I am almost over my hair anxieties at this point. “Almost,” because the last time someone said this to me was four days ago, and my gut cringed. The very sweet person who made the comment instantly added: “I mean, it’s really artistic-looking today… Not boring… Not like… LONG hair” (she has beautiful long hair). By that time, I had recovered, thanked her and ended her agony.
So I started reflecting on the reasons for my cringing. If someone says, “You look great today,” I don’t cringe at all. I do cringe, however, if people comment on my charming accent. My cringing has nothing to do with the intent of the other person, even when I am keenly aware when the first compliment is backhanded, or when my exotic accent has truly fascinated the complimenteur.
So I am thinking that to register as offensive, the comment has to touch a nerve. My hair is a nerve, and so is my accent.
Now, that’s really unfair to the other person who may have absolutely no idea about what’s on your mind. I say this because I’ve been on the other side too. One time, someone was saying that he was thirsty and I responded with “You can have some water.” Oh the fit that followed! It turns out the guy thought I was giving him permission to drink water, because that’s how (he said) the verb “can” is most frequently used nowadays.
Interpretation is a messy affair. Lots of responsibility.