just smile and say thanks

*tap tap* Is this thing on?

Long time, no blog! My friends would say I caught the blog flu, but the truth is, I caught the regular flu too.  Somewhere between getting busy with the end of a semester of grad school, catching the flu, and my husband having a brief cardiac episode that landed him in the hospital overnight, I haven’t done much blogging lately.  The truth is, I was kind of burned out on blogging.  I’ve been doing a lot more tweeting and Facebooking of things about which I’d normally churn out a nice blog rant.  But, I’m finally feeling healthy and starting to feel the urge to blog again, so I’m back.  Luckily, I’m not like, Dooce or anything, so I haven’t deluded myself into thinking that anyone missed me.

But, here’s what’s gotten me fired up enough to take pen to paper fingers to keys and get back to blogging: awkward interactions with old high school classmates.

Now, Little Rock is a big small town. It’s small enough and close enough to where I grew up that I still feel wary about going to Kroger unshowered and un-makeup-ed, because I know I’ll run into someone I know.  Now that everyone is coming home for the holidays, the odds of me running into old friends in public is amplified by a factor of ten.

Just yesterday, my husband and I were out doing holiday shopping when I ran into a high school classmate.  We hugged and caught up and exchanged the basic details of where we live now and what we’re up to.  She told me I looked just the same as in high school.  I told her, “Thanks, you too!” And then she said, “No, I don’t, I’m fat!” What was I supposed to say to that?  On the one hand, she has gained some weight since high school.  And, I read enough Fat Acceptance blogs to believe that the word “fat” should no more be an insult than “tall” or “short.”  On the other hand, I know that to most people, calling oneself fat is self-deprecation at best, and an insult at worst.  Was I supposed to argue with her? Say, “No, you look great”?  Was I supposed to just agree and say, “You’re right, you have put on some pounds”?  I felt really awkward.

Instead, I felt like I should insult myself too. Other women can correct me if I’m wrong here, but it felt like we’d entered some sort of ritual, where we’d both self-deprecate in order to be “nice.” I muttered something about having to buy new pants lately because my ass has gotten bigger (this is true, but not something I’m super concerned about), and then saw my husband approaching and changed the subject by introducing him to my friend.

Still, even as we’d left the store, I was thinking about the awkward exchange.  As I munched french fries with my husband, I asked him, “Why couldn’t she just smile and say thanks? Why do women so often do that? Why can’t we just take a compliment, be it about our looks or our abilities?”

The truth is, this happens a lot.  You compliment someone on their outfit, or their hair, or their figure, or the great job they did at something, and then they start trying to convince you that you’re wrong, they don’t really look great, or they really don’t deserve all the credit for that awesome thing they did. And then you, the complimenter, feel like a jerkface. Like, why did I even bother trying to say something complimentary?

It’s enough to make me want to become a motivational speaker (plus or minus a van down by the river), to have seminars where I make women practice receiving compliments with a broad smile and a sincere “Thank you!”  Where I holler at a crowd about OWNING YOUR OWN AWESOME, and the way that this makes people who give you compliments feel good, and more likely to give you compliments, and also about the way that owning your own awesome gives others permission to own their own awesome too.  Because I guarantee you, there is something awesome about you.  And I also guarantee you that the person telling you about that awesome thing really does think it’s awesome.  My friend may have gained some weight since high school, but she’s still a gorgeous woman, and it seems she has a fulfilling job and a husband that she loves, and by most metrics is having a great life.  She should own that awesome.

So, my motivational speech to anyone reading this is: if you bump into an old friend this holiday season, and if they give you a compliment, JUST SMILE AND SAY THANK YOU.  Trust that the other person means it.  Know that when you deflect their praise, you make them feel awkward and kill the conversation, which is the opposite of gracious behavior.  OWN YOUR AWESOME.

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7 thoughts on “just smile and say thanks

  1. Most excellent – just shared this on Facebook, because you are right we should own it. That weird chicken pecking attitude that women have is just wrong. Thank you for the reminder and I am glad to hear that hubby is A-OK.

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  2. I’m so glad your husband is OK! I also agree with you on this–especially because smiling and saying thank you is a much swifter way to end any awkward conversation and allow you to move on.

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  3. SING IT!

    I’ve actually said to people, in a very friendly, joking, self-deprecating manner, “Oh, just accept the compliment, will you?!” Because women, FOR REALZ, need to know it’s OK for someone to say something nice about them.

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  4. First off, so glad you’re back. I’ve missed your insightful posts! Secondly, I SO agree with you. Why do women always feel the need to put themselves down? It’s annoying and it needs to change.

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  5. I for one am happy to read a new post from you – and also glad that everything has turned out OK so far after your ER adventure.

    I think people need to hear a lot more of these sorts of compliments before they’ll start believing them. What would happen if each of us found something to compliment every day in the people around us? I don’t mean we should dish out corn syrup – but simply appreciate the everyday beauty and goodness of our friends, family, and acquaintances. It might just start a revolution. And the ad agencies would quickly run out of business.

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  6. I, too, am glad all is well medically in your household! And I’m totally familiar with the phenomenon you’re describing. I like TMae’s response–I haven’t had a good one, and I may steal that. Sadly, because I’m an academic, I sometimes feel compelled to launch into an analysis of body image issues when confronted with a predictable “I’m so fat” response, and this may make people a bit wary of me.

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  7. Yes to all of this. This mandatory self-deprecation thing we women do drives me nuts.

    Do you read Alreadypretty.com ? It’s a great style blog and Sally often writes about these same issues.

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