’t have any idea. And the sales woman isn’t helping, because I can’t trust her.

“Oh my goodness,” the esthetician at Voci says in awe, “you have the longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen.” “Umm…” I reply, “I think they’re pretty average. I mean, with mascara these days anyone can have long eyelashes.” I laugh pleasantly, to disguise the fact that I don’t believe her. Over the course of an hour, she comments on no less than 6 different aspects of my appearance, from my “adorable” shoes to my “amazing” skin. I know what she wants… my money, of course. Who knows what she’s really thinking? It’s probably not even about me!

Then there’s men. The man at the gas station who tells me I’m hot. The man on the highway: “Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven? ‘Cause you look like an angel.” The man at the bookstore who says it makes his day when I come in there. I could go on… but you get the idea. Those are strangers. We all know what they want.

Besides, it’s extremely rare these days for anyone to mean what they say, especially teenagers – starting with standard “polite” responses… (“I’m fine.” Come on, is that ever true??) Typical conversations are covered with such a heavy veneer of superficiality that honesty appears to have gone by the wayside. Sometimes I see it as a type of reflex, mostly from girls: see someone>choose one element to mention. “Hey, I like your <fill in the blank>.” The expression may be true, but at the same time I don’t think it comes from the heart.

Am I suspicious? Maybe. Do I have good cause to be this way? Perhaps. It’s hard to judge when a compliment is sincere or when it’s flattery in disguise.

But you know, if I believed everything I was told, I’d be an insufferably prideful person. Isn’t it better to take compliments with a grain of salt… and cultivate a healthy sense of humility and self-awareness?

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2 thoughts on ““I get these suspicions, even though I know you love me…” -ER

  1. This goes along with what I’ve been saying all along about salespeople. Initially, it would seem they cannot be trusted, but it’s only after one such salesperson actually tells you look “bad” in that outfit, that those pants make you look “unattractive”. With just one seemingly sincere critique, they’ve quite easily gained your trust, in a decidedly unorthodox manner.

    So then the ultimate dilemma presents itself. For if now it only takes a single anti-compliment to temporarily gain the trust of one with obvious ulterior motives, what’s the price of trust in a year? Five years? Ten Years? As we grow more and more educated to the methods of deception, the more deception will be necessary to allay the onslaught of suspicions. Finding that adding a single critique to a sentence of compliment no longer has the desired effect, they’ll add another critique, until it too looses it’s weight.

    Taken to it’s illogical extreme, we will soon walk into our local clothing store only to be greeted, assisted, and excused with ever-present criticism. Words of kindness, however previously insincere, will be lost to the cost of evanescent feelings of truth.

    And may we never reach this point of complete degradation!

  2. Sometimes it is just people trying to be manipulative, and sometimes it’s just stating the obvious. It’s hard to read people’s intentions these days…

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