May 11, 2007

Vivian Ward v. Melvin Udall

Posted in Past, Present, The Happy, The WTF at 6:24 pm by Dagny Taggart

Vivian Ward:  People put you down enough, you start to believe it.
Edward Lewis:  I think you are a very bright, very special woman. 
Vivian Ward:  The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?

Melvin Udall:  You make me want to be a better man.

I’ve had some pretty absurdly awful things said to me over the years – not just in dysfunctional romantic relationships, but by people whom one would normally think would never say such things (family, co-workers, and someone I thought was a friend, to name a few). 

“You’re a horrible, horrible person, and I hope nothing good happens to you, ever.”

And for a long time, Vivian was right – the bad stuff WAS easier to believe.  And a phrase like the one above?  Coming from someone I cared about?  That’ll take some time for recovery – that’s just how I’m put together, I guess.  People I care about can get to me.  I just kind of have to trust that they’ll be careful with that power.  You don’t get to speak to me that way and expect to speak to me thereafter – I don’t care what it is you think I’ve done.

But today, “Mr. Nobody” and I were talking.  This person is (1) very much in love with someone else, (2) a guy, therefore not prone to the usual meaningless female ego-boosting mantras, and (3) possessed of a tendency to be overly honest, if there is such a thing.  Basically, the perfect person from which to hear the following:

“Of all the girls I’ve ever met, you are probably the single best combination of looks, personality, and financial success I’ve known.  You are successfull in your career, you are very smart, you are kind, caring person, and you are pretty damn self aware.”

The compliment wins, for two reasons.  First?  I know that I’m not a horrible person.   Second?  His words have the ring of truth.  They aren’t sugary, there’s no expectation that the sentence will segue into a request for a favor.  It’s a matter-of-fact statement.

And THAT, gentlemen, is how you pay a lady a compliment.



  1. Lisa said,

    That is an excellent compliment! And I don’t know you very well, but from what I know, it sounds totally accurate – you’re absolutely lovely and very together. I’m sorry about the Mr. “horrible person” guy. I am sure that he feels terrible about himself and has a need to make others feel bad to try to even the field. Not that I have any experience with dating anyone like that. Good that you are focusing on the positive!

  2. Lisa: Wow, thanks! Nice to know I make a decent impression 🙂

    My facetious-meter is going off a bit – if it’s not broken, sorry to hear you had to deal with some of that yourself. Mean people? Something we could all do without, methinks. 😀

  3. I am at a loss for why someone would say something so rotten to you…but I’m thrilled you had someone else there to say something so wonderful. Me? I get compliments and want to know what your angle is…

    Then again, that’s just me.

  4. INPY: Well, it’s hard to say what goes on in the minds of others. And I often do the same thing when I get a compliment – which is why this was the perfect person to deliver it – he really doesn’t have an “angle”. Thanks! 😀

  5. dwayne said,

    it’s so rare to get such a nice platonic compliment. makes me want to hand some out.

  6. dwayne: I know what you mean. Think I’m going to make a point of saying those kinds of things out loud, when I think them! 😀

    and INPY: In the interests of full disclosure, I did do something that hurt this person very much, so my hands aren’t exactly spotless. 😕

  7. shadowsofourselves said,

    Dagny – Even if you did something to hurt this person, it still didn’t warrant what he said… (hmm.. what DID you do to him? :-))

    But seriously, there’s no excuse for that.

    This is almost kind of ridiculous, but I still think it kind of rings true, and I tell my second graders this all the time – If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

    It’s one thing to express VALID emotions, and say “I’m hurt by what happened”

    It’s QUITE another thing to say “You’re a horrible person.”

    And of course, you’re NOT a horrible person. 🙂

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