You are gorgeous, for being forty!
She looks so good, for having had kids!
For not getting much sleep, you look pretty good!
You look really great, for being pregnant.
Compliments. They’re fun, and we love getting them, right? They make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. They light up our day, and we remember them when we’re in a slump. But what happens when a compliment sounds more like an insult? When you are told something intended to flatter you but leaves you stewing instead?
Recently I got a message from a sweet friend venting about a backwards compliment she received. She wanted to know if she was reading too much into it. The conclusion I came to was: no, she wasn’t overreacting, and I see why instead of being flattered, she was offended. There was a time that I appreciated weird compliments, such as, “You look so young, but you’ll appreciate that when you’re older!” or “For being so young, you act so mature.” Now here I am, two kids later, approaching thirty, and these backwards compliments irk me.
Having kids doesn’t ruin a woman. It changes us, sure. But doesn’t ruin. Women after kids are allowed to wear the skin they have however they choose. I didn’t choose to have Postpartum Thyroiditis which kicked my butt weight wise, and I didn’t choose the loose skin now present on my belly. But I can choose to work my butt off, aim for realistic goals and see what happens. (Maybe I’ll get killer abs someday and maybe I won’t?) So do I look good [for having had kids] or do I just look good, period? I’m not even asking literally here; Lord knows I don’t really want your opinion about my appearance via the Internet.
The point is, I have two kids. My friend who contacted me has two kids too! She has always been fit and athletic, she’s gorgeous, and she’s a kick-ass woman, period. So does she look beautiful [for having had two kids?] Or is she just gorgeous, period? My vote is the latter. And the same with other crazy weird compliments too. My current least favorite is this one: ‘Wow, she looks awesome for being forty!’
Do you know what this says to me? This says that forty is old. And oh my GOSH, forty is NOT OLD. Congratulations, though, you have now made me terrified to TURN forty. Because is forty my end-point? Do women stop being attractive and gorgeous, when we turn a certain number? And to whom? Fifteen-year-old girls who think forty is ancient? To thirty-year-old males who don’t check out women under twenty-five?
What if I told you, “You are so smart [for your age!”] or “You are so much fun [for being a DAD!”] Wouldn’t that be weird?!
So are the other stereotypes. Because the world likes to categorize us by our labels: moms, dads, young, old, fit, not fit, skinny, fat, tall, short. And guess what? I’m guilty of it too. My grandma lived to be 100-years old. (Seriously!!) I’m sure at one point or another, I categorized her in the, “doing so well [for her age]” bracket. Sometimes it just slips. It’s not on purpose. You’re not TRYING to be a total B with your compliment to your friend, but it still feels like a dig. If you don’t have kids and you don’t want kids, awesome! And for us moms who have one or two or ten children, we don’t want to be told that we look good FOR having had the kids we did; just like you don’t want to look good for [fill in the blank–never working out? Working out a lot? For being smart? Or short? Or tall?]
Guys, can we break the stereotypes? Can we make our goal to create positivity and spread sweet compliments to one another, all the meanwhile remembering what NOT to say?
Girl, you look GOOD. Period.
Dude, you are AWESOME. Period.
Sister, you are smoking hot! Period.
Friend, you are so freaking fun. Period!