Over the years, I’ve received a lot of odd compliments. Some people might call them ‘backwards compliments,’ and others might call them a reasonable defense for aggravated assault, but I just think they’re funny (not funny ha-ha, more like “Oh you think that’s funny, motherfucker?”).
Two days ago, I was walking out of a grocery store. Now that’s not the whole story, it’s just the beginning, but already it has you thinking: What grocery store? What did she buy? What was she wearing? Was her head engulfed in a fiery cloud of locusts? Did she have all of her limbs? (The answers are Red Apple, lunch, work clothes, no, and yes, this time.)
As I waited to cross the street, I had the distinct feeling I was being watched. I looked to my right and there was an old black man (double Morgan Freeman’s age, that’s how old he was) just staring at me. No blinking. No smile. Just two eyes beneath a worn-out fedora, boring holes into my face. I had to break the ice.
“Hey,” I said, eyebrows raised to convey this message: ‘What the hell, old man?’
“Girlie,” he replied with a drawl, “He made you just the way I like ’em.”
I looked back at him and said, “Like a linebacker?”
He scoffed. “I ain’t gay!” he said, waving a dismissive hand at me like I was the ridiculous one.
I wish I had asked what he meant specifically. He likes adopted Samoan women? Girls with a high BMI turn him on? He has a thing for flat brown feet? I guess I’ll never know.
Other things that were said to me in a complimentary fashion:
“He said you’re real pretty in the face area.” My body area was insulted by that one, but my face area took a victory lap.
“I’m glad you’re not one of those model types.” Said to me by the male model I was sleeping with at the time. Any compliment that begins with “I’m glad you’re not” and ends with “the type of girl who gets paid to look good” isn’t really a compliment. I’m glad you’re not tall and thin and pretty! I was worried you might be gorgeous.
“You’re thick and proper, I like that.” Thank you, 17-year old McDonald’s worker. I get the thick part but “proper” is a new one to me. I imagine having high tea with the Dowager Countess, and using the correct silverware at dinner. I guess teenage boys are into that now.
“I don’t usually like boobs, but these are great!” Delivered by a gay man sitting on my lap at The Cuff. He also tapped the left one and said, “Hey, is this thing on?”
“You could shave your head, you have the face for it.” I hope to never find out if this is true.
“You’re real sturdy.” I’m not sure why my voice teacher thought that was complimentary, but I guess it’s better than being unstable. She often gave me compliments you might give a giant battery: Solid. Durable. Built to last.
“I thought you were a scud, but you’re not.” A scud is a Soviet missile, though in this case, it’s a girl who looks good from far away but as she gets closer, isn’t as cute. Not going to lie, I crossed Pass the scud test off my bucket list that day.
“I bet you have a HUGE penis.” Figuratively speaking, yes I do. Physically, though, I’m not a man (apologies to anyone who lost that bet). This was said to me after a friend put on my shoes – I have Amazonian feet – so it sort of made sense.
“I like that you can just go there. You’ll go there with me, and I know that, and other people know that, and it’s amazing.” Even more amazing: I still have no idea where there is, when I went (apparently we went together? and I’ve gone with other people?) or what the hell she meant. Maybe I’m there right now.
“For an untrained non-journalist, you’re a pre-e-e-tty good writer.” Classic non-compliment. My response was: “For a vagina, you’re a pretty big dick.” He didn’t like that, but I was like seriously, you should put that on your résumé. Strengths: Talking to women. Condescension. Being a dick.
Some of my favorite compliments have come from the homeless population of downtown Seattle. Many years ago, a guy told me at the bus stop that he and his no-good cousin would come to blows over a girl like me. I was curious and asked, “Why would you fight your own family for a girl?” His response: “Oh, he’s a worthless piece a shit, ma’am, and I can tell you deserve a little better.” Not like a metric ton of better, just a little better – you know, a skosh.
One guy yelled “I WOULDA LIKED NURSING OFFA YOU!” from across a busy street, making everyone on that street turn and stare at my boobs. That was a red letter day.
An old lady came up to me on the bus, very angry, and demanded I smile more because she liked my bone structure. Then she stalked off, still angry, and everyone stared, waiting for me to smile.
A group of girls outside the methadone clinic said “Get it, girl! You sassy! Miss Sassypants! Look at them jeans!” and then I just stood there, stupidly staring at my pants and wondering what was so special about them.
I gave a man a dollar and he said, “I thought you were wearing a wig, but you’re not” which confused me, so I said “Thank you,” which in turn confused him.
Once I was given a free beer “compliments of the house,” because I’d been stood up for a date by the chef who worked there. That’s winning.
I’ve been given other, more traditional compliments before – you’re pretty, you’re funny, wow you sure are good at natural birth – but these are my favorites. As a self-described misfit, I enjoy the kind of compliment that leads to a good cry/laugh/story, and I probably always will.