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|Volume 11 |Issue 26| June 29, 2012 ||
Aasha Mehreen Amin
Everybody likes to hear nice things about themselves. People use compliments as conversation starters, to put other people at ease so that talking becomes a pleasant experience instead of an awkward, stilted ordeal. When compliments become embarrassingly profuse it is called 'greasing the palm' indicating that the person badly wants to ask you for a favour and is working up to it. Conversely, it could be completely genuine, say in the case of crazed fans who will just say anything (your nostrils are so amazing) just to convey their adoration towards a paramour, celebrity, anyone they have chosen to hero-worship. There are also the most precious compliments, precious because of their rarity, from persons who normally wouldn't be caught dead saying something nice to someone (it's just who they are). In such cases the feeling of euphoria is unlimited and may linger on for days with the recipients savouring each word over and over in the happy corners of their brains.
Then there are back-handed compliments, remarks that give you that bizarre feeling when you eat ice cream too quickly – delicious and smooth in the beginning and then strangely excruciating when the chill hits an open cavity. If you are the naïve type it will take a while before the shooting pain of humiliation comes, if you are ultra-sensitive, it is instant. Usually people are just too flabbergasted to react with a perfect comeback, hence the feeling of utter dejection and fury is acute.
Parties, dinners and other occasions where one is forced to interact with humans are the perfect spots for these sugar-coated poison darts.
You are at a social function and an acquaintance is having an animated chat with you when he blurts out: “You know you are far more intelligent than you look.” It's great to know that one is being called smart but in its entirety it translates to – 'smart but dumb-looking.'
You have just been gazing at the guest-bathroom mirror and applauding yourself for looking half-decent when you run into a young stranger who finds out roughly which age-group you belong to and with eyes rolling in wonderment says: 'Wow. For your age you've really maintained yourself well!' You now feel like a premium brand vintage pickle preserved in the best brine.
You have just received the only award in your life. You are trying not to show the tremulous joy bubbling in your stomach and appear nonchalant about the whole thing. In comes someone who obviously thought she deserved the award more and says in saccharin tones after some air-kissing: “Congratulations! You must be so proud. These days it seems everyone is getting an award” after swishing away in chiffon and pearls.
You are in a hurry to attend a party right after work. There's no time to go home and change so you give yourself a makeover in the car and drop your head down and swing it up violently – in an attempt to achieve that wind-blown look to your hair. You spray yourself with perfume to get rid of that 'grungy day at the office' smell and smoothen out the wrinkles in your sari. The party is an ultra-glam do and all you see is a sea of sparkles and glitter, perfect hair and designer suits and you do feel like the hobo who walked into an unlikely dream. But so what, you tell yourself, the important thing is that you made it. You bump into someone in an emerald choker and halter-neck blouse and designer sari who breaks the ice: I really admire your courage. You never care about how you look or what people think. That's so brave! (read: good grief, she looks like a run-down hag).
Sometimes even if you look the part it can back-fire. You have just been introduced to some high-achieving, the one and only, woman vice president of a bank. After a few seconds of inspection: “Oh so you're a house-wife. No wonder you are so well-groomed! I just have no time to look after myself!” (in other words, 'oh she's just one of those trophy wives who spends the whole day at the parlour’).
Most people are too shell-shocked to give the perfect retort to such sneaky insults. Sometimes they even seem quite unintentional. There's no point in giving oneself sleepless nights over such trivia. So what if someone said: “I liked your article, but you shouldn't try to write every single week”. You cannot let such random opinions about the only thing you think you are good at shrivel up your self-confidence.