Fabulous Phrases, Empty Sentiment

Rethinking Those Flowery Expressions

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow, and with the economy slowing, even love is on sale.

But it's been a long time since I got involved with Valentine's Day or Valentine's type sentiments like in this card:

"Have I mentioned how your whispered words can touch my very soul? And still warm me in the moments we're apart."

I'm a lot more comfortable with, "How ya doin.' Ya OK?"

I'm just not big on the flowery expressions. I'm a little embarrassed to admit I'm even pretty bad on the whole compliment thing itself, receiving and giving.

I'm OK giving work compliments. "You really did a good job," or "That's a terrific idea." But appearance type compliments - "You look fabulous!" - that's not me.

I think it puts tremendous pressure on the person to look fabulous tomorrow, and did they look fabulous yesterday? Do you have to say it everyday they look fabulous? And if you don't, do they think they don't look fabulous? It's a mess.

What I really don't like is when compliments are used as a setup. "Oh, you're the most generous person in the world. Can you lend me some money?"

Once I really offended someone in the way I received a compliment. The wife of somebody I worked with came up to me at a party. She'd had a few drinks and was incredibly flattering to me.

I said, "Thank you very much."

She stared at me and went on with some more big compliments.

"Thanks," I said again. She suddenly got really angry and said, "You don't care what I think do you?"

"I do," I said. "Thanks. Thanks a lot."

I guess she wanted me to respond in kind: "Oh thank you so much. Coming from you that really means a lot to me, because you're such a wonderful insightful person."

So my, "Thanks. Thanks a lot," must have felt like an insult. Anyway she just walked away furious.

Huge compliments. Flowery expressions. Valentine's Day.

As anyone whose been with someone for a long time can tell you, actual love itself has very little to do with all of that. I think right around the corner from those big emotional statements, there's real trouble.