January 20, 2012 § 31 Comments

Party a few nights ago, the first of 2012.

I had made an effort: my tried and trusted black dress, a substantial amount of heel and a certain amount of make-up.  I go in for mascara and the Cleopatra eyeliner, but don’t wear lipstick because I find irksome the greasy feeling on my lips.  I looked in the mirror beforehand and registered, “Old.”  It is funny, some evenings when I dress up, I feel it just works somehow and I am looking good.  When I say “good”, I am talking relatively here.  I don’t mean especially good in the wider sense, I just mean good on the measure of my own little personal spectrum.  This spectrum wouldn’t be anywhere like adequate for use by even a B list celeb.  She wouldn’t buy it.  It’s a cheap, un-detailed one, made in Taiwan, probably came out of a cracker, and only goes from Shit to Old to Fat to A Bit Better to Good.  There is no Very Good, Bloody Amazing, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Fucking Fantastic or Sex on Legs.  Plain ol’ Good is situated on the very far right of my spectrum, is the best it’s ever going to get, and scores none too many hits these days.

Anyway, at the party, I was introduced to the wife of somebody I used to work with years ago.  We shook hands and she had a very friendly smile.  The first thing she said was, “I love your face!”  This unusual compliment just sort of burst out of her.  I was flattered and thanked her but said I could assure her it was just make-up.

“I promise you I look like shit without it,” I told her, and she laughed.

It was a strange but pleasing compliment arriving out of the blue in that context (drinks party) and from a complete stranger, a woman at that.  It was nice to hear but, being me of course, and in the thick of the January blues, all I could think of was not, “What a lovely thing to hear,” and “Bloody lucky, your age, to get any compliments at all, Love!”, but, “Why couldn’t it have been a nice man saying that to me instead of a nice middle-aged woman?”

No man has said anything that nice to me for as long as I can remember.  (Well, that’s not quite true; my men friends do say things that are kind; I mean a prospective man, I guess).  The best type of compliments I get these days, and the ones which give me untold joy, are the ones that are directed not at me but at my children.  That’s the stage I am at in life.  Very telling.  Coincides with the stage when your own birthdays come and go with puzzling speed and you’re lucky if you get a single present.  Compliments now come occasionally from a colleague but mainly from family, friends and other women.  From men?  Nah.  One of those things from the past which I never, ever took for granted, but which seems to have frittered out from my existence almost unconsciously over the years, like erstwhile designs on Cornflakes packets; only, unlike new incarnations of Cornflakes packets, this is something which has never been even subtly rebranded.

What does it matter?

I suppose it doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t much.

There again, no getting around it, it is kind of sad.


§ 31 Responses to Compliments

  • Lydia says:

    Once your internet dating gets goin you’ll have loads of men saying how good you look and that may be because they have a hidden agenda (sex) or because they genuinely think so and I am sure you do anyway. If you’re size 8 that will help a lot. Loads of men tell me virtually every woman they meet is fat and many much fatter than their photos so you are already ahead of the pack.

    On the woman who likes you face.. have you explored your bisexual possibilities – you like women a lot, much more than I do. That might be the way to go – an enduring relationship like Susie Orbach and Jeanette Winterson have found – true sapphic love in middle age.

    • The Plankton says:

      Nope. Sorry, Lydia. I am dabbling my toes in online dating which is bad enough but sapphic love I can tell you right now and definitively, is not for me. I wrote about this a while back. But no way. I am straight! Px

    • ToneDeafSinger says:

      I wonder if you’re speaking about yourself here Lydia

      • Lydia says:

        Sadly not. If I were bisexual it would improve the dating pool I’ve never had a man who hasn’t hoped I might want a woman too as it’s a classic male fantasy but not for me.

  • Elle says:

    Grey January light doesn’t help. In fact the grey January feeling doesn’t help. You are most likely looking a lot better than you think you do – after all a woman complimented you. You got a compliment on your face which is really nice.

    If the men in your circle don’t compliment your appearance it could be that (a) they’re partnered up already and (b) they’re too gentlemanly to comment.

    The last compliment I got from a man on my appearance was “you’ve got great t*ts!” This wasn’t from an adolescent, but from a well-to-do 50 something man. A compliment on a body part is no compliment at all.

  • Nutkin says:

    It is true, the compliments on your physical appearance drop off once you reach a certain age. There are no double takes anymore no walking in to lamp posts, or tripping up, or spontaneous complimentary remarks. However, there is considerable relief from the unwanted attentions I used to receive. I am no longer subject to men waving their genitals at me, from clifftops, in the high street at night, on the beach, in a bar, or just passing in a car. Or uttering something sexually suggestive at me as they pass in the street or stiinking builders yelling things out as you walk by.

