If a compliment makes you uncomfortable, is it still a compliment?
Should older adults be complimenting teenagers on their bodies?
What are the lines that shouldn’t be crossed?
A teenage girl trying to answer those questions in her own life turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
Redditor waterfall4936 asked:
“AITA for not accepting my teacher’s ‘compliment’?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“I (17, female) have an eating disorder that has caused me to lose an unhealthy amount of weight. (I am currently getting treatment and doing well, which is why I’m attending school.)”
“A majority of this was lost during the period that we did online/virtual schooling, so a lot of people were shocked at how I looked when we went back to in-person.”
“As you can imagine, the comments about it can get pretty tiring, especially when people think it’s a compliment. I know that I can only choose how I react, so I typically try to just say ‘yep!’ because it’s usually students or parents that don’t know any better.”
“Today, after I mentioned to my friend that it was cold in the building (I don’t think it was rude, I just said ‘wow, it’s chilly’), my teacher (52, male) turned and exclaimed loudly how ‘I’ve really lost a ton of weight, I get thinner every time he sees me’ and, ‘I’m seriously really thin’.”
“(He kept saying more stuff to lengthen the sentence as well. It dragged on.)”
“He’s made comments before telling me to smile more, calling young women students ‘sweetie’, ‘honey’, etc… (but not male students). And as I’m already very fed up with the weight comments, I deadpanned back, ‘Well, I have an illness that affects my weight’.”
“I’m worried that I’m TA if he really did mean it as a compliment, and I’m also worried that it sounds like I’m trying to guilt-trip him.”
“My illness is a part of my life that affects my body, and I don’t need sympathy, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for a teacher to comment on it. However, one of my family members said I overreacted, which is very possible as I was emotionally shaken up.”
“I also want to add that I’m generally very polite with teachers and try to be pleasant, I’ve never talked back like this before which is also why I feel like I may be out of line.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided OP was not the a**hole.
“NTA. Teachers shouldn’t be commenting like that, whether they’re ‘complimenting’ or not.”
“He shouldn’t be telling girls to ‘smile more’ and calling them nicknames. That’s f’king disgusting.” ~ BlissfullyBacon
“I had an undiagnosed eating disorder for most of my life. I constantly got complimented when I was seriously underweight.”
“As soon as I gained a bit of weight, people would be quick to mention that as well. It really f’ks with you.”
“I am still not 100%. NTA.”
“Also f’k anyone who tells you to smile more. I am so sick of that.” ~ nama1128
“I got told ‘Smile! It can’t be that bad!!!’ the week after a miscarriage.”
“Dude regretted that comment.”
“I, uh, kind of lost it and screamed at him, told him exactly why I was looking sad and yelled for a while about how he has no (bleeping) idea what’s going on in other people’s lives and it’s not my job to look happy for random (bleep)wits.”
“Voice cracking and everything. Oddly satisfying now that it’s a safely distant memory, but wow that was a bad day in an already terrible month.” ~ snootnoots
“NTA. No teacher should ever make a comment about a student’s body.”
“And if he had concerns about your weight, he could’ve taken you aside or something. Instead he just seemed to want you to know that he’s noticing your body.”
“What you said was the truth and perfectly warranted.” ~ the_spacemambo
“NTA, not at all. Honestly, it really shouldn’t matter if he (or anyone for that matter) meant it as a compliment or not.”
“It is wholly inappropriate for ppl, particularly a teacher/person of authority, to be commenting on your body. It is really that simple.”
“Your teacher’s intent has absolutely no bearing on the [in]appropriateness of his comments. Not to mention, his other comments re calling female students ‘honey’ & ‘sweetie’ are cringey on a whole different level.”
“So please don’t feel bad for calling your teacher (or anyone) out for these unappreciated comments. And to be honest, I think your response was rather gentle & polite under the circumstances.”
“You could’ve been far more firm in your response & I still would’ve said not the AH.”
“You may want to consider escalating this situation to your parents, guidance counselor, or principal/school administrator. It really isn’t your job to put this teacher in his place, the school needs to do that.”
“And if it’s just a matter of providing this teacher with better coaching on how to handle these situations, then they should do that. It’s not like you need to march into administration demanding he be fired.”
“You just want to bring the matter to their attention so it can be noted/properly addressed. Plus, if he makes these comments to you again, or takes any retaliatory action at all, it will serve you well to have documented the experience with your school.” ~ SunnyBunnyHopHop
“NTA – Your teacher should never comment on a student’s body, let alone the ‘honey’ and ‘sweetie’ comments. Gross.” ~ Animalime
“NTA – that’s a hell of a lot less rude than the responses that jump to mind for me, honestly!”
“I have a friend who once dropped a bunch of weight after going through cancer treatments and she said the thing that pissed her off most was people telling her how ‘great’ she looked for losing weight.”
“Her response eventually became, ‘Oh thanks, the cancer ate it all. Glad you’re on cancer’s team’ and it was honestly a delight to watch people get flustered and sputter their apologies in response.” ~ inzillah
“NTA. It’s 2021. We’ve had the whole #metoo and #timesup thing. Can we collectively agree that we’re DONE just taking creepiness and accepting it with a coy smile?”
“We’re DONE accepting this, like we don’t deserve to be there and be comfortable, and that our discomfort is less important than making them feel the least bit bad? No.”
“To be honest, I think you underreacted. I think you should report this teacher.”
“It’s super inappropriate to call your students pet names and it’s even more inappropriate to not just comment once, but to repeatedly comment on a student’s body.” ~ Jazzisa
The OP returned with an update.
“As he commented on it once again today, I’ll be doing what many of you suggested in the comments and going to a school official about it to see if reporting is necessary/wise.”
“Thank you again for leaving your opinions and advice on this.”
Sincere compliments can be fine.
But condescension and misogyny shouldn’t be mistaken for concern or compliments.
And there are boundaries that should be respected between adults in positions of power and children.