“I Hate When People Do That, But You Make it Work”.

Gillian Sisley

The discomfort of a back-handed compliment, and why it represents utter ignorance.


Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

Hate is a strong word.

I tend to reserve that word for really, really serious cases in my life.

For example:

I hate misogyny and sexism.

I hate my ex who sexually assaulted me and left me with a plethora of trauma.

I hate olives.

You get the gist.

But to use that term for just everyday things that one dislikes or is not quite their personal preference… it’s a bit much.

Especially when you are blatantly insulting someone sitting right next to you.

A delicious appetizer could not save the evening.

I was at a girlfriend’s place last week, with a few of her friends, just for a low-key night of drinking wine and eating good food.

There was one girl there who I had never met. We got off to a great start, because she brought along this mindblowing amazing brie dish. I appreciate damn good food, and people who make said food.

But not long after though, things started to go south.

It was evident we were in a room of privilege.

We were four straight, white women from upper-middle-class families. There truly was no diversity represented here.

But just because there lacked cultural diversity, did not mean this was a “safe space” to be blatantly homophobic or racist.

Someone didn’t give this chick the memo, apparently, because she was just having a field day with the cringy commentary she was dropping all over the damn place.

So much so, that I ended up leaving the gathering early because no amount of wine could persuade me to stay in the same room as this woman for longer than necessary.

Back-handed compliments are just insults with a flowery slap.

At one point in the group conversation, I started a point with, “My fiancé…”.

She cut me off mid-sentence to say:

“EW. I hate it when people use the word, “fiancé”. It’s so unnecessarily French and fancy. Ugh.”

I looked at her blankly. She looked at me, then said with a big smile, “But YOU make it work”.

My reply back was, “Okay, well… fiancé and partner are the terms we use with each other. I don’t know what else we’re supposed to use.” Those are the proper titles for a couple who is engaged, after all.

She then answered, “Ugh, partner as well! You can never tell whether a person is straight or not when they use that term. I’d just assume they were gay!”

I clear my throat, getting quite annoyed. “Uh, why does that matter? Why do you have to know? That’s what’s great about the term, it’s gender-neutral and removes any negative stigma.”

It’s just weird. And creepy. Not to know if a person is gay.” She says.

From that point, even with the five glasses of wine in my system, I started to sober up pretty damn fast from my scaling frustration.

No one was entitled to a different opinion without having to defend their point of view. In great depth.

When talking about our romantic relationships, my friend who was hosting the party pipes up about her boyfriend and the fact that he’s been kind of distant lately.

“I think it’s because he found out last week that his long-term ex is getting married, and it’s thrown him off a bit.”

My least favourite lady in the room then starts her tirade of that two-syllable, high-pitched word that I can still hear in my head, splitting my skull it in half: “Reeeaaalllyyy?

My friend nods, “Yeah, I think it might be eating at him a little bit. I can understand why, I’d feel the same if the roles were reversed.

Reeeaaalllyyy? I don’t think he would feel that way. That’s stupid. Why would anyone feel that way?”

I pipe up, hoping to put an end to these obnoxious “really”s as fast as humanly possible. “Yeah, me too. I’d feel weird if my ex was getting married. It would just throw me through a bit of a loop.”

Reeeaaalllyyy? Whhhyyyyy???

I’m sure you get the picture of how this continued on, and on, and on and on. My friend and I explained and defended our point of view several times, repeating ourselves over and over again.

And each time, we were greeted with that migraine-inducing, obnoxious, “Reeeaaalllyyy?

I messaged my partner soon-after, pleading him to pick me up and take me home early. I couldn’t take another minute of this woman.

Final word.

This is a Public Service Announcement:

It’s okay for people to feel feelings, without having to justify them.

It is possible to feel a different way from someone else about the same situation, and not treat it like an insult or a problem or something that must be remidied.

It is possible to disagree with someone about something, and no one needing to be right or wrong.

Both opinions can simply co-exist in the world without it imploding in on itself.

So next time, random girl from the wine-drinking party, just f*cking let it go.

For all of our sakes.

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