Back Handed Compliments

The other day I was seeking a hat to protect myself from further sun damage. I used to get a sprinkling of freckles across my face when I was younger that are now joining together and looking more blotchy than cute. My misspent youth of skipping school to sunbathe while chain smoking has caught up with me.  I have a complexion that is becoming more mottled and marbleized by the day. My vanity is affronted by the indignity.

Trying to find a hat has proven to be a challenge. I don’t have that breezy ability to don a hat without looking like I am trying too hard. Sporty baseball caps ruin cute outfits. I fear looking like a middle aged hipster wannabe, and I don’t want to look like a granny taking a break from gardening. There are few options for a mottle-skinned, vain peacock like myself.

As I was sighing over hat options I was approached by a man who opened with, “You look like a European girl. I was watching you and thought to myself, she doesn’t look like a Canadian girl.” I was instantly pleased, imagining that I must look coquettishly French or perhaps coolly statuesque and Nordic. “Why thank you,” I murmured, hoping that I sounded vaguely exotic. There was a strained pause while I awkwardly fondled hats, wondering if I would have to fend off a cheap pick-up attempt. After a moment of us both staring at a straw fedora the man continued,“Do you go to the gym a lot? Because you have very strong looking hands.”

Any temporary ego boost I had enjoyed was instantly squashed. Strong hands? Does that mean man-hands? I stared at my hands with their non-existent fingernails, horrified, my self image as a French ingenue dashed. Perhaps this man was a kinky freak who enjoyed being mauled by brutish women with catcher’s mitts for hands. When he said I looked European I had imagined looking mysterious with a certain je ne sais quoi flair. Suddenly memories of watching the Olympics in the Seventies came flooding back, particularly the steroid ridden female athletes from the Soviet Union. Instead of feeling like an ingenue from a Godard film, I felt like a Russian shot-put champion with meaty paws and a mustache.

I assembled my most haughty expression, dropped the hat from my giant paws, said a quick good bye and left the store. Compliments can come in different forms I suppose. If I were a delicate flower of a woman I may be offended if someone commented on how wispy I looked. Perhaps someone else would feel pleased to hear that her hands look muscular. Being a woman of a certain age I guess I should be pleased that anyone notices me at all. Even if it is a stranger with a Russian shot-putter, man-hand fetish.

8 Responses to “Back Handed Compliments”

  1. Astra Says:

    I think I would have been tempted to reply, “Why thank you! I’ve strangled many a man with one hand tied behind my back!”

  2. cheap girl Says:

    That would have been a much better retort than me just stammering and crushing a hat. He deserved a good strangling…

  3. Grunge Queen Says:

    Amazing that when people think they’re giving a compliment, it often comes out the wrong way (assuming that was the case with this gent). People are always calling me “skinny”, a word a loathe, but I suspect (in most cases) that they intend to give me a compliment – still POs me, though! :)

  4. Eloise Says:

    The world is full of oddballs.

    I say that, yet it would have struck me the same way and I would have held on to that statement and blogged about it, as you did. I have the strong tendency to be hit the wrong way with little things. I don’t show this to the world, because I know it’s just me and that something – maybe in my past? – has caused me to be flattened/wounded/saddened by an innocuous remark. I have a well-practiced poker face that I keep in place for long periods of time, like days, or days and days. I wish I could just blow such remarks off, but I am not good at it.

    I know how you feel. Love Astra’s remark.

  5. cheap girl Says:

    It’s so true. I guess I should try and be more charitable and believe that people mean well, but I would rather kick them in the shins when I hear dumb comments.

  6. cheap girl Says:

    It’s handy having a poker face. I think my eyes instantly bulged out …

  7. drolllgirl Says:

    omfg! i want to kill this man! men (and women!) can be SUCH IDIOTS!!!! BLARGH!!!!

    years and years ago i had to work at a stupid consumer electronics show in las vegas. there was a guy working across from me, and we saw each other a lot. i thought he was interested and that he was flirting with me, but that thought was crushed when he told me that i looked like a “meat and potatoes” kind of girl. omfg. i wanted to kill him. KILL HIM. KILL HIM with my meaty, potato-y bare hands.

  8. cheap girl Says:

    Omfg indeed!! Well, if you ever get a hankering for some potatoes I could hook you up with my big ol’ potato farmer hands!