A story my friend told me today about her husband's, shall we say, ineptitude with compliments cracked me up so much I had to retell it, and invite further stories.
This is my friend who is also pregnant, exactly two weeks behind me. Let's just call her Jess. Since that's her name. Now she has had some pretty severe morning sickness, complete with multiple daily vomiting. Therefore, rather than pudging out, as I have been, she has been losing weight through her hips and thighs even as her tummy grows round. It's very lovely and very much makes me jealous, but that's another post. So, one night she's getting ready for bed or out of the shower, or was in some situation involving getting naked (now now, gentle readers, do not let your minds wander to more adventurous nudity-related scenarios!) and her husband was admiring said nakedness. All well and good, right?
Until he says, still admiringly, "You know, since you've lost a little weight, you have much less gristle on your legs!" Gristle!!! What is it, the layman's word for cellulite?! And the man was bewildered when she did not react with pleasure to this "compliment."
This post's alternate title, therefore, is, "To All Men Who May Lack The Gene Which Enables One To Give Actual, Complimentary Compliments." And the point of this post is to urge you to think, before offering a tidbit of praise, "Does the sentence about to cross my lips involve use of words which would in fact criticize a past state of being?" This does not mean you cannot praise one in general for losing weight, if the weight loss was desired. You can admire the effort they put into it, or the results achieved. But you under no circumstances should say such words as "gristle." Just... Nothing which would bring to mind that rubbery edge you trim off your steak. No.
Nor should you mention, for instance, "Wow, your butt is much less jiggly now! Way to go!" This is what is known in the world of people with feelings as a backhanded compliment, and it has a very undesirable effect. You might say instead, "Your butt looks mighty firm today!" But you do not bring up its previous lack of firmness. Are you listening, all you lurking male readers? Stick with the present tense!