Have You Been “Negged”?

There is a mildly offensive book that’s been floating around bookstores and dorm rooms and lord knows where else called “The Game.” The book chronicles the journey of one reporter in his attempt to become a pickup artist and his entrance into the league of men known as the seduction community.” 

I know, I know, doesn’t it just spell S-E-X?

Through his encounters, investigative journalist Neil Strauss became familiar with the popular pick-up tactic called a “neg,” defined by Urban Dictionary as: “A light insult wrapped in the package of a complement. Used by pick-up artists to gain and maintain the attention of women who possess uncommon beauty.”

I’d prefer to define it as the late night bar-scene equivalent of a high school hallway’s backhanded compliment. However, where these men use it as a tactic, women seem to dole them out subconsciously. (That, or we’re more sensitive; a “friend” saying “cute skirt” may send up our defensive flares more quickly due to Regina George-PTSD.)

While we don’t always intend for our compliments to burn — it is possible to genuinely mean you “look so pretty with makeup on” without also meaning “you look prehistoric and reptilian without it” — the un-beauty of a backhanded compliment is in its ability to concurrently float like a butterfly (“I love that bracelet”) and sting like a bee (“That’s the ugliest effing bracelet I have ever seen)…whether the diss was intended or not.

For example:

1. It’s so you… I could never pull it off.

What we hear: You look like a T-Rex wrapped in periwinkle taffeta, but then again, you normally do, so own it!

2. You’re SO photogenic.

What we hear: Don’t get too excited by the amount of likes your Instagram upload is generating — you don’t look like that in person.

4. It’s so nice that you freelance and you can basically make your own schedule!

What we hear: You also make five dollars a week and you and your dog Miley share food rations.

5. You look so different! In a good way!

What we hear: You look so different. Not in a good way.

6. You’re so lucky you don’t need to wear a bra.

What we hear: I’d rather double scotch-tape my giant double Ds to my chest than bear your mosquito bites.

7. Marriage has done you good!

What we hear: Your cakey bronzer’s been replaced by that honeymoon sex glow.

8. I can’t believe you’re still single.

What we hear: You’re moderately attractive and live above the influence, so WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YOU?

9. You look so young for your age! 

What we hear: You look like a Russian-nesting-doll/child bride.

10. You’re so much prettier in person.

What we hear: Your photoshop skills SUCK.

Have I received 1 through 10 of these before and am therefore defensively projecting like Shane Oman above the auditorium? Next question please.

So what about you? Have you been negged recently? Surely you’ve never given a backhanded compliment of your own, right? Even accidentally? Tell me! Tell us. It’s more fun than talking about tacos, at least.

— Esther Levy

Visit Esther’s blog, The Philosophy of Windex here and follow her ass on Instagram here.

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  • sarahuato

    not a compliment, but a girl I was not even friends with once said to me: “since I took up swimming, my cellulite completely dissapeared!, you seriously need to try it.” (said while looking at my legs in a short skirt)

    • Amelia Diamond

      I would have sneezed on her!!! (except like…anyone have a pool I can borrow later?)

      • sarahuato

        hahaha I did want to sneeze on her but am not ashamed to say I started looking into swimming classes XD

  • Definitely been negged by the “Russian nesting doll-child bride” backhand. Even better when coupled with the opinion that you’ll someday apparently appreciate the comparison.

    • Esther

      always after getting ID’d at a bar, always.

    • slap

      wtf on earth is “negged”????

  • ee_by_cc

    I’m Filipino, and lots of people like to make guesses about what they think my ethnicity is when they first meet me. After several wrong guesses about me being half this-or-that, I’ll tell them. And then they usually say “I never would have guessed that, you don’t look full Filipino at all.” I can’t tell if that’s being “negged”.


    • Jenny Li

      For sure, that’s being “Negged”. I honestly find it somewhat racially micro-aggressive when people start isolating another for their ethnicity and makes it almost a game out of it, like if they kept guessing until they get the correct answer they’ll win a prize for it. I’ve been done the same, and what I hear is “wow so you’re a foreigner considering you’re not white or look the same as us , so let me guess “What are you” rather than “who you are”. It makes me feel like i’m some kind of a different species, an alien.

  • I’ve lost count of the amount of times people say “it’s so you… I could never pull it off”, I really need to figure out a good come back for it, it always just makes me instantly put whatever I’ve got in my hand down.

    • Arielle

      I get this all the time and I never know what to say either

    • Kayla

      Tell them “Yeah I guess it’s just one of those things that requires plenty of confidence to wear,” and shrug casually.

