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Friday 26 June 2015

When good compliments go bad

The DIY text on this dress was inspired by a comment on this blog by Sue of You Can Call Me Sue and lyrics by hip hop group N.W.A. in "Gangsta Gangsta": "Do I look like a mutha feckin' role model?" 

This is the first of two tank maxis I farked with the Ted Baker London, Vancouver, store pre-opening media event in mind (2nd one here). I wore neither, but this one really got me thinking about role models, so-named for their character, not really looks, which is what makes this line so interesting.
Mel Kobayashi flirts with coolness in her farked dress on Bag and a Beret.
In Vancouver, I am constantly on the look-out for style icons, and if I see people who dress in a cool way, I want to tell them so. That's how my street style blog, now dormant - at least until the blogger meetup in July - was born. But I've had a few cases where my good compliments have gone bad, real bad.

ME: Excuse me, can I just say I think you look fantastic! I love your [dress/pants/top]!
PERSON: I don't need your validation of my looks! Who do you think you are to judge me like that? 
ME: Oh. Um, I just like your style. I like your shoes too. But, uh, I'll just be on my way. Have a nice day. Oops, that was wrong, to prejudge you as a person capable of having a nice day. Sorry.
Does this demure pose startle you? Mel Kobayashi, Bag and a Beret
This exact dialogue never happened, but the thought bubbles were easy to read. Have we become so politically correct that I can't even compliment someone on their style without causing offense!? Most of us have probably been raised to think compliments are a good thing. Greetje, on her blog No Fear of Fashion, put it well here:
Compliments make people happy. Therefore… you should pay people lots of compliments. Sincere ones. They will not only lighten up that person's day but will also give you a happy feeling.
Sour Biatch Cafe by Mel Kobayashi, Bag and a Beret
Sometimes I have coffee here. Other times I rush by. 
Maybe you also know the saying, "If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all." So now what? If you can't say anything, don't say anything? Puh.

I am not going to stop telling people I'm wild about their style. That would be like telling me I can't, say, dance anymore (even though it would be a kindness to humanity). And since I can't prejudge who is going to be a prick about a compliment - I can never tell - I'm going to keep on dropping compliments like f-bombs all over the city. Be forewarned.
Mel Kobayashi wonders if she looks like a role model...!?
  • DIY text, tank maxi dress, painted with acrylics
  • thrifted long-sleeve boat neck top
  • black jeggings, sample sale
  • geta-style sandals, discount Topshop 
  • magic loupe, gift from O
  • vintage sunglasses, $2 at vintage store closing sale years ago
I took the second two photos when I got home from my inspiration walk, when my hair had become horned.

Have you ever had a person snap at you for giving them a compliment or is this just a Vancouver thing? I'd be relieved if it were the latter. (Please contact Miz Bagg for Sour Biatch Cafe franchise opportunities.)


  1. You can judge me anytime! I get a lot of "oh I love your hair!" to which I sometimes honestly reply, "Well....technically, it's not my hair!" (Because half of it is a hair piece!)

  2. Oh no - it's not politically correct to leave a compliment? Have we become so effed up at being judged, manipulated by marketeers and the meeja that we cannot take one? Is it paranoia?
    One thing for sure - it is RUDE to be all lordly and 'how very dare you'.
    There's an obvious difference between sincerity and feckwittage.

    Gawd, I'm incontinent with the complimenting and I love getting them. Of course I don't need anyone's validation - but neither do I need to make someone feel like a pervert because they like my look or something I'm wearing. Compliments are little gifts.

    Also, feck it let's dance - get your hair horns ON - the yacht can wait.

  3. The Sour Bitch Cafe - haha! That's now in my lexicon, as in "She just got her usual table at the Sour Bitch Cafe." Go on and drop those compliments - god knows we don't hear enough of them on the regular. xox

  4. loooove the cartoon!!!
    and your dress of cause! need such on a woven fabric with darts and lining....
    first one in my life who could´t accept compliments in a proper way was my - beautiful - cousin. we were 15 and i said she looked super chic in her LBD - her face got frozen and she changed into something else immediately!! later i came across more cases and learned that this are always people with low self-confidence.
    and lets face it - it´s rude of a grown up person to not give a polite reaction to someone who is just nice! if they like it or not.
    fab weekend to you!!!

  5. I love people who have the courage to comment and compliment others. I think the problem with women (in general, probably also speaking as a dietitian here who has a lot of experience with clients who dislike their bodies) is that they are not used to accepting compliments on their appearance or themselves. I thought about this a lot more after having babies - particularly since all three were girls - since I desperately wanted to raise kids with positive attitudes towards themselves and their bodies. I (probably like many others) used to shake off compliments when I got them..."nah, this old, I look terrible...blah blah blah" and I wasn't lying either. I just spent so much time in my head telling myself that I was crap that I couldn't believe it or accept it when somebody told me otherwise.
    So I started making a conscious effort of saying "thank-you" (with the attitude of yes, I am indeed, when somebody complimented my appearance, and boy that was hard and alien for a while but it got easier. When my girls told me I was beautiful, that was easier for me to scream and shout, "I am, aren't I!". And you know what, the more you squash that horrible voice in your own head, the more you can accept the nice voices from others and actually believe it.
    So the moral to my rather long comment, is that I am hopeful (through my very conscious efforts) that I am raising girls who will be able to look a lovely stranger in the eye and say "Thank You, yes this outfit is awesome!". We all need to start small with ourselves to change the world ;-)

  6. I've never had a bad reaction to a compliment, and I shall continue to deal them out to whomever I deem worthy (amongst people I know, a lot; to people I don't, only if they are making an effort).

