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By: Luce Cada
the intricate design of a snowflake is only beautiful when
you see it for the first time in winter
when you see it for the first time on a starry night with
a loved one, and destiny awaits you
but snowflakes can pierce your skin
can blind you with darkness and ice
and all you see is white on the outside
and all you see is black on the inside
and the lights flicker and darken
and the hum of the heater shuts off
and the ghost of the wind shrieks
and you know that it’s not enough
broken lines and broken pipes
soaked walls and soaked clothes
six feet under and six feet apart
closed stores and closed roads
tuna sandwiches and penguin huddles
white paint streaking the ground and the sky
blackouts called as if it were night
worlds falling asleep with open eyes
four days locked away in hopes
that electricity warms their phones and hearts
that this first will be the last
that the normal will restart
the first time is only beautiful
when it’s a light drizzle
but when the first time brings a warning
the first time is no longer enjoyable.
-- Texas, 2021
How to Receive a Compliment
By: Austina Xu
Congrats! You’ve just received a compliment! Perhaps it was about your immaculate personality or that sexy gym bod that you totally have! Either way, you’ve earned someone's praise and admiration. Things are really looking up, aren’t they, bud? But what most don’t realize is that the most important part of receiving a compliment is what comes after. I like to call this part the YBNSTUOEATPMV, short for you-better-not-screw-this-up-or-else-all-that-praise-might-vanish. Now I know what you are thinking: How is that even a difficult problem? Once someone compliments me, it’s done and over, right? Classic rookie mistake. Recall that one time your coworker told you they liked your coat. How did you respond? Did you simply dismiss it, unwilling to grasp that glorious opportunity for an ego boost? Or perhaps you merely stood there like a sad, lonely child who lost their parents at Disneyland after following a worker in a Mickey Mouse suit, which, upon further inspection, looked a lot creepier than you had anticipated. Or even worse, walked along your merry little way in order to avoid engaging in further conversation. If you answered yes to any of those, then, oh boy, do you need my help. Lucky for you, as someone who is showered with compliments daily, I, Austina Xu, expert compliment receiver, am here to help you.
Before we dive into how to receive a compliment, you must first identify what type of compliment you are receiving. Much like people, the world of compliments is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly. While most are familiar with the first, we should still prepare some hefty firepower in case the latter two were to occur. But fear not, for here are some easy ways you can respond to negative compliments:
Fake Flattery- Most of the time fake flattery is used to get on your good side. While most would recommend that you simply smile and carry on, I beg to differ. Do you really want people to think you’re that easy to win over? Puhhleaasee. Assert your dominance and immediately call them out for their superficial praises!
PEER: You did sooooo well during your history presentation! Also, absolutely loving the new haircut.
YOU: Wow, you really think I can’t see right through that little lying mouth of yours? I know all you want is for me to lend you lunch money again. What am I, your human ATM? And don’t think I forgot that time you bought the last sloppy joe even though you knew that I wanted it. So why don’t you take your cheap little lies and go dig around in the garbage for some food like the piece of scum you are!
Envious Compliments- One of the biggest mistakes people make in response to such comments is to apologize for having something that others do not. People who use these compliments desire something of yours, so why should you feel sorry for having it? If you got it, flaunt it!
FRIEND: Man, I wish I had your wardrobe.
YOU: Thanks! It’s pretty neat, right? Here I have my collection of Prada and Versace handbags. Gimme a hot sec while I grab my favorite Giorgio Armani fingerless gloves.
Backhanded Compliments- These bad boys are like the child of compliments and criticisms. For these types of comments, I’d suggest addressing them head-on and unleashing all your savagery on your perpetrator. Hey, they asked for it.
PEER: You’re really pretty; I’m surprised you don’t have a boyfriend.
YOU: Pfft, look who’s talking. Your boyfriend clearly missed the good looks department when he decided to date you.
If you are unable to think of a witty retort on the spot, a little emotional manipulation will do the trick. Immediately assume a fetal position and sob uncontrollably while staring right into your offender’s eyes with a gaze so piercing it could cut straight through that ice-cold heart of theirs. Proceed to rant about your childhood traumas to the point where it is virtually impossible for them to respond without looking like a total jerk. This should effectively make them wish they never uttered those words on God’s green earth.
Now even if you aren’t me, there is a chance that you may have received a genuine compliment from time to time. When you do, it is pivotal that you do not make a fool out of yourself. After all, this is your time to shine, so don’t let it slip away because of some lackluster response.
The Appearance Compliment- These types of compliments usually go along the lines of “I like your hair today” or “You look gorgeous.” You know, compliments you receive all the time. Now the simplest way to respond is with your typical “thank you.” But if you really want to go above and beyond (and why wouldn’t you) try returning the compliment. This doesn't have to be complicated- just pick the first thing you notice about them and say you like it. Works like a charm:
PASSERBY: Nice shirt!
YOU: Aw thanks! I really like your Gucci Ace GG Supreme Bees Leather Lace Up Sneakers!
Simple, right? But what if the person giving the compliment is someone you see frequently? And what if she or he does not own a pair of Gucci Ace GG Supreme Bees Leather Lace Up Sneakers? If either of these is the case, then there is a chance that responding in such a manner every time they compliment you can come off as ingenuine and shallow. Thus, if the person delivering the compliment happens to be someone you know relatively well who does not own a pair of Gucci Ace GG Supreme Bees Leather Lace Up Sneakers, try spicing things up with a heartfelt remark:
FRIEND: Nice shirt!
YOU: Aw, thanks! I really admire your laid-back personality. Sometimes life is an endless abyss trapping us in an entanglement of our own demons, and it is only when we find the ribbons of hope that we learn to embrace the beautiful mess that is humankind. And if it weren’t for you, I would never have broken free from the shackles of my sins.
