Monday, October 23, 2006

The Back Handed Compliment

Are you familiar with these? People tell you something that is supposed to be nice, supposed to compliment you, but instead is a slap in the face. (They are also known as left-handed compliments, but growing up in a family of lefties, I have learned to expunge such derogatory statements from my vocabulary.) They usually come in two parts, the nice part, and then the sting, or vice versa. As a teacher I get these all the time. They are usually variations along this theme: "I don't care what anyone else says, I really like you." OR "When everyone else was complaining about you, I was defending you." OR "I don't understand why everyone hates your class so much" etc., etc.

I got a particularly sharp barb the other day, this time from one of my co-workers. It's homecoming week and the president and vice president of the student body kindly decided to add the faculty to the homecoming court. It wasn't voted on upon the students and I'm sure was a last minute, grasp for whoever they could think of, attempt. So my name was announced. I took it for what it was, really a sweet, but meaningless gesture. At lunch one of my co-teachers said to me, "That was really nice of you getting honored like that [see, this was the nice part], it must make up for all the times you were overlooked in high school [the vicious slap]. Now, it's true I wasn't homecoming queen at my high school, but how many people are? According to my precise calculations, I would say approximately 1 per school. That means MOST of us were overlooked. It's true, I did go to a nerd school. I am a self-described nerd. But the nice thing about being a nerd at a nerd high school is, you aren't always overlooked. So, in this case, though the back handed compliment was stinging, it wasn't really true, so I guess it didn't have that much power after all.


Sars said...

Congratulations teacher-queen. I always knew you were cool underneath that nerdy veneer.

Megan said...

I've gotten my fair share of these, and hopefully haven't given many! The latest one that I can remember occurred about 1 1/2 weeks ago. I now have wavy/curly hair due to hormonal changes from pregnancies, and I was trying to straighten it for church. DH said, "I don't know why you straighten your hair - it looks much better curly." So about 10 minutes before leaving I drench my hair with water and go with the "wet dog look", which somehow according to dh looked better than when I spent 30 minutes trying to straighten it. Go figure.