“If you were a boy, I would marry you.” – Several women, throughout my life.
It should be a compliment, but I don’t know what to make of it. I didn’t know when I was eleven, I don’t know any better now. If I had to summarise all that these women have said to justify the above hypothesis, I’d conclude – I am, What Women Want. Except I am a woman, with no interest in women in that way.
Not that these particular women are interested in me either, for we cannot neglect the “if I was a boy” aspect of it. Not only am I what women want, I am The Perfect Man, that women want. Perfect hook for a Freaky Friday kind of film, but this is reality here. Would I have been better off as a man? Is it a compliment to think I have immense potential, if I was someone else?
We crave them. That is a unanimous fact. Some of us are stingy with them, some of us endlessly generous. Some of us inventive with them, while some get straight to the point. Most of the time, you don’t buy it. It is human nature to contradict everything we do, and so we act modest when people compliment us, while declare self-affirmations because our therapist told us to. Oh, it was just the lighting that made me look so good. [In the mirror, when you are by yourself] You are absolutely gorgeous.
You might like me or love me, but what do you really think about me? I need more! That’s why vocabulary was invented! For example, I got a compliment first thing in the morning today. My friend Kate M. Colby tweeted that she was reading my book Of Opinions (available for free on Friday, 16th June), and “really enjoying” it. She said it has “a unique voice”. Now, that goes into the mental ledger of Things I Do Right As A Writer. I’m sure everyone reading this has such a ledger for anything they care about doing, though they may not be as aware of it (to be honest, neither am I). Such a ledger comes in handy when your self-esteem is fighting with the Things I Suck At As A Writer ledger.
When Hugh Grant was asked at the Actors Studio what he looked for in a director, he replied, “sycophancy”. He got a laugh, as he often does, but he truly lives by it. Don’t be mistaken, flattery can get you far, as long as you’re not too obvious about it. I’ve been manipulated, as I’m sure you have too, by kind words. Positive, generously provided assessments that makes you want to return it to the person with something you have the capacity to do. They go on and on about tough love, but great empires and kingdoms were built by sucking up to kings and queens. They occasionally wanted the truth, but most, in the words of Jack Nicholson, couldn’t handle it.
However, for people who are really important in our lives, is it not human to ask for more? Alright, you like/love me, but why? I need to know what makes me likeable/loveable towards someone like you, who I think is such and such. Not everyone can do it. Because assessing someone requires stepping back, and looking at it analytically, which is probably something we don’t want in a person we care to be cared by. You ask for it, and yet you’re never happy with what they say. It’s too little, or too weird, or too confusing, causing you to nitpick it until the person regrets saying anything in the first place.
And sadly, it doesn’t achieve much either. If I really had a consciously curated ledger of ALL the compliments I’ve ever received, I’d be so obnoxiously self-assured. And yet, it is my disposition to wallow in self-pity, to think I’m no good at most things. There’s a scientifically-backed idea that no matter what positive or negative changes we make in our lives, say win a lottery or fall in love, most of us have an emotional setpoint that we always fall back on. I might be elated if Michael Fassbender shows up at my door tomorrow and says, “Amrita, you’re the most incredible woman that has ever walked this Earth.” But, I’d be back to normal soon enough.
To believe, or not to believe, that is the question. To give, or not to give, that is a question too. I’d say, why not? Even if it feels good for just a while, it works both ways. For you feel happy too, to compliment someone, and some things just need to be said.
Any marriage proposals for me though, some women, are better reserved for another lifetime.
What is a recent compliment you received/gave? How did it make you feel?
Buy Of Opinions – The Book for FREE on this Friday, June 16th!