How to take a compliment

By Wayne EliseThis is the companion piece to my earlier 'How to give a compliment.'

On a cosmic scale, life, organization and purpose are temporary. Culture, architecture, the internet, cars, Sunday-fun-days, language and everything human kind enjoys and has made are temporary exceptions in a Universe intent on running down and spreading out into a thin cloud of radiation.

"Ta-da! I bought you a Vespa!"

"Wow! It has a sidecar and everything!"

"And racing stripes. They won't have Vespas in the future."

"No they won't. Entropy."

"Yeah, dang entropy. Enjoy the Universe of useful clumpy energy and matter while it lasts."

"You know we're here by a quirk of fate, right?"

"Oh yeah, I know. To hell with it. Want to rob a bank?"

"With a Vespa?"

"Makes a stylish getaway vehicle."

"We'll need googles."

One day, many years from now, the only thing left will be neutrons floating in space and a state of uniform, low-level radiation distribution. And nothing will be interesting - forever more. See The Heat Death of the Universe.

Compliments take effort. And that is wonderful because it is in opposition to the nature of the Universe which is nudging us toward apathy and decay.

"You are the best amateur sushi chef in the world."

"Oh, no way. I'm not that good."

"Dude, your rolls are tight."

"Sure. But not the tightest."

"I think they are."

"Have you seen Deb's rolls? Now those are tight."

"They're not bad."

"What? Are you arguing with me now?"

"No. I was just saying I like yours the best."

"Well, I'm not ready to handle that level of appreciation."

"Apparently. Sheesh."

When someone gives you a compliment you may think it insincere. You may think they have ulterior motives. Maybe they do. But as Shakespeare said, "Nobody cares. Because all of life is a stage and to be a charismatic you gotta go with it. Sincerity is just good acting bro."

Think of complimenting as staging Shakespeare at your community theater. There are roles to be cast and lines to be delivered.

If you're lucky enough to be cast as The Complimented, your intention is to wow the audience with your social grace and generosity. The proper response to a compliment is to shift the focus back to The Complimentor's generosity.

"Good deed my friend. With that sacrifice of yours I have made the break towards daylight. In no small measure am I to be made whole again and meet with the restoration of my fortune."

"My fortune was made by your acquaintance sir and by your words. You are forthwith full of courage and vigor to speak such to one of my station."

"I only speak the marrow of my bones. Truth!"

"It t'would be easier to let the moment go unannounced tho my lord."

"Nay, would be harder. Things are turning out right, save for the spear in your side and this crimson puddle at your feet, dear corporal and friend."

"The cost is small. In a fortnight the republic will be yours. I have made a good death of it."

"Good night sir. Sojourn off and I will remember you well."


And the curtain falls on the scene.

I can see the review in the Times now. "Dazzling! Whoever that person was in the role of The Complimented took likability to a new level. What an egoless performance! Too bad the character was killed off in the first act."

When someone gives you a compliment, they are willing to stick their thumb in the Universe's eye. Give them some love. Focus the conversation on their courage and kindness and then use the conversation to PLAY.

Ding Ding!

"Awesome. You're the best bike messenger we have."

"No worries. I'm just doing my job."

"Seriously, most of the bike messengers get the package here ten minute late. You always get it up here early."

"It's my fancy bike."

"I beg to differ. It's the rider."

"No. I'm sorry, it's the bike!"



"Shut up and accept my compliment or I'll take that silly mohawk helmet off your head and throw it out the window!"

"Okay. Fine. Thank you for the nice words! It's kind of you to go out of your way to say them! Now can I have my helmet back?"

"What are your plans for lunch tomorrow?"

"Uh, no plans exactly."

"Good. You can have your helmet back if you take me to lunch."


"Fine! Here, take it."

"Good! Thank you."

"Good bye! By the way, nice buns!"

"Right. Uh… thanks. That's kind of you to say."

"There you go. Good response. I took a photo of them. Hope you don't mind."

"Sorry. Of what?"

"Your buns. I uploaded them to one of those Hot or Not sites."

"I see."

"Sorry. Hope that's alright."

"Well um, how did they do?"

"Your buns? Yeah, they won best buns. CNN wants to interview you."


"No. Not really. April Fools!"

"Ha. Aren't you a day late?"

"You were supposed to come yesterday."

"Something you should know. These aren't my real buns. They're implants."

"Ha. Nice try. I know the real deal when I see them."

"No really. Look."

"Dear god!"

"Ha. Just kidding. That's just my water bottle. See you tomorrow."

Ding Ding.

Let's review. Step 1) Appreciate the effort to make the compliment. Step 2) Use the topic to find a way to play together. Step 3) Come back here and report. :)

The search for papacito

By Wayne Elise

When Erika and I were last visiting Mexico we would walk down a street and often hear men call out, "Mamacita!”

On more than one occasion, I'd whip my head around looking for the culprit, but there was never anyone - just the street and alleys and people going about their business.

Finally Erika shook her head, "Why do you bother? There's nothing you can do about it."

I put my hands on my hips. I'm not trying to stop them. I'm fascinated. Who are these guys? What do they get out of it? And how do they disappear like ghosts?"

"They're just little men. I've heard it since I was fourteen."

"Really? Do girls in Mexico mature faster than girls in America?"

"Probably. I had a friend in school. She was twelve when she started dating a guy who was nineteen."

"Wow. That would get you arrested nowadays."

"They were kinda cute together."

In some ways Mexico is like America but in other ways it's like nowhere else.

I took my wife by the shoulders and looked deeply into her eyes. "I want to tell you something. This may shock you." I took a breath. "My goal is to get a Mexican girl to call out papacito at me."

She blinked.

"You know," I said, "to balance the equation a bit."

"Okay. Papacito."

"You don't count."

