It can be difficult to tell compliments from insults. You’d think it would be easy and obvious, but it isn’t.
As a child, my mother comforted me with her classic lines. Somewhere in my head, I can still hear her. A lonely (probably weird) child, as a teenager, it took me a long time to find my social self. But Mom could always reassure me in her own special way: “There’s someone for everyone,” she told me. “Even you.”
Nicer, kinder people (adults mostly) would say, “Your mother must have made that for you. It’s so … interesting.”
As a young woman, I put on a lot of weight. Before I eventually got rid of that hundred and fifty pounds, there were some great lines from “friends” who knew just the right words to make me feel good:
“You dress really well for a fat girl.”
“I don’t think of you as fat. You’re just Marilyn.”
Later on, no longer fat, but still me, compliments have streamed in nonstop:
“I thought you were a nun. Don’t you own anything that isn’t black?”
My all time favorite, from the woman who never managed to get my first husband to the altar (though had he lived longer, she might have worn him down — she just needed another decade — or two) … and who couldn’t figure out the source of my continuing popularity with men.
“I’m very nice to them. I make them feel special and loved,” I said. There was more to it, but this was all I was willing to share.
“I do that too,” she whined. (No, she didn’t.) “But,” she continued, getting more nasal by the minute, “How come they marry you?”
And finally, after I published my book.
“It was much better than I expected.” What were you expecting?