    I think now, I would be very happy with a compliment from a woman, you know it would be sincere. It may not be so obvious now when a man finds you attractive, the signs are not so blatant, more subtle but you can still tell right away.

    • AMJ says:

      ” the compliments on your physical appearance drop off once you reach a certain age”.

      Not necessarily true. I reasonably regularly get compliments from men, I am 47, and I am no beauty, let me assure you, nor do I date, meet blokes off the internet (any more), or otherwise pursue men. It just happens that once in a while some man somewhere will say something spontaneous that makes me feel like a million dollars, whether he’s in the supermarket, on the street, a colleague or whatever. Thinking back, I don’t think I got a whole lot of compliments when I was young, although probably I would not have noticed them so much as I was in relationships then. But on the whole, I think mature men (say, over 35) are more confident in dishing out compliments to women. Also, on the whole, men from other countries tend to be more complimentary than the locals, although even then it’s not unheard of.

      So I don’t think it’s the woman’s age that is the problem – perhaps it’s culture – perhaps men where I live feel a little more free in expressing their appreciation when they find someone attractive, and it may be about relative maturity or it may be about a unique cultural mix in the migrant makeup, but I’m convinced it has little to do with the women, whether young or old.

      And, whether they say anything or not, you can be certain they are checking you out all the same.

    • Brigitte says:


      You must have been quite a looker. I was nowhere near that (no waving genitals here, thank God!), but still very attractive. I once had a guy tell me at twenty-two that I was beautiful (he really seemed star-struck). Mind you, it was on a dark dance floor and he couldn’t see the pimples under my make-up.

      I know what you mean by no more double takes. When a man looks at me now (young or middle aged), I can see that he likes what he sees, but it’s all too soon before it registers that I’m in my forties and they never look again. I imagine them telling themselves “Too bad. She must have been quite pretty.”. When I was young, guys used to look several times hoping for eye contact.

      Sometimes, I pull my skin back when I look in the mirror and I look at least 10 years younger. Twenty years ago I used to call all the Hollywood actresses vain for undergoing plastic surgery. Now I understand.

  • MissBates says:

    Sigh. As per usual, I know what you mean, Plankton. The only compliments I get these days are from old ladies (“you look beautiful, dear,” from a judge’s wife, age 104, at a black tie bar association event last Christmas) and from children (“Aunt ____ is soooo elegant” said my 8-year old niece to her mother [my youngest sister], and who knows if she even knows what the word means). But: I’ll take it, because it’s a million to one shot that I’ll ever hear anything of the kind from a man ever again.

  • Brigitte says:

    The last compliment I got was from a middle-aged woman as well. Last November I attended a singles dance and put on a very elegant long black skirt and thought I looked rather ravishing (somewhere between Very Good and Bloody Amazing on P.’s spectrum). A middle-aged women came to me from across the room to tell me how much she loved my outfit. I wore the same outfit to the company Christmas party. The women all loved the outfit, but I didn’t attract much attention from the men. I suppose men aren’t so much into elegant and more into “Drop Dead Gorgeous, Fucking Fantastic or Sex on Legs”. My outfit probably screamed “middle age” whereas the girls I was dancing with all wore short dresses. Unfortunately, my unshapely legs won’t allow me to go short and I have no cleavage. So that leaves pretty much just my face, which I have relied on all my life, but is the first to show the signs of aging. My body, while not “Sex on Legs”, is very good (US size 6-8 with a nice derriere), but with unshapely legs and smallish B cups. Unfortunately, I think most men are into nice boobs and legs. I’ve always prefered a good looking man to a perfect body. Are there some men who are more into a pretty face than a perfect body?

    • zoe says:

      Funnily enough there was some research data on this from a behavioural psychology experiment. Not sure how reliable it is, and I don’t have chapter and verse, but the general gist was that it’s the body when a guy is looking for a one night stand and the face when he’s looking for a relationship…

    • fi says:

      Honestly all the men I know prefer the face to the body. In fact as long as women aren’t really overweight they don’t even seem to think she’s anything other than slim. I’ve heard them describe a woman time and time again as slim when I wouldn’t. Among the blokes I know its always the face that generates the interest.

