Most of the best compliments I've gotten have nothing to do with what I look like. That suits me fine. I'll take credit for dressing myself well, but the rest of it is just groundskeeping on a very nice parcel of land I inherited from some people I no longer talk to -- my genes were an accident, yes I am glad I got some of them, less glad of others, but it wasn't really my doing.

The ones that gush over how well I care for my hair are especially ironic. I have hair I can sit on because I'm far too absent-minded to book haircuts, even when I can afford them, and too lazy to do anything with it on a daily basis. Or, often, for formal occasions. It turns out that when you have three feet of hair, "loose" comes off as some sort of dramatic Boho fashion statement, rather than an admission that you have never once spent money on a curling iron, because you know full well you will never, ever scrape together the motivation to actually use it.

I think have a travel-size can of hair spray. Somewhere. I know I have bobby pins.

The best compliments are usually unexpected. The magpie actually gave me one before he wandered off to go build things for Burning Man. I gave him the ultra-short version of how I came to have the Sherlocking powers ("My parents are batshit, I had to retrain myself to be social from scratch when I was like nineteen-twenty-ish."), and he told me I was very good at it. Other people have said that, too, but he doesn't know most of my history, because I haven't had the opportunity to tell him yet, and he's one of the most stunningly accurate people-readers I've ever run across. He may actually be better than I am, or at least have a different collection of blind spots. If he thinks I'm genuinely good at it, then I am indeed professional-grade charming.

Not all that long ago, Tommy told me that he figured if I'd ever caught him "Nice Guy"ing some girl when we were teenagers, I'd have injured some sense into him, tout de suite. I would have, but when I was fifteen I would have failed to recognize what a valuable public service I was providing there, and I probably would have tripped up on telling him what he ought to be doing instead. Half a loaf is better than none, I suppose.

Another high school friend, a long time ago, read David Wong's John Dies At The End, way the hell back when it was just a novel he posted on his website to entertain the internet at large. If I recall correctly, it begins with the protagonists, a pair of slacker exorcists, fighting off a demon made of various processed lunchmeats. Xataro told me it sounded like something I'd write. I'd like to think I'm creative enough to come up with things like bologna possessed by a spirit of pure evil, if given sufficient time, and maybe a lot of daiquiris.

Both Moggie and David have told me at various times, and in various contexts, that one of my best qualities is that if they ask me what I'm thinking, I'll just goddamn tell them. Good. I try to be transparent. I can't stop picking up random information about other people, and I feel like just answering things bluntly levels the playing field. Most people don't ask questions, and I'm not sure what to do about that one, but at least for the ones that do, I have a general policy of glasnost. It has so far not turned out nearly so badly for me as it did for the Soviet government.

I also have a policy of telling people nice things when I come up with them. I harbor a small hope that one day I'll give someone the praise they weren't expecting, that makes them reassess things and realize they're not doing that badly after all. I'll never know, but I keep trying anyway.

What are some of your favorite compliments?


  1. I'm a writer. I got a great compliment tonight:

    'Thank you. You're driving me insane. "Torture R***" seems to be a very effective motto for you.'

    Since that's exactly what I try to do - torture her (she stands in for every reader) - it means I have someone react to a piece of fiction the way I worked out it should go.

    There is no higher praise for a writer than 'you really got me thinking.'

    I read your blog because you make me think.


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