I still get props, and I still don’t like it. I mean, on the one hand, props. On the other hand, props? I think I’m ambivalent because the praise isn’t for world-stopping thighs or brilliant prose.
It’s for nothing in particular, in fact, and relates not at all to anything special. That this is not a new rant is simply proof that the problem of over-the-top recognition for the maddeningly mundane continues.
I get congratulations for my continued existence and for dealing with the mental illness and chronic pain that are a function of said existence. Props for waking up seems odd and not a little patronizing especially considering they have no idea, though I understand patronizing is not the intent.
I don’t react with throat punches (not that I’m not tempted) to the unintentional put-downs. [i] I understand the congratulations are offered because people don’t know else what to say. Because they have good intentions, I rage on the inside: I smile, offer thanks, grit my teeth, and move on. I pretend the patronizing and condescension don’t burn.
They aren’t trying to get my goat. [ii]
So good to see you up and around and doing things.
Good for you for getting out there.
You painted the garage door. By yourself? That’s amazing; what with you being on disability.
[people who speak slowly]
Please don’t congratulate me for meeting the basics of existence.
Don’t do that to anyone. I usually don’t speak for other people, but in this case, cut it out. Nobody wants an award for basic functioning. I’ve never not gotten it done, in actual fact. Even when I’m desperately depressed and suicidal, I’m efficient and marginally productive until the moment of. [iii]
Though perhaps not a joy to be around.
I’m not every sure what I want to hear. Sometimes, “well done” is fine. When I’m ordering a steak, for instance. [iv] Or when I’ve done something that requires effort regardless of who is doing the undertaking.
It’s a tricky position to be in. How do you tell people who are fighting hard with life that you think they’re doing well without coming across in a condescending way? Not by making comments about the state of my walking, that’s for sure.
Don’t give compliments to people you’d never expect for yourself: nobody wants to hear, “good job with the grocery shopping.” [v] Stop complimenting people for meeting the absolute minimum of human existence.
And, if you throw a compliment out there, be specific. “Good job” makes me feel like Rover returning with the paper in my mouth. It makes me want to snap back in inappropriately specific and nasty ways (“On what, not vomiting or being unable to hold a job?)
I get that I’m one of the people that generates awkwardness in others. It’s not the crazy, though that’s the thing I get complimented on surviving most often. It’s the physical disability. I’m on my cane a lot these days, and it makes people weird. Visual disability creates a visceral withdrawal.
Being one of the visible “them” makes me a little sad. I’m aware of the increased distance between us; I bet that’s where anxiously awkward comments come from, in part. That, and from attempts to be polite and politically correct. But uncomfortably sincere questions and legitimate curiosity are preferable to the weirdly inappropriate props that make me feel invisible. [vi]
Give me an intrusively sincere question any day.
If it bugs me, I won’t answer. [vii]
[i] If you read my essays on a semi-regular basis, you’ll note I reference throat-punching as a punishment quite often. The reason I do is I know it’s effective, debilitating, and painful. If you’re really unlucky, it causes trauma to the larynx. It takes a while to recover from. There’s a lot of whispering involved.
[ii] This expression comes from a tradition in horse racing. Goats were thought to have a calming effect on high-strung thoroughbreds, so one would be placed in the horse’s stall the night before the race to keep the animal chill. No goat, no chill, and slipping into a rage gets remarkably easy. I suppose the comparable modern expression would be “triggered,” but I don’t really like that word.
[iii] I’d say I’m a spectacular friend and employee always, one-hundred-percent of the time, and that my mental illnesses don’t affect my outside world, except then the people who’ve met me would call me a liar.
[iv] I don’t need to hear from the people who think steak has to be rare, medium rare at most. That’s not a thing I can do. I had a steak cooked not to my liking once, and though I tried to eat it rather than be difficult, I nearly vomited on the table. Running juices are not for me. Apologies to all the steak purists out there.
[v] Funny side note: I’ve received congratulations for grocery shopping that I did appreciate. They came from counsellors and therapists as I relearned how to do it in a non-eating disordered way.
[vi] People think they prop kids up with “everyone’s a winner” and “participation is the only thing that counts.” I don’t care how many letters they have after their name to support that opinion: they’re wrong. Children are excellent bullshit detectors. They spot the fake and phony right quick, they always know who won, and they understand what is and is not deserving of praise. Until we break them.
[vii] Passive voice. Prepositions at the end of sentences. Poor Grammarly is having a stroke today.