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.
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.