"What? I don't count?"

"You know what I mean. Your wife saying you're a papcito is like your mom saying it. I want some girl I don't know to call out papacito at me. Preferably a hot one."

She burst with laughter.

"Come on. It could happen."

"Ha. You don't know Mexico."

Everyday from then on, I didn't leave my mother-in-laws house unless my boots were polished, my shirt tucked, and my hair slicked-back like Mauricio Garcés.

I posed outside the empanada stand. I sipped horchata in the park where the old women went to exercise. I helped college girls carry their books. I hung out by the gleaming silver water tower filled with Cajeta (Mexican carmel) and asked locals to take my picture.

I didn't hear one 'papacito'. Everyone seemed to be doing their best to ignore me though I was the tallest, palest guy in town. That made me itchy. I'd whip around suddenly and everyone would be staring at their shoes or looking up into the sky.

On the last day of our trip I threw up my hands. "Fuck it. It's not going to happen."

I left the house with my hair ungreased. I rinsed off the fake tan. I left my piteado belt and guitar at the hacienda. I went back to wearing my Primark skinny jeans, which are pretty fucking British.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. People are timid outside the framework of social expectation. Mexican guys are expected to call mamacita - so they do. While Mexican girls are expected to walk in groups with their friends and keep to themselves. So that's what they do. There are things in cultures you can not work against.

"Or maybe you're just a dufus-looking gringo," said my friend Mike over G-chat.

That evening Erika and I stood facing each other in the town square in front of the water tower filled with Cajeta. The fairy lights flickered in the trees around us. A mariachi band struck up a lullaby.

"I feel like a failure," I said.

She handed me a daisy. "It's okay. You made a good try. But don't worry. You're my husband and I love you."

But then a crowd of people pushed past us. We were briefly separated. Someone bumped up against me. My foot got stepped on.

"Pappacito!" a voice called out.

I spun around. "Who said that?"

But there was no one. The crowd pushed further down the street seemingly unaware of us. It was an ordinary Mexican Saturday evening. Vendors sold paletas de leche. Children chased each other around the fig tree. Women sat on the benches and talked while old men played checkers. Lovers walked hand in hand. A cat stalked a pigeon. The Mariachi band added in an electric guitar and played Stairway to Heaven.

"My god," I said to Erika. "Did you hear that Pappacito?"

She stepped closer. "I did. Congratulations."

I played it back in my mind. There was a glitch. "Did that papacito sound ironic to you? Do you think she, who ever she was, was joking? Was it a pity papacito?"

"Of course not. You look great."

I fingered my old Coke t-shirt and looked down at my dusty shoes. I looked up and squinted my eyes at her. "I don't know. It feels like a setup."

"Don't look at me. Come on. Let's go buy some empanadas."

On the way there, she got like ten mamacitas.


People are more likely to reveal their attraction when they have a feeling of security. That feeling can come via many ways. Sometimes by writing it down in a note passed through a friend. Or by drinking three beers. Or by leveraging social expectation. Or by hiding behind a tree.

Unfortunately that matters little to the person receiving the attention. They care about their own feelings of security.

A woman can feel scared when getting cat-called on the street. She can feel alone and out-numbered. She can feel intimidated when a guy walks up to her in a club, leers over her and tells her she's hot. She can feel panic at the thought of someone showing interest in her on the subway. She can feel trapped if her date uses momentum to escalate physically.

In rare circumstances men can also feel a perception of power imbalance that makes a show of attraction unwanted.

One of the foundational principles I teach is the idea that showing attraction is okay, sometimes helpful, so long as the person receiving that attention feels they are in a position of power.

Towards that end I teach all manner of Jedi tricks to give the other person a feeling of empowerment. Sometimes we use distance by moving our body backward, sometimes we slide down in our seat so our eyes are lower than hers. Sometimes we make it explicit that though we may find a girl attractive, we are NOT hitting on her. "I wouldn't do that without knowing your relationship situation and frankly how to hit on you. Everyone is different. Everyone has different needs and turn-ons. You might be in a committed relationships. You might be recently broken-up. You might be into bondage or threesomes or none of the above. We might be better off as lovers or friends or perhaps I should introduce you to my amazing friend Jack. Hitting on someone is trying to make something happen and I can't do that until we have enough trust that you can tell me your story.  Otherwise hitting on you would be an insult - like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole."

You can probably guess how most people respond to this. They're stunned. The truth and candor of it all hits them hard. They are only left to nod their heads. Try it for yourself. Take on this idea. Play with the combination of sexual expression and empowerment. Fuck your own feelings of security. See it from the other person's point of view. Make them feel safe and powerful and then hit on them. Put a dagger in their hands aimed at your heart and then say you want to take them back to your place and spend the rest of the night making love. "And if you feel uncomfortable while you're there or change your mind, it's easy to get a cab from my flat. I would be okay with that. But I think it would be hot spending the night together figuring out how to make each other feel a maximum of pleasure."

Looking back to Mexico it now makes sense to me. I was actually more likely to get my papacito when I didn't look important or slick or powerful in any way. When I looked a little grungy a girl, some girl, felt empowered enough to respond. At least that's the narrative I have in my head.


Back in LA.

We were riding my Vespa down Western Avenue towards Echo Park with Erika behind me when all this again popped into my mind.

We stopped at a red light and I turned my head. "When we were in Mexico did you, or did you not, pay one of your friends to call out papacito at me?"

She pushed her helmet into the back of mine. "I'm not saying either way. But you ARE gullible."

"What? Me? No way. I've been around this world more times than I care to remember. I'm not easily fooled babe."

"Ha. You believed that the water tower was filled with Cajeta."

"It's not?"

"That's just what we tell tourists."

"Oh. Rats."

As always thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments and suggestions.