    You look fabulous! I love the dress and the hair and the shoes. Eee, the meet-up is coming! I've booked my flights, even.

  7. I've had someone frown at me and walk away when I complimented their hair. Perhaps she was having a bad hair day and thought I was taking the Mick!

    Sadly, I've become weary of giving compliments to strangers for exactly that reason. You never know how someone will react.

    You look fab by the way :)

  8. Um uh.....I don't want to be rude or anything....and I'm really sorry to bother you....but you ARE a feckin' role model. Have a nice day.đŸ˜»

  9. It's a funny world when you have to be PC even about your compliments!
    I just read a blog post about how the word "flattering" could be taken in the wrong context. Sometimes I think things are way to overanalyzed...just take it as a compliment, right? jodie

  10. Personally I live for compliments and I cannot imagine anyone doing that. Weirdo granola cruncher Vancouverites! I know how much I like compliments from strangers and years ago I made up my mind to pass on the good vibe whenever I saw someone deserving. I will go out of my way to compliment someone.

    As usual your cartoons are priceless.


  11. You are mahvelous!
    And I will continue to compliment people (fortunately I haven't had a snippy/rude response).

  12. Judge meeee!!! You are v creative as this tee is super cute!!! I like your font!x

  13. As I think about it, there's a difference between complimenting/commenting on someone's physical appearance versus their outfit. While our bodies do not exist to make others happy (they have many more useful functions!), our outfits are often a form of self-expression, and people who dress well put a lot of effort into that expression. So in my view complimenting an outfit is like complimenting an artist on a job well done!

  14. Love this post!
    I was raised by a complimenter and do it myself all the time.
    People usually glow!
    But once it backfired. I rang to compliment a husband on a job well done, and asked the wife to pass it on. She totally refused and said they had a policy to not accept each other's compliments. Although in principle it sounds good, in practice I felt kicked in the teeth!
    Loving the new horned are so trendsetting in Vancouver :-D
    Wishing you a compliment filled day. Blogging certainly gives us a ton even if no one in real life gets us! Xo Jazzy Jack

  15. I've never had a negative reaction to a compliment, and I think it's important to let someone know when they have obviously made an effort, or something about what they're wearing pleases you. I appreciate compliments when I get them too. I do know people who cannot accept compliments, and are always deflecting them with something negative, which gets very annoying after a while. You want to say, "Just take the compliment and shut up!"

    Yes, you do look like a role model!!! At least one that I would aspire to.

  16. how strange. Compliments are cool

  17. Your illustration just made my day...Look away, darling! I need to make that my motto for today:) and hurry to that yacth that is waiting (metaphorically speaking).

    I hate that false political correctness. You say someone they look nice and they repay they are more than their looks- I mean who ever implied otherwise? I think people who say ' I don't want to be jugded by my looks' all the time are actually secretly afraid that they don't have a lot more to offer.

    I do really like your dress and the DIY inscription is bloody brilliant!

    you rock!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Oh blast, lost my reply.
    I am honoured to have been quoted on your blog.
    And no I have never had such a reaction like you sketch. Not in all my years. Apart from once 35 years ago from an American guy. I just decided he was not nice.
    Love the dress and the sketch.

  19. That is a stellar title for a blog post - it drew me right in!
    heh heh heh
    YES I have seen this type of reaction and you know what? It is all about the recipient's internal struggles with things that have happened and still happening in their life.
    I read a rather long conversation on a discussion forum where women described their reactions to compliments and they were just as disgusted as you described. I am sure there are many different things that could bring about such a reaction, but in this case it was their weight. The felt certain that the compliment was code for "that makes you look slimmer". They felt insulted rather than complimented. Maybe their mother said passive aggressive things to them and now they are struggling to come to terms with their weight? I mean, really, you can never know what another person's struggle is, so I say carry on!
    Compliment away! If you get a snarly response, well ... maybe you can have a clever reply at the ready. Rescind it! Yeah, just say oops! I TAKE IT BACK! I meant to say I LOOK GREAT TODAY and it just came out wrong. 'k bye!
    heh heh heh

  20. That's it ... I'm making us crowns. And maybe I'll make a different style for those SB's in the coffee shop.

  21. Yes, yes you do. Especially in that black maxi that asks the burning ? You are certainly mine. mmmwwwaaa

  22. Hmm, I can't say that I've been snapped at for giving a compliment but I've sensed a person's uncomfortable reaction to them before. I don't let that stop me though. I'd never visit the Sour Bitch Cafe unless I was delivering happy muffins for their display case. But I have a feeling my happy muffins wouldn't sell well there. Those kinds of customers don't like change. ;)

  23. I love it when someone compliments something about my outfit. And I love complimenting others, even more so when you see their face light up.

