I work with a lot of younger people. We happen to have a great dynamic and the team is lively and bright. I happen to be one of the oldest members of my team, chronologically. I’ve got the maturity level of a 13 year old boy, but I digress.
They’ve given some odd compliments to me in the past that didn’t quite hit their mark. Here’s what not to say to an older person:
1) “You remind me of my mom!” Oh great! Thanks! I’m about 10 years older than you but I remind you of someone who used to wipe your ass and clean your urine off your mattress pad. I know you meant well but this didn’t sit well with me. Tell me about the thing or trait you think I have in common with your mother, and then tell me why you think it’s great. Otherwise, you’re already middle aging me, and I don’t like it.
2) “You don’t look old enough to have kids that age!” No, I lied. I like this one a lot. Keep repeating it.
3) “You’re our mother hen!” Yeah, I’ve got some caring tendencies like grooming the people I love (or is that kind of OCD?) and bringing them tea if they don’t feel up to par, but I think those are trademarks of a caring person, yes? Not necessarily your mom. Because moms also slap someone when they’ve been rude, and I can get fired for that.
4) “You look so good for your age!” OK, thanks? But you’re still pointing out that I’m older, and that you-look-good-with-a-caveat. I tell older women that they look good, because who doesn’t want to hear that? No caveats. No “you’d look so good if only you were…”
There was one not directed to me, but it was equally questionable:
5) “You’ve got a matronly figure!” This was directed at a woman who is a mother but looks amazing—definitely NOT matronly. I’m not sure where the person was going with this, but don’t ever tell someone they’ve got a matronly figure. I’m surprised that the person who said it walked away without being beat down.
So how do you compliment or tell someone they look nice, or something?
–you look nice,
–your kids are so big!
–thanks for being so caring,
–you’ve got nice hair,
–“I underestimated your abilities with Excel.”
I realize now that the way I see myself might not match what my outside looks like. I don’t feel like I’ve aged much at all, but the lines are there and the other little telltale signs like all the white in my hair. I also now understand why older men might flirt with much younger women because they still feel like the younger men they were for a moment. We should make an effort not to define someone by one visible description at any time, so why don’t we try not to pigeon-hole someone by age?
Just because I’m almost 40 doesn’t mean I don’t love a good fart joke.