In response to the latest Gentleman Savant Thursday Writing Prompt: What is the best compliment you’ve ever gotten in your entire life? Alternately (or in addition), tell us about the most backhanded or worst compliment you’ve ever received. Was it the fact that it came from a certain person that made it so good/bad? Or was it the culmination of events leading up to it? The world wants to know!
Apparently I have issues. Self-confidence issues. You might not know it to look at me. If you were around me, you'd think I think the world of myself. But apparently I rarely take a compliment at face value.
Take, for example, the time I was backpacking around Europe in college. I was young, thin, fairly physically fit. (It's from walking up all the stairs, I'm convinced. Could not the ancients have invented some kind of pulley elevator or the like? But I digress.) Somewhere in Italy, a man walks up to me, points to my calves, and asks if I'm a football player. He smiles, winks. He probably thinks I'm hot, this young, naive, redheaded American girl (because I think they think we're all rather easy. I digress again.). I run off to my boyfriend, devastated. I think he laughed. I'm humiliated, searching for a pair of long pants to cover my shamefully large calves. (Actually it was too hot for jeans, so I didn't actually change. But bear with me for the purposes of this story.) It takes a while for it to sink in that the only people who mean "football" when they say "football" are Americans; I'm picturing giant men with shoulder pads and helmets and thighs two feet across, but he's talking about soccer. Soccer players who are not huge, but who have lovely legs. It was probably a compliment. Muscles and all. But what I heard? Look at your big honkin' legs.
I forgot about that right away, and in my well-adjusted way moved on with my life. For 20 years now I've hidden my calves whenever possible. On the rare occasions I've exercised, I've avoided any heavy weights and worked on high reps with low weight to tone without adding bulk. (OK, so that was only three times, so it probably didn't matter much.) But I finally got over it... and I have proof. Just three weeks ago, when working with a trainer at our local gym, she sat me down at this weight machine. I don't know the name, but it's the one where you sit down and put your feet on this vertical platform in front, and push with all your might. Since she knows I don't work out, she tried to start me with 75 pounds. Oh, no, that would not do. I had to show off a little. I did 150 without flinching. She was shocked. Proud. I think I saw tears in the corners of her eyes. For once I was proud of these legs of mine. But I'll never change my mind about shoulder pads. Adding foam to increase the bulk of a woman's silhouette? Crazy. No, shoulder pads are most definitely not gonna happen. Not for this linebacker.