How to kill a compliment

It’s much safer to talk about all the things that are wrong with you

July 26, 2019 02:54 pm | Updated July 27, 2019 12:06 pm IST

“Stay suspicious, my friends. Do not fall prey to this selfie generation, which — tauba! — thrives on heart-yous and thumbs-ups,” cautions the columnist

“Stay suspicious, my friends. Do not fall prey to this selfie generation, which — tauba! — thrives on heart-yous and thumbs-ups,” cautions the columnist

‘What pretty earrings,’ said this friend recently. So-called friend — hah! I bent backwards to wriggle out of that one, I can tell you. ‘Oh, they’re not gold. Not even expensive. Bought from Commercial Street, cheap, cheap… cheap!’ Three “cheaps” should do it. I added, ‘From that roadside fellow who has pimples. Felt sorry for him, that’s why.’

With the conversation steered safely to pimples, I breathed again. Well done! Edged out of that compliment, tricky though it was. ‘Oh,’ she continued, this persistent weevil. ‘Look at you, without a single pimple. How is your complexion so smooth?’ What did I tell you? She’s out to prove I’m pickled. Alleges I’m walking around Botoxed now? I protested, ‘Oh no. I get pimples like potholes on — well, Commercial Street!’

If you’re like me, worry not. We are a clandestine club of compliment-killers. Anyone saying anything nice about you makes you squirm? Do you itch like too-tight polyester clothes from the ’80s? So much safer to talk about what’s wrong, isn’t it? It’s sheer talent — to flip a ‘Very nice house!’ into ‘Look at the damp on the walls, and the plumbing just chokes up — I even found a dead rat under the sink.’ Saved!

And what of those who say, ‘Your hair looks great’? Like the rest of you looks like that decomposing dead rat. The cheek! Your cheeks are positively blooming, in fact. The cunning creeps are actually complimenting not you, but your hairstylist, who has chopped your hair into more layers than lasagne. ‘Please, my hair is so straight and limp today,’ you grind your teeth at them. ‘What an adorable smile you have,’ they retort.

Beware, there are some who will attack you through your family — your weak spot. ‘Oh, you have your grandmother’s nose,’ they gush. ‘Haha, yes, my grandmother had a nose for gossip!’ You beam at them till they begin to stutter. ‘She poked her nose into other people’s private affairs. Do you want to know what she said about you?’

Stay suspicious, my friends. Do not fall prey to this selfie generation, which — tauba! — thrives on heart-yous and thumbs-ups. I accosted my neighbour’s teen the other day, saying, ‘I haven’t seen you around in ages. Were you hiding?’ And she hugged me, ‘Oh thank you, thank you. I missed you too.’ What an alarming trend! They actually like ‘likes’. If I were her mom, I’d put black spots on her every time she got a ‘like’, that’s what I’d do. She’d have more black spots on her than — well, potholes on Commercial Street.

‘How sweet of you!’ Did I hear someone say? I know what you’re up to. Think I’d fall for that? Like falling into a pothole on…

Where Jane De Suza, author of Flyaway Boy , pokes her nose into our perfect lives.

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