Back-handed compliment


An older man came to the cafe today and bought a pizza from me. He wasn’t a particularly attractive older man but he obviously found himself witty.

He paid for a $5.61 lunch with $20.61. I automatically said, “$15 is your change.”

I typed it into the register and as I grabbed his bills, he said, 

“I’m proud of you.”

I ignored him.

“Don’t you want to know why I’m proud of you?” he asked.

“I believe I know.”

“You made change without using the register.”

Yeah, and I also count all the cash sales for the entire store. 

“I counted $22,000 this morning,” I said.

He left.

He meant it as a compliment. But it stung. It stung because he would have never said it to a person his age or to a man.

He said it to me because I look younger than my forty-plus years. I’m cute and I’m petite. And I work retail.

And I’m a woman.

So therefore it must be surprising that I can do math.

Never mind that I can speak more than one language. Or that I have two bachelors degrees and am working on a master’s in world history. Or that I used to run a newsroom. Or that I’ve traveled to (and fallen on) four of the seven continents.


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