‘How to respond to a compliment’
Perhaps you’ve noticed this: women are funny about compliments. Approach one with “Wow, what a pretty dress!” or “Gee, I love that coat” or — as I exclaimed at a recent party — “I seriously want to bonk you over the head and steal that bag!” and she is apt to reply with an abashed “This? I’ve had this for years.”
Or, if you live in New York, like I do, she may very well reply with “This? It was an absolute steal at a sample sale.” Or “My brother-in-law is a furrier.” Or, simply, “I got it at Loehmann’s.”
Whether a dress, a coat, earrings (“They were my grandmother’s”) or even a haircut (“I know a guy in Chinatown”) — whatever draws your compliment, it seems to be a feminine gambit to deflect it.
Guys don’t do this. Or at least not many of them do. At The Child’s wedding (which was amazing, and which you can read about here), when I complimented a man on his dinner jacket (It was also amazing; white silk), I got, “It was my father’s.”
But that’s pretty rare. Usually you just get a “whah?” look, like they completely forgot what they have on. Which, if we’re talking about The Dude, is probably the case.
I won’t try to analyze or explain why it is that some women have such a hard time with compliments. I say “some women” because my mother has it down. You say, “Omigoodness, those earrings are gorgeous!” and she’ll smile and say, “thank you.” That’s it. “Thank you.”
I wrote a piece called “How Much is Too Much to Pay for a Party Dress?” that proved pretty popular. (Thank you!) It was about my CPW Theory, “CPW” standing for “cost per wearing.” Basically, it means that you divide the cost of an item by how many times you wear it. That 20-buck purple H&M top costs a full $20 if you wear it once; whereas that Burberry coat I’ve worn hundreds of times? It’s practically free by now.
And the compliments I get? Priceless. In fact, another way to interpret “CPW” is “compliments per wearing.” Which, thanks to my mother, I’m learning to accept with a smile — and a modestly murmured “thank you.”
Amagansett, New York. May 2023