How to Take a Compliment

Yesterday at Zumba, I ended up chatting with a girl before class. It was her first time and she was excited, but nervous about not being able to keep up. I told her it was super fun and would be totally fine.

I mean, look at it! How can that not be fun!! Oh, because it's in public and people can judge you? Okay, there is that.

I understood her concern. I was, myself, initially worried about taking Zumba. One one hand, it’s a great, fun way to exercise. On the other, it’s dancing and it’s trendy, so the risk is having to do something hip-hoppy is always there. But when the moves lean a little to far toward popping or locking, I feign confusion, pull out something from swing dancing and generally feel much better.

Yesterday, however, something happened that always sends shivvers down my spine. Something that makes me want to run away and hide. Something that brings a quivver to my lip and a tear to my eye. The girl complimented me.

“That was fun!” she said. “And you look great out there, you really know what you’re doing.”

Oh crap.

Like everyone else on the cusps of Gens X and Y, who chose the arts as a profession and whose parents had more than a few unrealized dreams, I am pretty sure that everything I touch turns to poo. Like I”m always wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. I can’t help it. Thinking of myself in glowing terms feels as off as thinking of myself as a dude. It’s not that I don’t enjoy life and things, I’m just a writer. We’re always kind of melancholy.

Plus, I never know how to respond to compliments. Be in agreement with the person talking to you and you’re an arrogant ass. Blow off what they say and you’re ungrateful and rude. It’s like hugging a tall person. Do you go up around their neck like you’re a child or a baby monkey? Or do you hug them around their waist like you’re their lover.

Or high-fiving?!? Geez! Could there be a more awkward social interaction? I think I’d rather make out with a stranger than high-five them. I mean, in the H5, how hard do you hit, how hard do you receive? How do you know they’re going for a high-five and not just swatting a bug out of the air?

Look at that! It's so vague. That could mean "I'm here," or "Stop!" or "Taxi!" or "Throw it to me." How are you supposed to know??

Pretty much all of those thoughts went through my head after class and my new friend probably wondered why I was staring quite so hard into the middle distance when all she tried to do was be nice to me.

Here’s what I can ascertain is the proper procedure for receiving a compliment. What do you think?

Step 1: Do something to the best of your ability while telling yourself that even though you’re doing it all all wrong, you’re a better person for tackling the intellectual exercise of doing something that makes you want to crap your pants.

Step 2: Try to escape the location as quickly as possible without making eye contact with any person, place or thing. But, when someone inevitably stops you and tells you they enjoyed whatever you internally sobbed your way through…

Step 3: Say “thank you,” but assume that any of the following is more likely than that person meaning whatever they just told you.

  • An alien has temporarily possessed your body and has abilities far beyond yours. This alien will leave your body soon and people will continue to expect great things of you, that because you are alien-less, you will be unable to perform.
  • An alien has temporarily possessed the body of your complimentor and has tastes and expectations that are far below the average human. This alien will soon leave your complimentor’s body and that person, because they are alien-less, will forever wonder why the hell you keep chatting to them on facebook.
  • The person is drunk and high, or otherwise addled and has no idea what they’re saying.
  • The person is saying something nice because you were so terrifically terrifying that they’re worried that if they don’t say something nice, you’ll kill everyone.
  • The person meant to be complimenting someone else.
  • The person IS complimenting someone else, but you are so delusional that you think they’re talking to you.
  • The person actually only asked you what time it was.
  • The person actually did mean to compliment you, but you are suddenly stinkier than any person has ever been ever and they regret the moment they came within fifty yards of you.
  • You are in the middle of a waking dream.

Pretty standard checklist, right?


To see more journeys through dance, check out these links…

I started here, freaking out in the castle with WhitePal. That’s right. I said “castle”….Then, I got back into the swing of things…took a chance at real dance in this video…and developed a handy survival guide  in case Zumba is canceled and another dance class takes its place.


For Mor-eo Oreo: Follow The Oreo Experience on Twitter (@oreoexperience)
Leave a comment here or at any of the above and let us know what you think!


  1. Oreo, I like when I see an email from you. Love your witty, sarcatic take on…well….everything. And it doesn’t have to be about race (this one wasn’t). Keep it up. And keep your writing career going.

  2. I think you should have just looked her in the eye and said “Well, you know, I have a natural sense of rhythm.” That would be trolling on your part, but it would be a lot simpler than Step 3.

  3. lol When texting first became popular my friends and I used to joke about how much it’s eliminated a lot of social interaction (e.g. instead of ringing the doorbell, just text to let your friend know you’re outside). Reading this post just made me think of just how much angst social interaction actually causes, so no wonder technology is taking over our social lives.

    I think that if a compliment makes me feel awkward it’s probably because it didn’t come from an honest place to begin with.

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