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"You're Great, But..."

What happened: Someone left a comment the other morning on an old entry (don't bother trying to find it) that referenced my singleness. They encouraged me ("on behalf of the men") that I am "a catch" and that many guys would be "ecstatic" to meet someone like me, and that someday ("soon") I'll meet a guy who will be "lucky to have found" me.

Personal Note to Anonymous: I want to say two things before I go further:
a) Your comment was a pleasant surprise and a great way to start my day. I felt encouraged. I truly did, and I hope that the criticisms/frustrations I'm about to share don't dissuade you otherwise.
b) I have no idea who you are and I think it is best (in light of the rest of my thoughts) that it stay that way. I tried briefly to deduce who you are, but once I realized there are nearly infinite possibilities, I decided it's best if I don't try too hard.

Caveat: I have been mulling it all over for the last day and a half. I'm not sure how linear I can make my thoughts, but I do want to try to unpack it - for you, for me, and to generate discussion. All of the following thoughts are tentative, in process, and I reserve the complete right to change my mind.

Thought #1: Anonymity works for and against you in compliments. For you, in obvious ways - lack of risk, freedom to be honest, etc. Against you, because (from my end), who you are really affects the weight and value of the words. While flattered, I don't know at what level or in what ways I should interpret what you've said (and being the over-analyzer that I am, don't doubt that I'll be trying to interpret this for weeks).

For example, if you are:
  1. family - then your words are placating. Well-intended, perhaps, but carry no weight.
  2. female - you can't speak on behalf of men. And it would be weird to deceive me like that to encourage me.
  3. married - it seems creepy that you'd say this anonymously on my blog. To the married guy friends I do have, I'd feel really honoured if you said this to my face, but this seems secretive, which I strongly dislike. If you don't feel you could say this to me in front of your wife, you shouldn't say it at all.
  4. someone I have already rejected - then your words are kind, but misplaced. Anonymity may protect your identity in the moment, but if I found out at a later time that you wrote this, it wouldn't help build our friendship.
  5. single, but feel I'm "out of your league" - I probably am. Just kidding. Probably, I'm not - most guys underestimate how high their "league" goes. (Although it does seem that it's the same guys who do jump out of their league over and over and over...)
  6. single, no buts - I don't understand why you would do this...

In writing the last few lines, I've realized the two key issues that rub me the wrong way here.

Key Issue #1: I'm a say-it-to-my-face kind of girl. Compliments or criticism both need to happen face-to-face, or at least in as personal a context as possible. This allows discussion, clarity, and response or reciprocation where appropriate. If you can't say it to my face...please don't say it at all. And if you're not saying it to my face because you're scared of me...I'm sorry. I come across as intimidating more frequently than I'd like. I'm working on it...but please just talk to me.

Key Issue #2: I am tired of hearing people (men and women) tell me that I'm great, ask me why I'm still single, etc, etc, etc.*** Because it's so rarely accompanied by action - on their part or on the part of anyone else. I realized, back in the spring, that the message I hear most loudly from men (sometimes unintentionally, sometimes almost verbatim) is, "You're great, but..."

"You're great - I'm so glad we're friends."
"You're great - you should date so-and-so."
"You're great - you know I'm into what's-her-face, right?"
"You're great - but I don't like you like that."
"You're great - but I don't like you anymore."

And in all honesty, sometimes it leaves me wanting to yell, "But WHAT!? What needs to change so there are no more buts!?"

Now, I'm not saying that this is the only thing men say to me. Or even what men intend to say to me. It's just the thing that filters through the loudest. I'll very much share the blame for my poor man-interpreting skills. (This is leading into a whole lot of further thoughts, which I will save for later - because if you're still reading, I'm quite impressed.)

What it comes down to, for me, is this: if you are a single guy, don't tell me, in plain-spoken words, that I am great. Unless you are then going to ask me out. If you don't like me like that, there are other ways to show that we are friends.


***someone recently wrote on a Facebook photo of me: "Beth is such a looker now! When's she getting married?" I am still laughing at all that is wrong with that comment...


nadine said…
Oh, Beth. How I identify, once again, with every single word.

"Bells, I think you're great, but...." Argh.
Suzanne said…
Beth, You are great! (period... or exclamation mark eheh)

I sent you a longer response to this in your email.
shellieos said…
I FEEL THE EXACT SAME WAY. I identify completely with everything that you've said.

To the point that I actually tell single guys when they say I'm great, or I should date so and so, or if they try to buddy buddy it up and ask me who I like that actually it's not helpful.

Because all I hear is, you're great, but not great enough for me.
Kirsten said…
"you are such a looker NOW?" i'm going to find out who that was...
that is painfully funny.
steph said…
you've put a lot of thought into this! i see what you're saying though.
and btw, i ignored your instruction not to bother searching for the comment/post.. and it was actually very easy to find it. one word in the Search function and voila.
uh, maybe that means you'll delete this comment now that i've revealed this. ah well, shrug.
Beth said…
nadine: my long-lost sister-twin... i sigh with you.

suz: thanks! i'll respond via email ;)

shells: sometimes i tell guys...sometimes i don't, because what i'm thinking is "just ASK ME OUT!" and that would be awkward.

kirsten: you don't know them...but they DID know me as a young teenager, which was a painfully awkward stage.

steph: ha ha, you're so resourceful. and no, i won't delete it. i already pretty much quoted it ;)
Anonymous said…
I wanted to let you know that I read this, but I don't feel comfortable saying who I am. I'm not family, female, or married (those would be weird, you're right). I wrote it anonymously because you are, as a matter of fact, admirable, attractive, and ridiculously intelligent. Whether other men see it or not, the Creator demonstrated his talent in crafting you. Sorry I can't say more.
Beth said…
anonymous - thanks for the comment. i feel flattered.

to clarify, i am okay with not knowing who you are.

also, i used your first comment as a jumping point, but i really hope you see that my post was in no way intended as a personal attack or anything of the sort...
shellieos said…
Beth, yeah I get you.........oh the things we don't say.
Julia said…
Amen sister.
You don't know me but I am friends with Nadine and this very insightful post was on her blog this week.
Here's a little something my Mentor once shared with me...

“The meanest most contemptible kind of praise is that which first speaks well of a man, and then qualifies it with a ‘but’” – Henry Ward Beecher
Eventhough this was meant for a work environment it holds true pretty much everywhere in life.
Beth said…
julia - thanks for the quote. so true. and welcome to my blog! i'm glad you found it, and found it enjoyable.

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