I wish I was better at accepting compliments.
I was raised by a master compliment-accepter. My mother, when yet another man slavishly dropped to his knees to kiss her hand, would arch an eyebrow, smile in a way that was both warm and cool simultaneously, and then utter a few words of gracious thanks that left the poor chap reeling and trying to think of an even better accolade to bestow on her.
(And yes, the dropping to knees thing actually used to happen. We were brought up with a lot of Russian friends – those guys throw around grand gestures at the drop of a fur hat. I once had to sit through an entire song written and dedicated to her beautiful face and ‘bounteous loins’; three and a half minutes of torture that ensured my therapist’s daughter’s private school fees were paid for the better part of a year.)
I watch, and I study, and I can’t do it. Perhaps it’s because she’s European and I’m British.
The first thing I do when I get told something positive is glance behind me. Not from false modesty, from the hope that someone else is going to be responsible for dealing with the whole thing.
When I have the sense of dawning horror that tells me the flattery is being aimed at me, I take refuge in humour. Some people take the hint at this point and back away from the crazy woman who reacts to being told she’s beautiful by pulling a face like a ferret that just caught its tail in the door jamb.
Next in the arsenal is denial. “No, you’re wrong,” I state firmly. “Off you go now with your smooth talking. Go pester someone else with this nonsense.”
Unfortunately, that appears to fall under ‘playing hard to get’, resulting in more enthusiastic declarations and further distress. To compound things, the man in question now also thinks I’m modest. Not the way I want things to go.
The final step is to beat a strategic retreat. Because I just can’t nod and smile while having admiration heaped on me. It’s like the UK authorities will take away my license to drink tea and complain about queues. It’s just so very un-British to be comfortable with it.
So anyone I go out with, please take note. Even if I show up to meet you in a new dress, perfect makeup, and mascaraed eyelashes a-flutter, treat me like I’m in track suit pants. I just can’t handle the pressure of anything else. And I really would like to get as far as the after-dinner tea.