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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Meaning well matters most

Originally published July 16, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Compliments are meant to be a good thing. The idea of a compliment is to make someone feel good about him or herself.
We’ve all run into people who aren’t very good at accepting compliments. They don’t realize that a simple “thank you” is the best response in all cases. However, since having gastric-bypass surgery, I’ve also run into an entirely different population — people who aren’t very good at giving compliments.
For the most part, I receive positive comments. “You look fabulous,” “You look amazing,” and “Wow! I can’t believe how much you’ve changed,” are among the comments I’ve heard that give me immediate warm fuzzies. And then there are the ones that don’t.
My sister-in-law is an example of someone who tends to stick her foot in her mouth when complimenting others.She loves me, and I know she’s proud of me. But that doesn’t stop me from wincing when she sees me and says, “Wow, Tonya. You’re starting to look really good.” Ouch. The first thought that comes to mind is, “Gee, how bad did I look before?” Then I remind myself that she’s sincere and she means well. And that’s when I smile and reply, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” That’s not a lie, either. I know that coming from her, that’s a really big compliment.
Unfortunately, she made the mistake of saying the same thing last weekend in front of her brother. My husband didn’t take the compliment as graciously as I did. Instead, he said, “Starting to? I think she’s always looked good.”
Trying to play interference, I told her that he’s sensitive to compliments that imply I didn’t look good before. Of course, she tried to backpedal, but everything just sounded worse.The best one was, “I just meant that you’re starting to slim down.” I wanted to say, “So the first 50 pounds I lost made no difference? I must have looked really bad.” But I opted instead to say, “I know exactly what you mean, and I appreciate that you notice.”
Someone asked me last week about the type of comments I’ve received since having gastric-bypass surgery. He wanted to know whether I run into people who notice that I’ve changed but can’t seem to put their finger on how.The answer is that I have. Aside from writing this column, I don’t walk around announcing to the world that I’ve had weight-loss surgery. And though I wish it weren’t true, there are a few people in this town who don’t regularly read the Tracy Press. That combination makes for a decent-sized local population that doesn’t know I’ve had gastric bypass.And it’s those people — like my favorite checker at the grocery store, or the night-shift worker at the convenience store I usually visit during the day — who notice a change in me but aren’t sure what has changed.It doesn’t bother me that they don’t notice I’ve lost weight. I don’t make it a point to tell them about my weight loss, either.
Yes, I’ve lost 100 pounds, and that’s a big accomplishment for me. But I didn’t have gastric-bypass surgery just so people would notice. Sure, I love compliments and probably will never tire of people passing them on. But I did this for reasons other than attention, most of which pertain to my health. Those are changes that can’t be seen by others, but they are the ones that matter most.

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