On what are you most often complimented?
Physically, I receive a lot of compliments about my hair – strawberry blond, stick straight, and softer than anything. I have actually always hated my hair. I want its antithesis – curly, dark brown – and have made it thus once or twice. I loved it, but I am far too lazy to do such things consistently, and blond roots make you look like your hair is falling out. My hair is a blessing for someone as beauty-challenged as I am. I use a blow dryer approximately twice a year, and I don’t own any hair product. The bit I really like is how soft it is – seriously haven’t met anyone with hair softer than mine. Which leads to people playing with it all the time, which leads to me being happy as a kitten.
I also receive a fair number of compliments on my legs. I noticed this playing frisbee – a lot of the other girls would comment that I had “nice skinny legs,” which sort of baffled me as I’d never given them much thought beyond they’re utility. This lead to a nice bout of comparing my body to other women’s (always a lovely idea!), and while I do appreciate my legs more now, it’s at the expense of the total package – suddenly I’m hyper aware that my legs are disproportionately skinny compared to the rest of me! Alas.
Aside from my physical attributes, I am frequently complimented on my intelligence and for “having my life together.” Both of these have always felt a little squicky to me – they are the type of compliments I’m not sure how to respond to. I feel my parents deserve as much or more credit for each of these than I do, and I don’t feel particularly ahead of the curve in either regard. On surface, I’m “further along” than most of my peer group professionally and financially, but I do feel much of that is luck of the draw and poorly thought out choices (that turned out well!). Below the surface, I’m sort of a mess. Though, I think a lot of people are!
My sense of humor tends to draw lots of compliments from like-minded individuals (which is to say, people who are crass and sarcastic). One of my friends in particular has always maintained that I should have a one woman comedy show, wherein I would sit on a stool on a stage, knitting, and talking about whatever came to mind. I don’t totally understand her amusement, but I do love to hang out with her – making someone laugh that hard is incredibly gratifying.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
I just finished my PhD in November, which felt sort of empty – anticlimactic. I didn’t feel nearly so accomplished as I had hoped I might when I began grad school. My parents came to my defense, and after I emerged victorious from 3 hours of questioning, my father pulled me aside. My father, the physicist – one of not a small number of PhDs in my family – told me that he was incredibly proud of me, but not yet impressed.
I liked that, because while most compliments engender in me a mix of embarrassment and arrogance, he managed to curtail both in an incredibly sincere way. Not to mention the modicum of sarcasm, which has always been our way of relating to one another – it has become one of my favorite moments with my father, sort of a summing up of our relationship thus far.
What is your favorite thing about yourself that people rarely compliment?
My eyes. I think I have beautiful eyes, but I sometimes wonder if I am deluding myself because no one ever notices them. It’s sort of ironic that in the past year I have lost a notable portion of my vision, and developed chronic dry eye – perhaps I should pick a new favorite feature!