OK here’s the story behind this picture. I was at the opening of some uber trendy boutique in Georgetown, which has since closed and been replaced many times, with an uber-trendy friend of mine. I wore a silver metallic pleated H&M mini skirt that no longer fits past my hips, a wide bebe belt that Tim Gunn once touched, and a Club Monaco sheer top that I haven’t been able to find in months.

The year was 2005. I was 25, svelte and very on the scene in those days. Anyway, I thought I looked cute. Nay, I knew I looked cute.

So when a very sweet woman, who was swathed in the boxy suit and chunky heels they hand out on the Hill, tapped me on the shoulder to say I, indeed, looked cute I said the first thing that came to mind, “Thanks so much!”

I then turned back around and continued to peruse to over-priced fashion fare. The guy I was with, the uber-trendy friend, was scandalized.

“That was so rude,” he whispered as we pet the mohair sweater laid out in front of us.

“What was?” I asked.

“Just now. You didn’t say anything back to that lady. You were just like, ‘Oh thanks.’ You’re such a diva!”

Huh? She gave me a compliment. I accepted. Then the world continued to turn, turn, turn. What was the big deal?

Apparently, and I’ve seen this in action mulitple times since the H&M miniskirt scenario, when a woman gives another woman a compliment the only socially acceptable response is reciprocal in nature. I never do this. And allegedly instead of making me sincere and not one of those fake sopranos that chime in whenever someone says something nice, this makes me a jerk.

I’d planned on writing about this weird lady dynamic a while ago but thought better of if, “Eh, maybe it’s just me?” and “Do I really want everyone to know what a obviously narcissistic ass I am.” But when I saw this sketch from “Inside Amy Schumer,” I knew I wasn’t alone.

In the sketch Amy and a group of her cohorts run into each other on the street and offer up increasingly wild compliments while rejecting each one directed their way. In an example of girl-centric comedy that is indeed relatable and, in fact, funny, none of the girls can take flattery, dumping on themselves while praising others. Finally when one girl says, “Thank you” instead of “Fuck you” the other ladies go ape shit, unable to live in a world where a woman can actually take a compliment as it was intended.

Just today as I was walking to my secret writing bat cave I overheard this all too familiar call and response as a group of young ladies were gathering to go to lunch.

“Oh my god! Look how cute you look!”

“No! Look how cute YOU look.”

I mean I get it. I guess. When someone makes you feel good, you want to make them feel good right back. But why is it always the go-to for girls? I’m pretty sure when a dude tells another dude, “Hey, nice jump shot” (or whatever) that the other guy can say, “Thanks man” without feeling like a dick. But when it comes to women the rule seems to be “Thou shalt compliment back or be branded a bitch.”

None of this is to say I don’t give compliments to other women. I LOVE giving compliments to other women. No matter where we are, if I see you looking like a damn champion, I will let you know. But I don’t expect you to say anything besides, “Thank you” because honestly that’s more than enough to make my day along with yours.



This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Helena on XOJane!

  • Anthony

    They say if you can’t say something nice keep it moving!

  • Chacha1

    When I’m given a compliment, I never give one back to someone, unless I really mean it. I just give a nice smile and say “Oh, Thank you”. I’d feel fake if I traded compliments. To expect a compliment just because you gave one seem either a little egotistical, vain, too in need of validation, or a combination of those.

  • Kera

    I agree! Thanks is enough for them!

  • silkynaps

    The world is so obsessed with validation that it seems the average person only gives a compliment when he or she wants something in return. Whether it’s a compliment in return, a favor, or the panties…whatever the case, I just smile, say thanks, and change the subject.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    I don’t care to receive comments or give them in return. Most of the time it’s trickery anyway. I have experienced and have seen many women give compliments in order to be complimented in return. If someone compliments me, I say ‘thank you’ and keep it moving.

  • DEE

    I’ve been through the same thing where people thought I was rude or stuck up because I didn’t return a compliment, but to me it usually just seems so disingenuous when people do that.

    It kind of just turns into this back and forth of compliments that’s so unnecessary.

  • JS

    If someone compliments me I say thank you and if I can return the comment in kind without being disingenuous then I do. However if I can’t, then I do think there is some kind of implied social standard that you further acknowledge the comment by down playing it a bit as not to seem conceited. Such as “Oh, these shoes? Thank you, I was so lucky to find them.” or “You like my hair? That is sweet of you to say I just tossed it up this morning.”

