“Ella actually wrote a good article.”
Perfect example of a backhanded compliment! Anything with “actually” in the sentence is, actually, instantly less flattering. And don’t even get me started with so-called compliments that end with, “for a (insert an offensive noun—i.e., girl, guy, any and every race)”.
I asked my friends for the worst compliments they’ve ever received. I’m going to break this down into a few categories: race, sex (gender and more), heavy topics, appearance, and intelligence. These are my personal favorites, even though these comments are anything but favorable.
“You have nice hair for a black girl.”
“You’re really cute for a dark-skinned/black girl.”
But really, this applies for any and every race. As someone who’s Filipino, I constantly have gotten: “You’re really cute for an Asian.” and, “You have really big eyes for an Asian.”
The “for a (insert an offensive noun)” seems to go hand-in-hand with race.
Oh, and if you’re even remotely “exotic-/foreign-” looking, “You look like a Kardashian.” (Since when were they their own ethnicity?)
Sex (gender and then some):
“I like you because I’m not intimidated by you. Well, not that I think men should be intimidated by women anyway.”
“Out of all my friends with whom I could have said I had the worst sex in the world last night, I’m glad it was you.”
“You don’t look like that much of a boy with your hair that short.”
“The extra curve actually works on you.” (in regards to the Freshmen 15)
“I’m glad you’re not one of those girls that thinks she needs to lose weight. You don’t want to be skinny anyway.”
“You’re really pretty for a big girl.”
“You’re the whole package! You’re funny, talented, smart… I mean, if you were only skinnier you’d be absolutely perfect.”
“You’re not like obese, you’re like… skinny-fat.”
“This dress is way too big on me, so I think it will look really great on you!”
“You can dance really well for a fat girl.”
“Wow, you really get pretty when you lose weight!”
“Hey, let me know if you ever want help losing weight!” (Note that her father said this to her.)
“You’d look healthier if you lost 20 pounds.”
Appearance beyond weight (no pun intended):
“You should dye your hair brunette. Your blonde hair really doesn’t make you look as intelligent as you actually are.”
“Well, you look really pretty when you put on some mascara and dress nice…”
On Tinder a woman displayed her multiple hair colors and one guy asked, “What color is your hair now?” She said blonde, and he responded, “Well if you were my gf maybe for my birthday you could die it brunette, it looked super sexy. (sic)” He got blocked after the spelling and creepiness. Conversely, she also had a boyfriend try to convince her to dye her hair platinum.
“You’re much better looking in person than in pictures.”
“You grew into your head.”
“You got prettier in college.”
“Your hair looks way better straight!” (to a person with naturally curly hair)
“This isn’t really yours, is it? Thank God you blossomed…you should get your picture retaken.” (said by a cop about my friend’s ID on her birthday)
“You’re still pretty even though you have a big nose.”
“It must be so nice to have such small boobs.” (Spoiler: it forever makes you unable to be the “hot” girl; you’re always the “cute” one.)
“You kind of look like you’re 13. But that’ll come in handy when you’re old!”
“You’re very detail-oriented but since you have issues with flexibility you’ll need a job where you basically do the same thing every day.”
“You’re a lot smarter than I thought!” (said to a sorority woman)
“You’re so cool. If you looked like (insert random girl’s name) you would be perfect!”
“It must be great to be an only child. You’re so used to being alone.”
“I wish I could be more like you and not have any feelings.”
“You’re so much nicer and smarter than what people say about you.”
“You’re talented? But you’re in a sorority!”
OK, granted, no one intends to give a backhanded compliment—at least I can only hope not. However, I couldn’t help but notice how much more backhanded compliments were related to weight and intelligence.
Perception is everything. We perceive things without even realizing we’re perceiving them. For instance: When you first see someone, naturally the first thing you perceive is their gender. It’s no wonder that gender was a common theme as well.
I’ll admit, these backhanded compliments, while anything but flattering, are pretty funny from an outside perspective. But it made me realize something. (Wait, a sorority girl who actually thinks?! Sorry, I had to go there): How easy it is to come off ignorant and stereotypical. This especially hit home when I thought about the race comments. As someone who has been called a “cute Asian,” here’s a thought: can I just be a cute person? Just a thought! And the weight comments being one of the most popular themes, next to intelligence… I’m sorry, but why is being skinny, and especially being intelligent something of such a rarity that it’s worth commenting on?
I just can’t help but think that the people who are saying these backhanded compliments are the ones who we should be more concerned with… not the people who are receiving the backhanded compliments.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fortunate for any compliment that comes my way. But for future reference, if you’re going to say a compliment, let’s make sure to articulate and tailor it in a way that’s actually flattering. (Oops, there it is again, the “actually” comment.
Well, I might be one of the biggest hypocrites… but at least I’m smart enough to write for Literally, Darling!