Single survival

Five condescending compliments nobody should really want to hear

Think you’re being nice with your throwaway accolades? Think again, baby cakes. Call me over-sensitive (if you dare), but I could really do without some of these more patronising praises.

Hot ginge
When I was first born, my mother looked at me in the overbearing light of the hospital ward and thought she detected a hint of ginger in my hair. It wouldn’t be totally unsurprising – two of her siblings are redheads.

“Shit,” she thought.

Not because red hair is unattractive, but because ginger people are the focus of teasing and bullying at school and beyond. Plus they burn very easily in the sun and my mother is a sun-worshipper in excelsis. In the end, it was just the lights playing gingery tricks, and I spent my childhood blond before turning to mousey, then brown and now ‘salt and pepper’ or whatever the hell this current shade is.

So I’ll never know the ‘thrill’ of being defined as a ‘hot ginge’, but if I were ever called it, I would have to seriously think about putting something nasty in my detractor’s tea.

People who say ‘hot ginge’ think they’re being funny or ‘ironic’ but they’re insulting and stupid. Their throwaway ‘compliment’ suggests it is somewhat unusual for a redhead to be attractive, fetishising them into nothing more than a sexual curiosity.

It’s no better than the old chants of ‘Fanta Pubes’ we’d hear on the school bus. What, I’m ginger but you still think I’m attractive? I am so honoured. Thank you!

The male version of the horrible frat boy platitude “Mum I’d Like To Fuck” pretends it is meant in good spirits. It appeals to our inner vanity: somebody wants to have sex with us! How thrilling! My dried up husk of a body will has the ability to arouse.

And yet it is a promise made with crossed fingers, a kiss on the cheek while winking at somebody standing behind you.

‘DILF’ tells you that despite your greying hair, nascent jowls and crinkly eyes the shade of faded denim, you’re still a ‘honey’. This young person, who has yet to stare down in horror and desperation at their swelling belly and seriously debate whether it’s time to go up a size in their underwear, is validating you by saying “Hey, you’re an old dog but I’d still teach you a new trick or two”.

The compliment is utterly false, by the way. Make an experienced, efficient move on this pullet and you’ll get only wild-eyed panic and an awkward laugh. Sure, they would do you, but they don’t need to – they’re still young with infinite smooth-skinned options available to them.

If you’re secretly pleased at being branded a DILF then good for you, but you’re essentially saying you’re happy to be a fetish. You’re a Bournemouth bondage weekend in chinos. Hallelujah.

You look good for your age
Don’t even start. Anyone who enjoys this compliment is prostituting their dignity in exchange for a cheap thrill. What does a 40-year-old look like anyway?

“You look good for your age” says that despite being an ancient, animated cadaver in actual years, you are somehow managing to deceive everyone well enough to pretend you’re younger. You’re well preserved, in other words. Great, you’re a jar of pickled onions.

I don’t look good ‘for my age’; I just look good. Fucking good.

I’d never get away with wearing that
Translation: You’re dressed like a twat. I wouldn’t have the balls to ‘rock’ that look because I like having friends and not being stared at in pubs. But, yeah, you go girl.

Be suspicious of anyone who says you look “amazing” when you’re officially ‘not sure’ about your outfit. Check for side-eye.

You’d never guess you were gay
Well, this is exciting. Somehow my compulsion never to leave the house without a butt plug swinging from one end and a man’s tongue jammed in the other has gone unnoticed. I have snuck under the radar and fully assimilated.

People say things like this to you because they imagine gay people don’t want to be identified as gay. In a way, they’re right: it’s just shagging after all. But this compliment isn’t presented in a way that says “I just see you as a person, not defined by your sexuality” – it is saying you don’t fit the gay stereotype, or their idea of one. And they feel they should congratulate you.

If you’re a gay guy and get this backhanded bouquet, it usually means you’re not screamingly camp, which of course would be social death because being a bit of a nancy boy is the very worst thing in the world. Never mind that Soho and its global equivalents are chock-full of this kind of guy – the true gay man ideal is to be just like a straight guy.

Lesbians who get this are usually assured they’re not man-hating bull-dykes in dungarees. “Oh my gosh you wear lipstick and high heels and aren’t burning your underwear on Greenham Common! Well done you!”

I know men who would be secretly thrilled to be told people can’t tell they’re gay and I feel a little bit sorry for them. When it has been said to me – and it has, quite often, GO ME – I usually reply with a glib “Give me five minutes with your boyfriend and you’d soon be able to tell, believe me”.

Saying you can’t guess my sexuality by looking at me isn’t a compliment – you’re trying to reassure me that I’m just like everybody else. But I already knew that.

What’s your least favourite backhanded compliment? Tweet me or whatever.

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  1. DILF is clearly a stupid word but I don’t think people who use it are using it to say it’s a pity fuck. Quite a few people are turned on by sleeping with guys significantly older than them, and it’s BECAUSE of the age gap, not despite it. Why this is – maybe it’s “daddy issues”, maybe it’s them narcissistically objectifying themselves (‘oh look at me i’m soo young and i’m being ravished by a man twice my age’ or what have you) … dunno I don’t think ‘DILF’ is only used in a hypothetical sense about who you would fuck … i’ve heard people proudly recounting experiences with DILFS.

  2. Nice topic here i also have a “not to say list ” wanted to share 🙂
    “Then I guess we shouldn’t be dating!” “Why can’t you be more/less like my ex?” “I’m just too tired from working all day to help you with that.” Let’s go grave digging!” “Do as I say, not as I do!”
    “You’re a lousy lover!” “You knew I was this way when you met me!” “No comment.”

  3. […] More like this: Sorry, ‘straight-acting’ boys, but gay stereotypes exist despite you… get over it Would parents really prefer not to have a gay child? Is sexual orientation nature or nurture? Am I wrong not to care? Five condescending compliments nobody should really want to hear […]

  4. Great article. I have red hair and although no one has called me a “hot” or “not hot” ginger to my face, I have dated guys who after we break up, I come across their old girlfriend on FB or see them and a new girl in public and low and behold l, they ALSO have red hair. We look nothing alike, except for the hair. It’s an odd feeling to realize they just saw you as a fetish. Also, I’ve had people say “Oh! You look just like [insert any female celebrity with red hair]!” Um, no I don’t. We have totally different face shape/structure, noses, eyes/eye color, height, weight, body shape, and even sometimes ethnicity. But ya we look exactly alike!

  5. I seem to get for some reason quite often, “you’re smarter than you look” which i never really deal with very well TBH….not sure if they’re saying I look dumb and that I’ve surprised them with average levels of smart looking knowledge or that I look average smartness and I’ve dazzled them with a over average smart levels

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