    I shall continue to sprinkle my compliments around with all the vigour of Tinkerbell, whether they're residents of the Sour Bitch Café or not!

  24. Insecurities... don't we all have them and sometimes really, really adore them, our own insecurities? I can't remember such a strong negative reaction on a compliment, but I did have really bad reactions on apologies... go figure. I think when we feel insecure, we just can't take other's positive attitude sometimes - we feel threatened and do not want to admit that people can be actually genuinely kind and sincere.

    The photos and illustration are brilliant! xxx

  25. Thank you for all your comments.

    Yes, I can see how insecurities would play into a negative response. I understand the reactions of disbelief, having been there myself, but I never expected anger; as you say, we can't know what's going on in a person's life. I should be mindful of that.

    A couple of negative feedbacks came from women who were wearing very expensive clothing and maybe felt angry at being complimented by a lower life form; they were the boot, I was the insect. Those particular snobs pissed me off. I regard style and art as the great levelers.

  26. A compliment always makes my day. It doesn´t happen very often in Spain. How I would love to meet you, my dear Melanie.

  27. I have a friend who use to ask for my opinions, but at the same time she asks me not to be so brutally honest. We usually have a discussion about it before she shows up what she wants to show, and before I give my opinion. She is extremely attractive so it usually ends up with me being honest. I realize that I do not dress like the norm and know that I get the most compliments but also ugly comments now and then. I guess that persons who's dress in "their own way" get more "thick-skinned" )I don't know if you can say "thick-skinned" in English but I do Believe that you know what I mean. And now that you know that I can be brutally honest - I adooore your style!

  28. mwahaha, I should compliment your style if I see you walking down the street! (I really should love to see somebody so fabulous than you walking down the street just now!)
    I live in a little town, so chatting with random people is part of social life: I'm used to compliment any outfit I like as part of a casual chatting, meanwhile waiting a bus or buying groceries. But some people don't accept it as an spontaneous and admirative expression, they just think there's something more and receive compliments with suspicion and hostility. I don't care. Not everybody can enjoy a compliment.
    So let's stay spreading the world with our spontaneous and free compliments and having fun!.
    Sour Bitches Café!!!!!! love it!!!
    besos & Sweethearts Café

  29. I've only heard pregnant women snap at compliments like that. Weirdos.

  30. I've never had a reaction to a compliment, as you describe. I love giving them, and hope to continue. I'm giving you several right now. Such as, I adore your hair, your tank maxi dress and everything about your self expression! You're as cool as they come!

  31. Seriously? That's just fecking dreadful. I always compliment people (if I like how they're dressed)and I've yet to get a rude reaction.

  32. How completely bizarre. Has the world gone mad? Compliment away my friend. Some people need to take the stick out of their ass. Whoops, did I say that out loud?? But truly, I think compliments, when sincere, are the loveliest of all gifts. I won't stop giving them out xx

  33. Keep the compliments flowing regardless. I am a giver of compliments that are mostly well received, sometimes by people bemused that anyone would do so. I have some to share with you that hair , your tank dress and your sketch are just wonderful.

  34. I think it's just bad manners to respond so rudely to a well-intentioned compliment. It took me quite a while to learn not to do the "what? this old thing? Ooh, I look a mess really..." babbling crap when someone paid me a compliment. It's so graceless and charmless to bat away a pleasant remark. How much better to smile and say "thank you very much". I've had people do the "this old thing?" reply when I've complimented them, but never had a telling off. Thank goodness. Or I would have to frequent the Sour Bitch cafe, and I don't think I want to go there...
    Love your Role Model dress. You are one. A Role Model for enthusiasm, creativity, and sharing the love. Long may you continue to do so, Mel! xxx

  35. I didn't even know sh*t like that was even possible. That's crazy. People be trippin'. That's my eloquent and expert analysis on this topic. Hehe. F*cking love those sunglasses on you, by the way!

    - Anna

  36. I love the Sour Bitch cafe. I say we open one.

    I, too, am a compliment-giver. As you say, usually they are well-received. But occasionally I get the Hairy Eyeball in return. My motto is, "Just thank God you're not married to them!"

  37. Must be some uptight Vancouver thing, although I never remember it happening to me when I lived there. I compliment all the time. Equally, I get a lot of compliments. I don't find them difficult to give or to receive. If someone likes what I'm wearing, I say thanks, how kind of you to say. It's not like it's rocket science, is it?

    Much love from England, (an ex-Vancouverite)
    Rosemary from

  38. You are terrific,amazing woman -sorry artist ! :*

  39. Loved this post.

    Your slogan T-shirt, the sketch, Biatch-cafe...hahaha...

    I hate it when people take themselves so seriously that even giving them a compliment can become a hazardous thing. Lighten up, folks. Do normal (for once that would be a good thing).


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