  • Erin says:

    The best compliments are from women because they are our most harsh critic. I never expect compliments from men because they seem to be oblivious to our hair, clothes, make-up. I also kind of think compliments were a casualty of the feminist movement, along with what I consider fundamental manners such as opening the door, letting the woman enter and exit first, etc. I can’t tell you how many times a man let a door slam in my face or walked out of the elevator in front of me when I was in the workforce. Sexual harrassment allegations have left men wondering what they are allowed to say, so they don’t. It is a different world than our parents had, the lucky bastards.

  • rosie says:

    Elle, that’s gross. Did you grace him with a response?

    I’ll take my compliments where I can these days, not that I can remember the last time I got one, unless you count flirty married men at parties, which I don’t. Then again, they could have called me a fat old trout and stood at the other side of the room, sniggering.

    • Elle says:

      I don’t respond to “nice t*ts” type comments. Worse again is “great t*ts, are they real?” Yes, they’re real and have been getting me attention since I was an uncool spotty 13 year old with specs. It’s not as if I wear low cut tops or tight dresses, I cover up as low cut or tight tops look tarty on me.

      It’s better to get a compliment from a gay man because they can be connoisseurs of female appearance in a nice way. They appreciate good clothes and accessories and notice little details with make-up while most straight men have caveman vision and just see “shaggable” or “not shaggable”.

      Even if we are getting older, there’s no point in getting upset if a bunch of Sid the Sexists fail to notice us. Men with genuine intentions compliment women less or take longer to compliment a woman.

      I agree that petty sexual harrassment cases in the workplace have contributed to the demise of good manners. I don’t mind if a man goes ahead of me through a door if he is ahead of me in the first place, but it’s rude to let the door slam in the face of anybody, whether they’re male or female.

      • MissM says:

        Agreed Elle, men see women as ‘hot’ or not. Hot generally being something that the woman was genetically gifted with, such as breasts, legs, bottom, and nothing to do with how the woman has made an effort to look. According to men, clothing is just something that interferes with their ability to see us naked and pretty much are able to ignore clothes entirely in favour of discerning whether what is underneath meets their approval. Find a sexy woman and you could put her in anything at all and they will still adore her, while it wont matter what you do to dress up Ms Average, she is still not going to get a second glance because men can’t even see the wrapping at all. I guess it makes sense if you consider the contents to be more important than the packaging.

  • geoffrey says:

    As a married man I did not compliment women much unless I knew them very well, for fear of being seen a lech. I certainly never worried about lawsuits. Now that I am single I might be bolder – and the beauty of this blog is that one sees how much it would mean to a woman, and that one could do it without being considered a flirt.

    Meanwhile dear P – here is a compliment – your writing is Drop Dead Gorgeous (and very funny)! And if you look as good as you write then you will have no problem finding that dream man.

    Geoffrey, single, 49……

    • The Plankton says:

      Dear Geoffrey, single, 49, thank you very much. A compliment to savour indeed. Px

    • paolo says:

      I’ve given Ms. P the same compliment. Wit, intelligence, and the ability to compose a nice sentence – all very attractive qualities in a woman. If only that dress size of hers would increase from its present 8 to something like a 9 or a 10, she’d be darn near perfect in my book.

    • MissM says:

      To me it comes across as being lecherous if you compliment certain body parts such as breasts, the compliment is in the form of a lewd comment, or compliment is made to a much younger woman. (Old men complimenting me makes me cringe and want to hide. How pleased would a man in his 30’s/40’s be to be drooled over by a woman in her 60’s? Of course women drool over people who have the beauty that comes with youth, but we tend to keep it to ourselves.) Other than that I think it is perfectly reasonable to compliment a woman.

  • rosie says:

    Geoffrey, just as long as you don’t sidle up to a woman in the supermarket while she’s perusing the King Edwards and whisper sleazy nothings in her ear, as happened to me once in my younger, firmer days!

  • I totally agree with Erin. Why so down? Take the compliment. Mine are 90% from women and yes, they are our harshest critics….

  • EmGee says:

    Compliments are nice from any quarter, if they are genuine.

    Have you thought of going to a department store with a nice cosmetics counter and have someone put an ‘evening face’ on you? Who knows, your spectrum might need dialed up to Bloody Amazing. A little lip liner, maybe there is a lipstick out there that doesn’t feel greasy.

  • Kirsty's Boyfriend says:

    Also , don’t forget, Ms P, that we now live in an era where many men are inhibited from paying compliments by radical feminism. We have also sadly lost our old fashioned courtesy. When, for example, did you last see a man raise his hat to a lady ( delicious thought….. a baseball cap being doffed).

    Another thought is that so many women seem to dress for women rather than men. On weight….why do women want to look like Jean Shrimpton when men want women to look like Nigella? Anyway apart from the extremes I dont think men worry about the body too much ( would you want one who did?) and go for the face.