    Just saying thank you and keeping it moving isn’t wrong but in certain situations it can also come off as conceited as, “Thanks, I KNOW I look good, you didn’t need to tell me.” That isn’t to say you owe every random on the street the courtesy of returning the compliment or seeming overly generous. However in some situations with some people such as with friends or your co-workers/boss/clients, it would be best to extend the courtesy as not to give them a bad impression. Yes some people are going to be overly sensitive anyway and you can’t help that. But especially in a work situation, or say when I’m at the bank and the lady who compliments me is also in charge of correcting the error of the bank overcharging me on fees: I’m DEFINITELY going to do everything in my power to be on her good side so I will adhere to that social nicety.

  • Crystal Spraggins

    Well, it’s true that many women have a difficult time accepting a compliment, and they will deflect when one is given. But in the situation the author describes, it seems to me that the perceived rudeness was more about an unwillingness to engage and not simply a failure to return a compliment. The woman tapped the author on her shoulder. In other words, she deliberately made contact. And then she gave a compliment (her social overture), and she was essentially rebuffed. So I agree that there was a social expectation that could have been SATISFIED with a return compliment, but it also could have been satisfied with “Thank you! I just bought it today” or some other mini-female bonding moment.

    As for straight up compliments that aren’t the means to starting a conversation or a relationship, there’s no reason to give one and expect one OR to accept one and expect to have to return one. Not in my experience, anyway.

  • Sabrina Denise Whiteman

    I compliment women all the time and I would never expect one in return. I don’t see the issue.

  • Malik Hemmans

    Damn! you beautiful

  • Camryn

    Oh look…another “look at me” I’m narcissistic XOJane post…

  • The Moon in the Sky

    I’m an introvert, so I don’t care for that kind of attention anyway.

  • de

    Actually….this happened to me today. Someone at my job said “I like your shirt” I replied, “than you” but for some reason I found myself fishing for a compliment to give her in return. Funny video btw

  • Z

    i agree. if i’m not mistaken that’s Helena Andrews , she’s single too…


  • AnnT

    I wholeheartedly hear you, but I’d be a fool to not give a compliment back to the ‘right’ person or while networking. Vain, egotistical people like that stuff and in this economy, you must know your audience.

    I hate it, but it’s pretty much necessary.
    If my boss compliments me on my necklace, I’ll be damned if I don’t find something nice to say about her Dowton Abbey/Miami Vice outfit.

  • L

    Well i guess im rude because i do this all the time. I say thank you and keep it moving. I just don’t feel like the compliment is real if i compliment someone right after they’ve complimented me. If they get mad because i didn’t return a compliment then so be it. Just shows a little insecurity on thier part.

  • march pisces

    label me rude! when someone compliments me i say thank you for the compliment and keep going about my business. i only return if there is something i like and want to compliment on.

  • Karyn

    Look! Not be cliche…but if you don’t have nothing nice to say or about to lie, then shut up. I can’t compliment back if there is nothing to compliment on. What am I going to say? “Oh I like your nail color!” No.

    Them: I like your dress
    Me: Oh. I like it too. Thanks. *resume’s activities*

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    Mostly I will say thanks but I may in fact compliment in return if it is warranted.
    It’s not a big deal or a stretch or a lie when I do compliment in return and its no big deal when I don’t..

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    You can tell when it is sincere and not given because one is EXPECTED in return and you can tell when it is given because people do expect something in return.

  • Caitlin

    I think those people that expect a compliment back are the real jerks. When I give people compliments it’s because I truly think they look cute, or trendy or whatever, not because I’m looking for reassurance. It feels good when I get compliments too but only when I can tell it is genuine and not of the forced or obligated nature. Those actually make me feel worse. So you are not alone, I never compliment back either. :)

  • A

    That’s not rude at all! I always say thank you, and only give a compliment back when I really mean it.

  • Lady Ngo

    It only would’ve been rude if you didn’t say thank you

  • CB

    I’ll give a compliment back if I really mean it but otherwise I say thank you and keep it moving. I was taught not to lie lol

Latest Stories

Style Inspiration: Casual Work Outfits


After Mimi Faust’s Sex Tape, Steve Harvey Tells Women to Protect Their ‘Precious Jewel’ Because ‘It Is What Every Man Is After’


10 Very Basic Tips For First Time Homebuyers


New Credit Reports to Reflect Time Series Payment Data

More in compliments, Life
A Guide For Dealing With Casual Racism

42 Things Your Grocery Store Cashier Really Wants You To Know