Personal compliments, however, are proper only from a close friend… it is bad taste for a young woman to say to another “What a handsome dress you have on!” and worst of all to add “Where did you get it?” The young girl’s particular friends are, of course, apt to tell her that her dress is wonderful, or more likely, “simply divine.” – Emily Post, Etiquette (1922)
If people did not compliment one another there would be little society. – Marquis De Vauvenargues
There are things that have always come naturally for me. Like starting up conversations with strangers, speaking in front of large groups, planning parties.
And there are many talents others possess that I wish came as easily. It isn’t jealousy per se, but rather fascination over the inability to do what for others seems to come so naturally.
Like foreign languages or playing poker or the ability to accept a compliment.
The last one truly confounds me. I am flustered by the kindness of others sometimes. I’m a writer. I’m good with words. What’s the deal?
Take the dress.
I found this dress. A short, sleeveless dress of charcoal cotton-silk faille with an amazing front and back deep v, a drop waist, a skirt that hit just above the knee with a cascade of ruffles down the back. It had me at the ruffles. I loved this dress.
Readers, I bought the dress.
And then I wore it to a party and received wonderful, flattering, ego-boosting comments that made my night, and my brain told me to respond to with “thank you” but instead I found myself blathering on like an idiot. About where I got the dress or my love of all things ruffled or, as I sometimes do, complaining about the weather or something trivial and rather stupid. I deflect. I shy away. I am not a shyer awayer, and yet.
I am the queen of tangents, and compliments tend to have me off and running.
And after all is said and done, I walk away wishing I had only said thank you. Thank you. (Emily Post, we’ve come a long way.)
Blogging has been found me amongst a community of writers who post comments and tweets that are so kind, so complimentary, that I sometimes find myself totally anxious and perplexed. The irony is that I know the day will come, it inevitably comes for every blogger, when I receive the opposite. The dreaded anonymous comment that leaves one feeling utterly downtrodden and defeated.
Yet, somehow, I expect that it would be easier to handle than a tweet that tells me I’m wonderful and lovely and all sorts of things that I really do appreciate but don’t know what to do with. What the hell is that all about?
In the same way that I find myself unsure how to respond to being to compliments about, well, most anything, I think I often fail in being as gracious as I could be. One look at the tweets and comments and emails and Facebook posts I’ve received in the last weeks from friends, both online and in real life, and I see that the generous kindness they type I seldom return with such grandness. I give thanks, but lack the élan of others. I want to be the Auntie Mame , the Diana Vreeland, the Patsy and Edina of compliments. I want to be wacky and fun and effusive in telling people how fabulous they are.
So, to all my gorgeous, brilliantly talented and wonderful readers, thank you for being you. xo a.
* I must say that the Aussie blogger community compliment like nobody’s business. I think it’s a mix of their slang and all the terms of endearment that I couldn’t match if I tried. I’m jealous. We just don’t have fun words like they do. Fellow Americans reading this, we need some better slang.