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Never mind flowers, I’m not even capable of successfully giving a compliment. Well, that’s not quite true. I have no trouble with many compliments, such as, ‘Nice couch,’ or ‘What a well-dug hole,’ or ‘I thought you delivered that calf expertly.’ I don’t have much call to give them, admittedly, but if I ever need to, I’m confident they will trip effortlessly off my tongue. What I can’t do is successfully compliment anyone on their appearance. ‘You look nice today.’ Such a simple pleasantry, but I find it almost impossible. I mean, how personal. Look at the assumptions it makes: I have been scrutinizing your appearance, I think you look better now than you usually do, I consider myself a fit judge to make such a call. Any one of those, I would find deeply embarrassing. Together, they’re an embarrassment neutron bomb.

David Mitchell

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