After a certain age — I'd optimistically wager 14 or so — I think young women should permanently shelve the whole backhanded compliment thing. Not that it should really ever be acceptable, but let's be real; it happens. A lot. And it usually occurs between two women, when at least one feels somewhat threatened by the other. Because sadly, meeting another woman can tend to go one of two ways: We allow ourselves to feel threatened, or allow ourselves to be buds. I choose the latter, because I'm a grown-ass woman. But I'll admit that I didn't always do so. And that sort of transition begins in each of us when we finally stop saying sh*tty things to other grown-ass women, and start supporting each other instead.
Now, clearly, there are some nuances to this that we learn to navigate over time. And man, does it start early. In kindergarten, I was taunted over the naturally dark and very thick hair on my legs by other little girls in my class. (That's right, I had hair on my legs in kindergarten.) It got so bad that I secretly (and very poorly) used my mom's orange razor to remedy the situation, because I just couldn't take the public shaming anymore. Of course, that didn't end too well, either.
Thankfully, those days are long gone. But my leg hair shaming was really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crappy ways women can get down on other women — whether they're five years old or 25 years old. Let's explore some of the more common things that grown-ass women should just stop saying to each other, shall we?
1. "I Could Never Pull That Off."
Here's the thing about this one: It suggests that perhaps I can't, either. Which can't possibly be true, because here I am right here, right now, rocking the hell out of this. Also, this is just another sneaky way that women are tearing themselves down.
2. "Like I Said ..."
Whenever I've heard this used, it tends to be an alternative way to tell someone "Hey, I think you're pretty dumb, actually." The bottom line is this: It's patronizing and plain rude. Sure, sometimes people miss the point, so you might be asked to reiterate ("like I said"), but chances are that they give a damn — which is why they're asking in the first place.
3. "I Wish I Had Time For [Insert Activity Here]."
So weird how everyone actually has the same exact amount of minutes and hours in their days, but allocates them differently. I read an article a long time ago that suggested changing language from "I don't have time to [whatever it is]" to "I don't prioritize [whatever it is]". As such, I didn't make anyone fill their days with activities that distract them from properly prioritizing Broad City.
4. "I Could Never Imagine Spending That Much On [Insert Awesome Thing Here]."
Yet another sentiment that, when said after someone admits to dropping money on something, sounds remarkably like a gush of hot air whooshing overhead.
5. "But What's Your Plan?"
Seriously, whether this pertains to career or relationship goals, no one can predict the future. And when a person point-blank asks whether you've got a plan for something, it can't help but come off as a bit smug.
6. "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself."
OK, so this one's admittedly meant to be comforting (and sometimes, it seriously can be). But depending on how it's delivered, it can also come off as a judgmental evaluation of your own goals and expectations. Maybe you didn't get a promotion you worked your ass off for. You're allowed to be disappointed, and funnel that frustration into fuel to chase the next gig. That isn't necessarily being hard on yourself — it's keeping up with your own vision you have for your life. Which is downright admirable.
7. "How Do You Eat All That?"
Two steps, really. Step 1: I put it in my mouth. Step 2: I swallow it down my throat and into my stomach. Sorry, I don't have time for backhanded comments or microaggressions that indicate judgment of my own choices. At the end of the day, what I eat actually doesn't affect you at all.
8. "Oh, He's/They're/That's Harmless."
If someone feels unsafe, you have no right to discredit their instincts. Doing so invalidates their fears, which is pretty uncool. We ladies gotta band together to help each other — not thrust one another into situations where we feel uncomfortable.
9. "I Can't Drink The Way You Do Anymore."
Oh, no? Well bummer for you, then.
10. "Did You Know That's Bad For You?"
French fries, cigarettes, dating specific people ... the list goes on. And almost every time, yes, I did know they were bad for me. But thanks anyway? Basically, this one's kinda like someone pointing at your tattoo and asking, "Did you know that's permanent?" I'm always tempted to feign intense panic and disbelief, but hey, why waste energy on that when I could just be out hunting for more fries?
11. "You've Come So Far!"
Yet now I'm so close to throwing my drink in your face, Jersey-Shore-style.
12. "You'll Change Your Mind."
Although this has definitely been true for me in millions of different ways (take my ever-changing views on motherhood, marriage, career, and avocados, for example), it's no one else's place to tell me this. Highlighting a person's age especially robs them of the authority and autonomy they have earned when making their own damn decisions. And part of making one's own decisions includes occasionally replacing or updating them — free from outside influence or predictions.
13. "But You'd Be Such A Good Mom!"
I feel certain that in 90 percent of its instances, this is meant as a compliment. However, embarking on the whole motherhood journey is an extremely personal choice. And if you're saying this to a woman after she reveals a future plan that doesn't involve kids ... well, it's downright insulting. What if she has other life goals? What if she wants kids, but it's biologically impossible? Or what if she doesn't want to jump into parenthood while single? There's an endless array of potential back stories here, and it's no woman's obligation to reveal hers. Just trust that she knows her own mind, and that's all that matters.
14. "I Remember When I Did [Something You Are Currently Doing]."
Oh yeah? Were you a total jerk then, too?
Typically, when this one's said, it's intended to be somewhat condescending, or make the other person feel younger, or late to the party in some way. Sure, it's not meant to be negative, but it can be hard for it to not come off that way.
15. "It's So Brave Of You To Keep Doing You."
This one's a less-than-subtle version of "You're too old to keep doing what you've been doing" and/or "What you've been doing is totally wrong." I get this a lot for writing personal stuff about my life and posting it online. (Shoutout to all my haters!) I make my writing living, and I'm pretty chill with that. So yeah, thanks and all, but keep your comments to yourself.
16. "You Have Time. I'm Jealous."
This might be intended as a sincere compliment, but it sure is dripping with holier-than-thou vibes. Let's be honest: The grass is always greener, and insinuating that you're way busier than someone else in a way that kinda-sorta implies that they're lazy is just straight-up sh*tty.
17. "You'll Find Someone One Day."
Spoiler alert: Romantic companionship isn't topping all our life to-do lists. (Sorry, not sorry?) Unless someone is specifically venting to you about not being able to find their other half, keep your unsolicited relationship advice to a minimum.
18. "I've Thought About Trying [Your Career], But It Just Doesn't Pay."
Um, ouch. As a writer, I've definitely heard some form of this a million times — and it makes me want to murder things with a blunt object. This pretty much totally discredits someone's professional path. And to be clear, if said person could do what you do, they probably would be (and probably with less finesse).
19. "What About Dudes?"
What about them?
20. "I Usually Don't Get Along With Other Women!"
21. "Well, Look At You!"
Yep. Here I am ... Any questions?
OK, seriously now, please listen: If you ever feel tempted to lash out or drop a quietly loaded remark to another woman, please go outside and into the sun. Or find a cat to pet. Or call your mom. Just do something else until the feeling passes, and then honestly ask yourself where those feelings stem from. It's hard enough to be a woman these days, but it's a million times harder when we don't ban together and support one another, dammit.
I'll toast some fries to that.
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