Monday, January 30, 2006

Black Women: "How DARE you compliment me?!"

Picture it: A beautiful Saturday morning in Atlanta, September 2005.

Monica Love (her friends call her "Monie"), a dark-skinned, 27-year-old African-American woman, is behind-schedule. She's got a couple of rather important errands to run, but, for whatever reason, she doesn't have enough time to put on a "cute enough" outfit and get her hair *just right.* So, she tosses on a decent, comfortable jogging suit that she never jogs in, grabs a matching "bad hair day" hat and begins her day.

Mind you, Monica's clothes are unwrinkled, well-fitted, and color-coordinated. Her hair is mostly covered, but the part that's peeking from under her cap isn't frayed or frazzled. It's neat, just like the rest of her appearance... despite the fact that she doesn't have any make-up on. She doesn't usually wear a LOT, but she prefers to wear SOME.

"Neat" or not, this is NOT the way Monica prefers to be seen. Hell, she wouldn't even step outside to check the MAIL without a well-pressed, color-coordinated, neat-fitting, femininity-now(!) outfit on... complete with perfectly "did" hair, nails, and make-up.

Monie don't play that. She'll be out JUST long enough to do what she's got to do, then she is heading home to "get right."

Enter 27-year-old African-American male, Eric Wright. He's a nice-looking guy, by Monica's standards, who speaks and carries himself well and thinks a lot of women, these days, wear too much make-up. As it turns out, Eric just HAPPENS to have a package to send off, this morning.

Arriving at an Atlanta Post Office, this fine Saturday morning, Eric sees an ebony goddess walking into the Postal supply area. Digging the way the athletic gear fits her form, the natural beauty of her face, and the deep hue of her skin, Eric takes his fully sealed and metered package to the supply area.

Monica notices Eric, but she's embarrassed about the way she looks... plus, she's on a mission. Eric picks up on Monica's "all about business" vibe and almost chickens out, but Monica drops something with the Atlanta Falcon's emblem on it. Eric is a fan from waaay back, when Jheri curls were cool, cardboard boxes were dance floors, and the Falcons were something of an NFL joke. Before he could get closer, Monica picked up the item (he still couldn't tell what it was) and appeared to be preparing to leave.

"Excuse me," Eric blurts out. Monica stops and turns, thinking this is yet ANOTHER person mistaking her for an employee. It happens almost EVERYWHERE she goes, even when she's wearing "civvies." She sees Eric's handsome caramel complexion and is IMMEDIATELY regretful that she ever left the house, this morning. She's already made eye-contact, though, so she figures she'll tell him where the stamps or whatever are (she finds it more convenient to respond to these people with an answer, instead of a correction, if she can) and brave all 46 steps back to her car. Hopefully the windows are cracked because she has every intention of diving in, head-first, somewhere around 30 paces. Anything to limit her potential exposure to the eyes of the world.

Eric continues, "I see you're in a hurry, but there's a Sports bar, down the street where they display games on the HUGE screen..." Eric felt himself rambling a bit and decides he'd better put it all out there or risk trying her patience too much. Her eyes were already narrowing to reveal what he interpreted as the "Oh no you DIDN'T invite me to a smelly, smokey sports bar..." gaze. "Anyway, my name's Eric." he continued, "I was just thinking that you're very attractive and I was hoping that, if you were single, we could watch a game together some time... or maybe just meet for coffee or something. I'd like to get to know you."

"Oh no you DIDN'T...," Monica began, confirming Eric's fears,"...try to tell me I look good when I'm out here running around in some jogging suit and a cap." Eric was so crushed, he didn't really catch the rest of what Monica said. He's usually pretty shy about approaching women and this just convinced him that he should start listening to that little voice that says,"Keep your mouth shut. She'll only shoot you down, anyway."

Fast-forward five minutes. Monica's back in her car, FUMING, as she adjusts her cell phone's Bluetooth earpiece so she can perfectly recount how this guy TRIED her.

In the end, there's no one around to tell these two what, I think, they really need to hear.

"Eric, disregard the voice of insecurity. She really does think you're attractive. It's just that past experiences and her own insecurities make her unable to consider the possibility that a man, a GOOD man, might see beauty in her less-than-stellar attire and 'unmade-up' face.

Go. Try, again, to show your Monie Love what you see in her and tell her that you really would like to get to know her better - if she'll give you that chance."

"Monica, pull up. Before you walk away, you DO realize that you JUST told off a guy whose only crime was to show you that he finds THE REAL YOU attractive, regardless of what you happen to be wearing... or maybe even BECAUSE of it?

Turn back around, girl. Don't be so quick to give up on your Mr. Wright."

Do other women do this?

In my experience the average (maybe I should just say "many") Black woman would bite your frickin' HEAD OFF if you compliment her when SHE doesn't think she looks good. Luckily, my lady's reaction is much more subdued. Unfortunately, it's sometimes SO subdued that I don't know what she's really thinking or feeling. Still, she admits that she's sometimes guilty of this.

Throughout my life, I've found this behavior pretty perplexing. (I'm also reminded of the Black woman's denial of her booty-ful birthright. IF you've got it, why deny its existence or its aesthetic value? But, of course, I digress.) Stepping to the object of my hypothetical affection isn't always easy. Catching a diss because someone else assumes I *must* be lying, and couldn't POSSIBLY see the her any way other than HER WAY can be so damned frustrating.

Beyond that, though, I find it pretty sad that another human-being can't accept a compliment. Actually, that's more understandable, but it's a matter of degree. Assuming the person must be LYING and have some kind of hidden agenda is on the extreme side. Going so far as to fuss the person out? That, too.

Ladies, you probably have your reasons for feeling the way you do, but please consider the possibility that there are real, sincere, emotion-igniting compliments to be had by you, from us. The next time someone says something nice, maybe they really mean it.

IS this REALLY is a sign of insecurity or is it something else? Please shed some light on this subject, if you can. And if you can't, free to just tell me...

What do YOU think?
Questions? Comments?


Ragnell said...

Irritation, maybe? When you know you're not looking especially good, any compliment is a sign that the guy wants something else. Money, Favors, jsut plain Sex and he's hoping that assuring you that you aren't ugly will throw your guard down.

West said...

I guess it's possible, but if he's lying about you being ugly... why would he want to get with you?

I understand that how you feel CAN affect how you look, but it's still possible to look good while feeling bad, don't you think?

The female character in that lil story wasn't ugly and she wasn't dressed badly; she just wasn't dressed UP.

Ragnell said...

Well, women aren't fishing for compliments from men when they just go out. She most likely didn't appreciate the come on no matter how she felt.

And it does make you feel worse when you spend an hour on hair and makeup and *don't* get them.

West said...

re: "Well, women aren't fishing for compliments from men when they just go out. She most likely didn't appreciate the come on no matter how she felt."

My girlfriend reacts the same way, though (but without so much venom). I get the feeling she likes me, though. ;-)

re: "And it does make you feel worse when you spend an hour on hair and makeup and *don't* get them."

After gettin' chewed-out for complimenting someone when he thought she looked good, I could see being a bit hesitant the next time.

I dunno. Maybe you're right, though. Maybe I'm misinterpreting things.