We’ve all done this, and we’ve all been the victims of it. We’ve tossed a one-liner to a "frenemy" (ugh -- never again with this word seriously, please) and purposely undermined their self-confidence. And then we’ve had our own nights ruined by somebody’s dig about our lipstick. Collectively, at some point or another, we have all wanted to scream into the night; unsure of what so-and-so meant when they said that thing and even worse -- was it true?
Behold: the horrors of the backhanded beauty compliment. Which, as we know, is not a compliment at all and simply a fast way to make somebody feel horrible. It has happened to us, and we have tossed a few somebody else’s way. But the point of this post is to declare, “No more!” with no sense of superiority. Thus, here are the things you can stop saying right now -- because, truth be told, we all know ruining someone’s night for a few seconds of faux empowerment isn’t worth it, especially since we’re all better than that.
1. "Only you would wear that colour!"
What? What is this supposed to mean? Do you mean someone “like me” style-wise? Are you referring to my skin tone? My flair for brights? My obvious obsession with "The Craft"? When I hear this, I think one thing: "You have terrible taste, so somebody with your terrible taste would love that terrible thing." Nobody ever assumes you mean it’s because whatever I’m wearing makes my eyes look bright. Everybody knows you’re making a dig about who I am as a person. It’s a brilliant way to destroy someone’s confidence (note to self: will use on the guys who tormented me in high school), but a terrible way to instill any sort of self worth. No more.
2. "Was that on sale?"
Oh, no absolutely not. First of all, yes, most likely whatever I’m wearing was/is on sale because I value bang for my buck. Second of all, how dare you. Because if you’re referring to anything worn on my face, you’re implying that I or my taste is cheap (true, but that’s none of your business), and/or that I’ve bought product that looks cheap. Regardless of which, your compliment is/was meant to embarrass me. And for that, I will never share this limited-edition lipstick marked down to $5, that I know you wish you’d found yourself.
3. "You look so nice! But are you really warm?"
I am now, because this question has made me question everything about myself. What are you saying? That my skin is beautiful and dewey? (It is, always, thank you.) That I’m flushed? (Probably.) That I’m literally dripping with sweat? (If it’s a summer night, 100 per cent.) You are not making me feel like a summer goddess, if that’s the intention -- instead, you are convincing me that my face has become like the exterior of a glazed ham: shiny, and very shiny, and actually the shiniest please everyone avert your eyes.
4. "Are those your real [X]?"
Probably not. Or maybe. Eyebrows? Yes, because I have not shaved my eyebrows off in order to pencil them in perfectly. Eyelashes? Uh huh, because I tried to apply fake lashes once and poked myself in the eye. Anything else? Obviously? Maybe? Why are you asking me? Do I look like a fake person? Are you accusing me of something? Are you trying to hurt my feelings? Because I’ll tell you one thing that is real right now: my disappointment with this line of questioning, so goodbye forever.
5. "Oh . . . wow!"
Never, ever pause between “oh” and “wow” unless you’ve got the hiccups and that pause is your attempt to stifle them forever. Never dramatically pause for any reason, unless you’re presenting the Academy Award for Best Picture. (And even then: don’t be cruel.) A pause suggests you’re trying very hard not to say "UGH GROSS" or "EW" or "HAHAHAHA." A pause is like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. (I think that’s what Jack Dawson was describing in Titanic.) A pause is me, internally screaming, waiting for you to grimace before saying "I’m so sorry."
6. "I could never get away with that!"
What? Why can I, and not you? Am I daring and confident and look sort of like the star of a perfume or shampoo commercial? Because if that’s what you’re implying, I thank thee. (And you are correct.) Or are you trying to paint yourself as a class-act while I, clad in neon everything, am evoking the worst parts of the 1990s? (Spoiler alert: there are no worst parts of the '90s -- both the decade and myself are perfect.) By claiming that I can do a thing that you can’t do, it doesn’t make me seem "better" -- it makes it seem like you think you’re better and/or that I’m every Manic Pixie Dream Girl in every movie about them. All you have to say is, "That looks so cool!" Or, nothing.
Because here’s the perfect way to stop yourself if you’re about to toss out a back-handed beauty compliment: you actually don’t have to say anything at all.