Sometimes an insult from a stranger is worse than one from a friend or acquaintance. Yes, the latter can be more personal given that the insulter knows the insultee and is deliberately picking on something that they know about you, but it can also be clouded by other things and the blow lessened by the buffer of other factors in the way. They might be jealous of something, joking, in love with you or just pre-menstrual, but chances are you’ll be able to see the signs and pick up the clues. When it is a random stranger with seemingly nothing to bias their opinion, the insult is a lot sharper and cleaner. Insults from children being the worst…
‘Mummy, that lady has a boy’s face’ is actually a comment I have had more than once from young children and older autistic ones. Whether adults don’t notice it, or are simply better equipped with the social skills that warn them not to voice the observation, I couldn’t say for sure. It is possible that, like dogs, these innocents have a heightened sense of smell and can sense a hormonal imbalance that I’m simply unaware of (but that might explain the rogue hair that seems to grow randomly out of my chin…). They’re trying to tell me to get help I suppose, and I thank them for that, but feel disinclined to seek medical action just yet. I’d like to think, however, that it’s more to do with the fact that I’m not rolling in glitter fancies and pink trinkets and with very little visible boob. Always, after a comment like this, I will have a phase of make-up wearing. And then I’ll get bored of it and it’ll stop and a cretin will tell me I have a boy’s face again.
Then there’s the other end of the scale. I seem to quite frequently either witness or receive random insults from the older quartile of the population. For example: ‘Are you in the 35 to 45 age category?’ asked the gouty old man who has unwittingly sparked this entire blog entry. Handing out train surveys is no excuse for such a wild wrong guess, or indeed, any guess on my personal statistics come to mention it. How about letting me fill out that box if you’re not sure…? After alerting him to the fact that it was my 26th birthday only last week, he did a sort of fluster bluster shuffle chuckle and apologised. That’s all well and good, but he’d been airing on the side of complimentary previous to that point, going a clear category lower than was actually the case for the giggling middle aged ladies to my left. Yuk.
And I have heard worse, though thankfully not aimed at me. There have been weight related comments bizarrely issued as directly as a condescending verbal pat on the bum; the kind that form some sort of comparison as if I had directly asked the insulter- ‘Excuse me, but could you please highlight the apparent weight difference between myself and my companion? I feel it would really strengthen our friendship’. These comments are embarrassing for all involved and since they are delivered so jovially as if it’s perfectly acceptable to suddenly blurt out an unflattering observation, I never have a ready retort (and since they’re usually old folk, a swift kick to the shin is possibly ill-advised though clearly deserved). It’s as unwanted and unprompted as a ‘Gosh! Aren’t you small!’ or a ‘Mummy, what’s wrong with that man’s nose…?’ I’m not fishing for compliments or reaching for a paper bag; I’m simply saying- if you’ve got nothing nice to say, how about not saying it…? (End of rant)