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 witty lines. Somewhere in my head, I can still hear her. A lonely, probably odd child, it took me a long time to find my social persona. But Mom could always reassure me in her own special way.
“There’s someone for everyone,” she assured me. “Even you.”
And then there was the clothing my mother made for me. It was gorgeous, fashionable and of far better quality than the other girls wore. The Mean Girls (those girls have been around forever and live everywhere) just said, “Eww! Where did you get that ugly dress?”
It wasn’t ugly. They were ugly.
Nicer, kinder people (adults mostly) would say, “Oh, 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 said: “I’m nice to them. I make them feel special.”
“I do that too,” she whined. (No, she didn’t.) “But,” she continued, getting more nasal by the minute, “How come they marry you?”
“It was much better than I expected.”
What were you expecting?