You Are More Fun Than Bubble Wrap

21 Mar You Are More Fun Than Bubble Wrap

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 21.3.22


Couple of years ago, I was about to perform at a fancy lunchtime gig in a huge venue filled with hundreds of fancy people seated at long fancy tables. They were enjoying many courses and also many cocktails, and I knew it could go either way.

Being on stage isn’t scary, it’s in the waiting to go on that the fear lives.

As I’m about to walk on stage, a woman I sort of know who is famously a take-no-prisoners kind of gal grabs my arm and says, “You’re very brave to wear that dress – I wouldn’t have the courage”.

She knew what she was doing. This, dear reader, is one of those ‘complinots’ I talked about the other week – structured like a compliment but possibly containing traces of insult. See also, “You’re looking good for your age,” and “You could look really pretty if you wore makeup”.

But – and I cannot stress this enough – this is not what we usually do to each other. What women often do is offer random compliments to complete strangers, as though we all know at an instinctive level that it is our job to hold each other up and add a bit of sparkle to our day.

I asked friends and acquaintances for their favourites and this is what they told me. “A lady in the supermarket said what a beautiful smile I had. I walked out on Cloud 9.” Someone at a pedestrian crossing told Lorna she was wearing a great hat and she fairly bounced across the road. A couple of women with curly hair say they always compliment other women with curly hair because they know how unruly it can be. Jessie says sometimes she keeps wearing a thing because some stranger told her once it looked great. And oodles of people said how good it feels to tell another woman she looks like a million bucks.

And not just looks. A woman with a kid walked passed Barb in the supermarket carpark and said, “I get such a good vibe from you,” and Barb’s never forgotten it. A stranger told Alessandra she has a great laugh. Someone at the gym walked by Holly and said, “Far out, you put the Hulk to shame when you’re smashing those weights, girlfriend.” Boom.

You don’t have to be a stranger to make a compliment shine. A colleague told Esther that they love how her brain works. Someone was told they were admired because they were “unafraid”. Another woman in a leadership role told someone when she was leaving, “I learned a lot from you. You always made me want to be better”. Yes!

Three women were told that people love seeing them walk into a room because it makes that room better. I’d like to get that trio together for a party.

It’s seems like we are born knowing how to do this because the masters of compliments are kids. From the simple-but-effective, “You smell delicious, Nan” by Shona’s grandchild, to the more complex, “You look like fashion!” which came from a 4-year-old kid Liz was babysitting back when Liz was a self-loathing teen. The 9-year-old brother helpfully translated, “She means you look like a model.”

Kids also do killer comparatives. Lyndelle was told, “You are more fun than anyone or anything I know, including bubble wrap.” Meanwhile, Tina’s daughter told her she was “better than Maccers fries dipped in soft serve” and Tina can’t think of a loftier compliment.

You, by the way, look fabulous reading this. You light up my day.