Now this post will probably be a little more meaningful to women than men as the backhanded compliment is a very subtle form of social combat and one which men rarely indulge in [or recognise to be completely honest]. As a rule the male version of social combat leans more on the combat side of things as opposed to using words as a weapon. Personally I’m all for that idea as it’s fairly clear cut and simple BUT while boys maybe boys women can sometimes be – hmmm best not go there me thinks.
The idea for this came to me while chatting with my sister yesterday about some of the very strange things that have been said to her over the years [and in the past week] in regards to being a red-head. It wasn’t something I’ve ever thought about as a negative because quite simply I’ve always been a little [okay okay a lot] jealous of her hair. Not one wild crazy curl, thick and shiny and sits perfectly so I never imagined it would be something that actually bothered her. It doesn’t per say but what does bother her is the way some people go out of their way to compliment and knife her at the same time. An excellent example is
Oh you’re so lucky to have such a pretty face to go with the red hair, most red-heads have ugly faces AND Oh I love that colour, I dyed mine a similar way once but my husband went nuts and made me change it back since hates red hair …..
One of the best was:
Don’t you just have lovely hair, my daughter loves red hair and hopes her kids end up with the red but I’ve told her absolutely not that I don’t want any red headed grand-kids.
It started me thinking and I realised it was just another form of social combat, how to smile politely while bloodlessly gutting someone is a handy skill and can be raised to the level of art at times. Of course the above don’t really count as particularly clever they’re merely socially stupid with all the wit and tact of a dead fish.
Most of them are quite lucky that MJ was working or in public at the time as her normal response to being dissed by morons is the whole scorched earth policy. Honest it’s like a drive by shooting, it happens so fast, there’s a lot of noise and next thing you know the ground is littered with the dead and dying. It is an article of faith in our family that to go head to head with our MJ is something only to be done in dire need and it’s sensible to get your affairs in order prior to engagement.
There are however some true artists out there when it comes to the backhanded compliment and with all due modestly [well not really] I’m not so shabby at it myself. I don’t like it but that doesn’t mean I won’t play if someone decides to open fire. Most who engage in this sort of passive aggressive behavior usually pull up short when it’s tossed right back at them. It’s foolish but some people forget the cardinal rule:
- Never engage in social combat unless you are prepared to take a hit.
It’s always amused me to see the confusion and baffled hurt on someones face when they’ve tried to score points in a game only they are playing and I’ve had the bad manners to go off script. That there is the kicker – people who give backhanded compliments [the ones with intent] think they’re being clever, making fun of or insulting you while looking innocent and thinking you won’t really get they’re doing it on purpose. Sorry to say WRONG most people recognise the backhanded compliment when they hear one so you’re not saying look how clever I am you’re saying look what a b$#&h I am. Dewy looks and an ingenuous tone does not disguise the knife that can be concealed in words so here’s an idea – SHUT UP or I don’t know, how about TRY A GENUINE COMPLIMENT.
I came across this song called the Back Handed Compliment by Sunny Sweeny and it’s hilarious – I’m sure each of us have heard a least one or two of the gems she’s put to music and it makes a good way to end Monday’s Musing.