    The Cleopatra look certainly does it for me but really, just as it’s said that the way into a woman’s knickers is to make her laugh, so, if a women can make me laugh, I’m hers. Lets face it if we could spend the rest of our lives just laughing wouldnt we choose to do so?

    Ms P, I dont want to be the one to fart in church, because I both enjoy and admire not only your writing but also that of many of your followers . However, dipping in and out of your blog at various times I’ve come to realise that you seem to have written of your solitude every single day since July. Do you not think this might be a little excessive and unhealthy? I suspect if you stopped thinking about men you might start tripping over them.

    Of course I realise that on the web you can be anyone and you might be happily married to a parson with 10 children and a dog and just doing this for an income You might even be Gerald!

    Just one question. What will you do when you are swept off your feet, as you certianly will be,…will you tell your fellow plankton ( sounds as if it ought to be plankta doesn’t it) and cheer them that there’s hope or risk their despair at being left behind?

    Or is the blog a drug and addictive?

    ……and no MissM you are wrong, women in there 60’s can be very sexy.

    • The Plankton says:

      Dear Kirsty’s Boyfriend, I don’t think it’s unhealthy, really. I did write a post about this very thing some weeks back (can’t remember what it was called, I’m afraid), defending myself, saying that mine is a true persona, but that it is just one facet of me. There are plenty of other very different and very healthy ones! Px

    • june says:

      I think i love you Kirstys boyfriend, women in their 60s can be sexy!Can you please tell that to your fellow males please, as in spite of women in the public eye suc h as Helen Mirren, men seem to imagine that on womens 60th birthdays the picture of Dorian Grey starts mouldering away in the attic and we all turn overnight into ugly old frumps. Well no we dont actually, and perhaps it would be nice if more men realised it, what a refreshing statement to hear from a male who i would imagine is quite young.

  • Lydia says:

    First of all there are the cultural issues. I don’t think it’s appropriate in most of the context where I am if men do sexualise conversation. Far too many girls are hit on at work to mean I would pine for a latino or macho culture to return to the workplace, nice though compliments are.

    When we were skiing recently the French doctor asked my (adult) daughter if she were married and a bit of French flirting was going on which was fine with me and I am sure she can cope with it. you wouldn’t (just as well) get that with most British doctors, male or female and I’m glad.

    On the wolf whistle thing in the UK it’s a class issue – work men adn their equivalents have always whistled. Last year I mistakenly put on a new skirt which was too short and then had to be pulling it down all morning as I went to and at a work thing and within 3 minutes of getting on the pavement some drive was shouting out of the window (I was late 40s).
    Similarly expose cleavage and they look. It’s not rocket science.

    I remember when attention moved from me to my girls which was fine and if they are with me things are done better in all cases for all types of services by men of all ages. It’s amusing and why the planet is populated because men ilke pretty girls. I can understand the snowhite story though as it must be harder as a stepmother to have your place supplanted. If you have a good career, high income and great professional repuation and lots of hobbies looks become a kind of minor thing which it might be fun to play with but does not matter too much if they change. If you whol life has been nabbing a richer men who will keep you as a woman of leisure and you brought up to marry and do little else but earn pin money then life can be very different.

    Anyway compliments are nice. In fact I like the men who have said I am a good mother as much as those going on about my breasts, I am innundated with over the top comments about me on a regular basis which vbecause I’m quite grounded I don’t let go to my head. i was on the radio yesterday and even given how highly I do value myself I felt the comments were a bit over the top although I accepted them with I hope suitable appreciation and typical English self deprecation.

  • EmGee says:

    [Re: Kirsty’s Boyfriend, but not directed at him]
    It is refreshing to hear from so many male posters that being skinny is less important than we women think it is.

    As with ‘radical feminism’, I think both are thrown out in media with such frequency, we begin to believe it. Personally, I know a lot of liberated, independent women, but not a single ‘radical feminist’, who would appreciate a kind word, or a door held open for them. (and I always respond with a ‘thank you’ when someone does, of either sex)

    As long as the compliment is sincere (and not just a come on line), most people would receive it warmly. The last compliment I received was at breakfast out a few weeks ago, and the waitress said I had beautiful eyes. At 49, and wearing no make up, I was flattered to hear it, rather than go into negative thinking, such as; ‘she said that to compensate for my big nose’, or ‘she said that because she is focusing on complimenting people randomly today’, or she meant to say it my friend across the table, who really does have beautiful eyes’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Compliments at The Plankton.


%d bloggers like this: