One of the strangest things that I’ve observed in my single life is the way that men withhold compliments. To be clear: I don’t require compliments — they are in no way necessary or needed. But, when I show up looking amazing and my date says nothing about the obvious effort that I’ve put into my appearance, yet can’t stop staring and grinning at me all night (and calling me constantly afterwards), I find it particularly odd when he can’t bring himself to say: You look nice.
What they give me instead — in abundance– are complishments. Complishments are a lot like compliments, but with an admonishment tacked on the end. For example:
You’re really pretty….but don’t get a big head about it.
I mean you’re attractive and all.. but maybe you should be nicer.
You’re definitely smart….but you should think about it this way.
1. Oh, I think he’s about to give me a compliment..
2. So far so good. Wait….was that a “but”…
3. That was definitely a “but”; He just gave me a complishment
4. The look on my face for the rest of the night.
Tacit in a complishment is the thought: you’re great, but not that great. Or better: you can only be as great as I think that you are. It’s reminds me of this Warshan Shire quote.
There is always an unnecessary dependent clause in a complishment – always a “but” to tell you that you’re great.. but, you can be better or, perhaps, you are too much and should tone it down a bit. The underlying idea is that you — as you are — are never quite enough. What I’ve come to find is that men withhold compliments (apparently) so as not to inflate my ego with too grandiose notions of myself. Instead they give me complisments to ensure that my humility — and their fragile egos — remain in tact. A complishment is a bizarre way of trying to bring me to a more manageable level.
There’s a 25-year old dude that I enjoy dancing with each Thursday. His version of flirting is a series of complishments in which he compares and contrasts me to his “type”:
You know, you aren’t my normal type, he says, gazing into my eyes….but, I really like you
Implied in his complishment is the fact that I’m not as tall or as skinny or as white — or whatever characteristic–as the girls that he normally dates. In fact, he’s normally not attracted to black girls or tall girls or professionals– whatever characteristics that I possess. From this, I am supposed to be flattered that he thinks I’m worth talking to despite my lack of “normal” traits.
Instead of jumping into this game and comparing myself to other nonexistent women, I simply respond:
Oh, you don’t normally date attractive, intelligent women? That’s weird.
Here’s the thing:
I am attractive.
I am also intelligent and pretty darn funny. I’m basically the triple crown when it comes to dating. I am most definitely marriage material. (You know this and I know this which is why you’re in my inbox or texting me in the first place.)
Under no conditions am I supposed to realize or acknowledge these facts about myself.
Instead, I’m to be humble and wait patiently until someone with a y-chromosome, bestows these traits upon me in compliment form (like a gift) and then, and only then, can I graciously (always graciously) accept these characteristics about myself.
Actually, it’s better if I don’t accept them — at least not at first. It’s better if I play the game. Better to be self-deprecating and pleasing to the male ego by shyly giggling and seeking their acceptance and approval:
I’m really not very (pretty, beautiful, successful) tee hee hee. *looks up doe-eyed and innocently * am I?
No thanks, fellas
I am a self-actualized person. My inherent worth and value as a woman — as a human being — are in no way contingent upon your conditional complishments. And your opinion of me, stated in complishment form, does nothing to alter those facts. Only one man (Jesus) can speak things into existence and trust me, you ain’t him. It will never benefit anyone if I pretend to be less than I am to make you feel more comfortable.
Finally, ladies, beware of guys who give you complishments instead of compliments. If a man needs you to shrink in order to feel more comfortable with your success, beauty, or intelligence, then he isn’t the one for you.
Marianne Williamson says it best.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.