Service compliment- These compliments are intended to express gratitude and appreciation for your assistance. The most important thing to remember is to never respond in a way that diminishes your act of service. Phrases like “don’t worry, it was nothing” can lower the gravity of a task and make the person feel guilty or inadequate for asking for your help in the first place. Instead, respond with enthusiasm and readiness to assist in the future:
FRIEND: It was really kind of you to help me bury Pepe the other day; he meant a lot to me. God, I’m sure going to miss that dog.
YOU: Happy to help! Feel free to contact me if you ever need to bury another pet and/or loved one again!
Performance compliments- Performance compliments are a great testament to all the hard work you put into a project. Receiving positive feedback for your dedication is an incredibly gratifying experience, so be upfront about it!
PEER: Great presentation today! Loved the confidence.
YOU: Thanks, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! You know what they say: work hard, play hard. Man, there’s nothing better than being recognized for your efforts. I’m on top of the world right now! Let’s go eat our weight in ice cream to celebrate!
Over-the-top compliments- When I say over-the-top, I mean over-the-top. I’m talking Lady-Gaga’s-2010-MTV-Video-Music-Awards-raw-beef-dress level over the top. Heck, the person who's giving you this compliment might be one of your many suitors who’s planning on professing love to you via a private island getaway. My point is that these compliments are the epitome of extra, and don’t come by that often (unless you’re me). Rather than wasting time trying to come up with a verbal response, demonstrate your appreciation and emotional connection with an equally over-the-top reaction. Think of the saddest thing that could ever happen to you; some examples include and are not limited to: you failing a college-entrance exam, you failing a college-entrance exam on your birthday, you failing a college-entrance exam on your birthday after promising your mom that you’d get into Harvard, you failing a college-entrance exam on your birthday after promising your mom that you’d get into Harvard and then your cat dying from rabies shortly after breaking the news to her. Remember: the closer you come to crying, the better. For the cherry on top, give the person a big, long hug afterward. Not only will this heighten the emotional intensity of the moment, but it’s also a great way to avoid having to talk. Plus, who doesn’t like a good hug?
SUITOR #15: You are the apple of my eye, the sun to my moon, the pepper to my salt! The only person in the world that coul- … A-are you alright?
YOU: (aggressive sobbing)
There you have it, seven easy ways to respond to a compliment. Wasn’t that the most brilliant article you’ve ever read? It was all thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears I poured into this masterpiece. Never in my life have I felt so properly acknowledged for my efforts! What’s that? You love my hair even though you have no idea what I look like? Aww, thanks! I love your eyes, you know, the ones that allowed you to read my magnum opus! Anyways, while I treat myself to a self-congratulatory Netflix marathon, feel free to take a few moments to let my wisdom marinate in your mind, and soon enough, you'll become an expert compliment receiver in no time!
The FOrever Family Program
By: Austina Xu
Very few people knew what it was like to participate in the Forever Family program, let alone visit the pickup clinic. To both June and Thomas’s surprise, the walls were not that pasty offwhite color commonly used in hospitals; instead, large orange posters hung along staircase railings and walls, with quotes like “this is the future of family” and “parenthood is about guiding the next generation and forgiving the last.”
“How do I look?”
“Relax, you look fine. Very… motherly.”
June rolled her eyes at Thomas as she smoothed out the wrinkles in her yoga pants, though secretly relieved by his response. Even though they did everything the plan mandated, whether it be sending in meticulously scripted interaction videos or signing up for post-pick up enrichment classes; she still felt it necessary to dress the part. First impressions were important, after all.
“Are you guys picking up?”
“Yes,” Thomas completed for June, whose gaze was still fixated on the verification papers as opposed to the couple who had just sat down beside them, “it’s a bit nerve racking, especially with all the rumors about how fragile artificial hearts can be!”
The couple chuckled politely, “If you don’t mind us asking, what was on your list?”
“Enhanced parietal and frontal lobes,” June finally responded, “with 80% ovarian cancer gene editing.”
The husband laughed, ”I guess we really should be focusing more on the more important stuff, huh? We spent days just picking an eye color!”
“Brown #41!” piped his wife, “Gorgeous burnt umber with a hint of hazel, just like my father’s!”
“Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster?” a nurse interrupted.
June’s breath quickened as she heard the couple’s “good lucks” slowly fade into the distance. This time, she and Thomas were escorted to a room much smaller with tiled floors so spotless they perfectly reflected the series of hologram projections on the walls. June’s hand instinctively clutched her stomach, the pixelated images of parents holding their children all slowly morphing into one nauseating cycle.
“Do you think we should have picked another color?”
“What if we did it- sorry?” sputtered Thomas simultaneously.
“Nevermind, you go.”
He hesitated. “What if we did it naturally?”
A long sigh filled the air. “Thomas, we’ve discussed this already. And can you not bring this up on pick up day?”
“You’re right, you’re right,” he stuttered before flashing a bright smile at June, “I can’t believe we’re finally going to be … ”
The squeaking of rubber wheels ceased their thoughts, and they turned their attention to the nurse's hands. And there he was. Soft black synthetic hair covering his tiny head, not a single noisy cry escaping his lips. June clutched him to her chest, her fingers brushing his perfect, long lashes.
“Midnight blue #247, beautiful choice,” the nurse smiled. “No other child will have eyes like your boy.”
June met Thomas with glistening eyes and nodded.
One, two, three breaths
She takes what she can
In her arms she began
to swing her baby to
sleep, protecting her from
what she hopes will never
ever find them, running from
what she hopes will never
ever find them.