Save the Complults for Someone Who Cares, Buddy

BlogHer Original Post

I had an interesting dream about the BlogHer conference last night. At the conference, I was having dinner with a woman (in my dream her name was Marlene) who objected to my use of foul language in my writing. I had been looking forward to meeting her for some time, and as we began chatting, I jokingly promised to watch my mouth and keep it clean, a pledge I intended to honor. While we were in a deep discussion about the time and place for swearing, I overheard the man on the other side of the table, who happened to be a fire captain, talking to my friend Alex.

Apropos of nothing, he suddenly said, “You know, you’d be really beautiful if you’d pluck your eyebrows better.”

Of course, this enraged me, and I cut into their conversation. “Do you understand how rude a comment like that is?”

“It’s a compliment,” he bristled, “and I’m just trying to help.”

“No, it’s not a compliment. It’s like me saying to you, ‘You know, you’d be handsome if you had a different face’ or ‘You’d be intelligent if you actually learned something.’” (It seems that I am good with the complults – compliments that are really insults – in my dreams.)

One thing led to another, and of course I broke my promise to Marlene and devolved into a torrent of f-bombs and other nasty language. Marlene sighed and moved away, but I was so into defending Alex’s honor that I didn’t even notice. (Incidentally, Alex has very nice eyebrows, both in the dream and in real life.)

When I woke up (thanks to a garbage truck parked outside the window of my ground floor apartment), I thought about what the dream meant. When do comments cross the line between “truth-telling” and offensive behavior? Does intention matter? Is this type of “helpful” comment only directed at women, or do men hear things like that too? For example, I know it is very common for girls and women to be told that they’d “be so pretty if only” they lost some weight, but I wonder if boys and men ever hear things like that. Was my aggressive response equally inappropriate or should I have let my friend fend for herself?

I will say that it felt very satisfying calling that guy out on his behavior.

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snathc (CUSS) & Other Rants and is very excited to attend the BlogHer conference, regardless of potential presence of sexist fire captains


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