The Existential Expert on how to handle creepy compliments

The Existential Expert responds to your questions. Photo: Pixabay/LEEROY Agency.

The latest in our series of advice columns tackles the issue of receiving unwanted praise … from a partner’s friend.

Dear EE,

My husband’s friend, who covets my husband’s personal style and is always buying the same clothes as him, compliments me on how I look but only when my husband and his wife can’t hear.

It makes me feel creepy.

Any advice on how to handle this next time?

Thanks so much.

Ocean Shores

Dear Stella,

We’re sorry to hear about this creepy situation. 

Let’s be honest, delivering and receiving compliments are a minefield at the best of times. 

The only people who are programmed to feed off personal compliments are actors – and the only people good at giving compliments under any circumstances are their agents. It’s a toxic symbiotic relationship, really – but one of the most ancient and indentured, so whaddayagonnado?

But complimenting your best mate’s wife while said best mate is out of earshot is another level of pretty weird.

Without having been there and what was said and how, it’s hard to be certain about motive. Yes, he could be a sleaze bag. But the guy may also be friendly and trying to mitigate, albeit clumsily, any feelings of awkwardness by being discrete. 

In that case, appropriating your husband’s style choices may just be a manifestation of a lack of confidence. On the other hand, he may have the instincts of a sociopath with only a hazy sense of how to function as a human *Cough, cough, Scott Morrison.*

Whatever the case, it’s unwanted and you are on the receiving end – so our best advice is, next time, to confront the issue head on. We say cut through the uncertainty and bullshit mannered social etiquette. The latter are likely all part of the problem here. 

The terms of this are up to you and the circumstances you are presented with – but clarity would be the bottom line. If he’s particularly obtuse, this might be difficult. In this case, we’d recommend screaming in his face.  

Sometimes it’s just best to be brutally honest about people’s misbehaviour. Image: Robin Higgins/Pixabay.

Depending on how close a friend the other guy is, you may feel the need to warn your husband about what you are planning. In fact, it might be enough for him to have a discrete word with his friend – in which case you don’t need to expend any further effort on this. 

But that’s not say you should let anyone talk you out of what you need to do. You’ll likely receive compliments for your forthright behaviour – but hopefully they’ll be in the proper context.

All the best, 

The EE

A panacea for uncertain times, The Existential Expert is a forum where the Sentinel will address the essential questions, you – our readers – have posed. If you have a conundrum, whether it’s spiritual, philosophical or just something that makes you break out in a rash, tweet or DM us @sydney_sentinel. New columns published regularly on Sundays – and you can check out previous ones here!

Disclaimer: The advice provided in this column is no substitute for professional advice, and should not be treated as such.