Richard Ord: With praise like that, who needs enemies?
Compliments are so rare these days that, when they do come, I like to cherish them. And edit them where appropriate.
My wife came out with a doozy the other day.
She looked me up and down a bit and, turning to our children, said: “Doesn’t your dad look good…”
How nice is that? After more than a dozen years of marriage she can still bear to look at me. She didn’t look me in the eye, but, hey, just acknowledging me as a fellow human being has to be welcomed.
But hold on there. She hadn’t finished her sentence.
The full, unedited compliment, went “Doesn’t your dad look good … for his age?”
Ooh, that was the sucker punch. She could see the quizzical expression on my face.
“Well you do look good,” she repeated. And then added the killer caveat again. “... for your age.”
It’s not so much a backhand compliment, more of a backhand holding a baseball bat and applying it with great force to the back of the head compliment, ie, not a compliment at all. She didn’t get it. And insisted it was a compliment.
It’s not a compliment if you have to factor in the age of the person. She might as well have said: “You look absolutely terrible, unless you’re over 50 years old.”
There shouldn’t be a timescale setting on praise.
You can’t compliment someone on their looks and then, after finding a copy of their birth certificate, take it back at a later date.
“Hi, remember I said you looked fantastic? I’ve since found out you’re at least 10 years older than I thought you were. Consider the compliment rescinded. You look ghastly.”
I should have expected the worst from my wife. She and the kids were discussing my physique the other day. There was a time when our children looked up to their father. These days they fear growing up like me.
Our Bradley, now 16, has escaped my feeble frame. He’s taller, broader and stronger. Our 13-year-old Isaac clearly fears he may have inherited my feeble genes.
Cue my wife to set the record straight.
She said: “I remember the first time I saw your dad in shorts. Ah, well, I thought: You can’t have everything.”
Charming. She really hasn’t got the hang of this compliments malarky.
I shouldn’t really have expected any better. After all, this was the woman who after branding me a lazy good for nothing was forced to reassess her opinion when I put up a row of shelves and built an Ikea wardrobe in under 12 hours. She christened me Reasonably Useful Richard.
Reasonably useful! Damned with faint praise.
Fortunately, I’m not bitter. And I am happy to sing the praises of my wife through this column.
She is indeed the kindest, most attractive woman I could have ever married... from the small pool of women ever likely to have said ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal from me.
Well, she started it.