    • Catie

      Sometimes I say that but for two reasons. 1: I honestly couldn’t pull it off (yeah sometimes your friends tell the truth) or 2: I don’t get it but I don’t want to hurt my friends feelings. People have different tastes and that’s okay. Either way, it doesn’t seem like a back-handed compliment to me.

  • Natalia

    my favorite one is: Oh, you’ve lost weight, you look so pretty!

  • Kristen

    I’ve definitely been negged with a “only you could rock that….(insert strange outfit combination here)”

  • Cherie

    I dress up every day for work, and I get,” Where are you going?” What does that mean? Where are YOU going in sweats and UGGS?

  • GapToothedGirl

    Mine is: you know…you have a particular smile…to me your teeth are weird!
    XOX, Gap.

  • Rosa O

    Oh I get these ALL the time! The standard “I wish I was a brave as you, you just don’t care”. Or, as a lady who posses perhaps an abundance of nasal cavity I tend to hear “You’re really just different looking you know? Like your silouette is so distinctive”. And, of course…”You look sooo much like Amy Winehouse!….but I think she’s really pretty!”

  • Charlotte Fassler

    i love this Mindy video in which she talks about backhanded compliments


    • Rosa O

      Oh she is so amazing.

    • Shelly Mazur

      Love this, she’s so right.

  • Aubrey Green

    I love tacos.

    “how old are you?” I give my age “oh, you’re only a couple years older, my boyfriend thought you were wwaaayyyyy older than me…only because you’re so mature” Really, I’m 31, there isn’t really a more mature level to be at that age?! I should have said, “do people usually think you’re 12?”

    • Amelia Diamond

      I just read “I love tacos” and then I was like, Aubrey, you are confused about what a backhanded compliment is.

      • Aubrey Green


  • Arielle

    I’m not overweight, but I’ve always been bigger than my size 0 friends (I’m a size 6). I’m not sure if they meant it how it sounded, but one of my friends had gotten a pair of jeans for her birthday that didn’t fit. We were all discussing them when one friend said “they’re WAY too big for any of us…” and so the other finished “Arielle, I bet they’d fit you!” Yea, that stung.

    • Amelia Diamond

      that’s so annoying and would sting me too but like, HEY FREE JEANS, SUCKAS!

    • Alex

      A similar thing happened to me.

      I was accompanying my very skinny friend, going through her closet and she pulled out a pair of pants and said, “Oh, these are my fat pants! They’ll fit you.”


  • 15storeys

    Stephen Merchant once spoke about his experience of reading ‘The Game’ and trying to apply it in real life. He said that he had intended to ‘neg’ a girl he liked by saying “Your shoes look really nice, I saw another girl in the same pair earlier”. What he actually said in a fit of blind panic was ‘Hello. Has anyone ever told you your ears are too big for your head?”

    • Amelia Diamond


  • I may be paranoid but each compliment sounds kinda neg to me. People like to say “you look so cute today”, scratch “today” please…..!!!

  • 15storeys

    I’ve been on the end of a couple of amazing negs, both from a female (ex) friend. At the time I was a couple of sizes larger than I am now. Her first punch was after I had bought a gorgeous DvF dress that made me feel amazing and her comment was ‘You look fantastic in that dress…that’s the miracle of Spanx though’. Her uppercut came later the same day while discussing my then boyfriend (now husband) when she said ‘xxx told me he is really into you and thinks this could get very serious…which is surprising because I never thought he was into big girls’. Ooof! I hit the canvas!

    • Aubrey Green

      She was clearly just jealous.

    • Lisa

      Glad to hear that she’s now a former friend.

    • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

      Reminds me of the time a “friend” and I were discussing what size she should get in some jeans I had recently purchased. She asked what size I got and when I told her 29, she immediately crowed, “Eww that’s FATSO size!” When she got dead silence from me she pipes up with, “sorry I didn’t really mean that, I just mean it’s ….big, you know?” I didn’t feel insecure, like she wanted me to, but it did make me secretly detest her just a little bit more and have since made sure to return the dig when opportunity presented itself. I really need to delete her from my life tbh.

      • 15storeys

        You do. My ‘friend’ was so draining and the worst thing was she was super-skinny, super attractive and a person I was secretly jealous of with her perfect skin. I could never understand what she got out of her digs at me when she was so stunning herself. (ps. I dream of being a size 29 you skinny minx!)

        • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

          I can tell by your warm, inclusive, supportive personality that you are the girl everyone loves and wants to be around:-) This would be a stark contrast to your exfriend’s small petty way of relating to others, and she probably knows it.I also wouldn’t be surprised if she’s jealous of your killer curves and in her pitiful dysfunctional way,wants to bring you down.Your ex sounds SO much like my soon-to-be. Mine is also very attractive, model thin, but yet she has to brag and dig non-stop and even calls me up to READ ME the comments she gets on her painstakingly staged, heavily
          filtered selfies….cringe.But yup it is all very draining, that’s a good way to describe this type of person/parasite.

  • A majority of my negs come from my grandmothers.
    “wow you have about 15 colors in your hair.. wild!”
    “oh you cut your hair? it was so beautiful nice and long”
    “i was going to buy you one of those half sweaters on QVC so the dress tops aren’t as revealing”
    “fun shoes! you could kill someone with those”

    and once from my grandfather. “I like your red lipstick. it’s not tooo slutty.” thanks, papa!

  • TheRanta

    I’ve been enjoying the “Wow! You *totally* don’t look that old” comments recently, to which I respond (in my head), “Wow! You *totally* DO look that stupid! Byyyeeeeee!”

    • Amelia Diamond


  • lavieenliz

    omg that last one! I always get: You’re so skinny … what I hear “fuck you bitch, I haven’t eaten in days and you’re eating a burger”


  • Oh god 1 and 6 are my life.

  • My mom tells me I have a large appetite a lot as a prelude to “there’s a lingering fat gene coming from both my family and your father’s. You never know when it’ll pop up.”

    • Esther Levy

      SAME. “Remember how chubby you were as a little girl?” Yes mom, yes.

  • Zee

    I’m from Ireland and the only compliment you get over here is a back handed one…. An old classic to anyone dressed in black is… “God you look great! But black is so slimming isn’t it?”

  • anna louise

    Many of the comments seem to me to cite real negs, but honestly Esther, yours seem more like the reactions of the insecurity of youth (I hope that isn’t a neg too!). If I said any one of those things, I would be trying to be entirely sincere and supportive. And if anyone said any of those things to me, I would smile radiently and assume the best. Actually, I find that if you smile radiently and say nothing to a neg, it really destabilizes the negger and makes them feel totally called out without giving them an opportunity to defend their neg. So if you think I just negged you (I didn’t mean to) just smile radiently!

    • TheRanta

      I didn’t read Esther’s negs as “reactions to the insecurity of youth” — and I say that as someone who’s about 15 years older than the average MR user. Why does anyone presume to say crap like that? I’m kinda done with women having to “smile radiantly” when people say things that are, intentionally or not, meant to slut-shame or fat-shame or anything-shame. If you can’t compliment someone without even a tacit qualification, silencio. Ain’t got time for that.

      • Anna Louise

        Actually, I learned my smile radiantly technique from a guy who did that to me when I negged him pretty badly when I was younger. It made me feel about two inches tall and very put in my place.

    • Esther

      for you, anna louise, I shall try.

  • Cel

    Pleaseee, when I say you’re so lucky you don’t have to wear a bra, I say it with all sincerity, because everything looks slutty on Ds not to mention they are hella heavy and bra shopping is hell.

    Anyways, I usually get “Your make-up is so pretty today” but I just take it as a compliment on mah skillzzz rather than be too annoyed about it.

    • Anna Louise

      Thanks, Cel, for making my point so much better than me!

    • yessssssssss. As a severly hourglass shaped woman with Ds, tight clothes and short dresses/skirts come off as me street walking. Also, HEELS really make this whole thing worse.

  • My students do this to me every once in awhile. I know they mean well, but man, it burns.

    Most recent experience was a few months ago when I chopped about 8 inches off my hair. I went back to school the next day, and a student told me…and I shit you not…”Wow! You look like a REAL teacher now!”

    Now, before you go all “aww, that’s cute that a little kid said that,” I should tell you he’s 23 years old. I’m going to chalk it up to a language barrier issue (he’s not a native English speaker). 🙂

  • I have to say, my favourite one is the Summer Height’s High in the picture. I don’t think anything comes close to Ja’mie’s neggs.

    The Fashann Monster

  • Kandeel

    I’ve never gotten any of these but if i were to then this gif would sum up my reaction haha i love j’amie http://37.media.tumblr.com/a8f9a3f386c02e8cf2003c4528a8deba/tumblr_mwze3tOQ4x1qkegu7o1_400.gif

    • Gonna pull a Jay-Z here and say, “if I do say so myself” : I pretty much have the Ja’mie Australian Valley Girl accent down. I went the entire last month of European History in the accent and I think my classmates wanted to shoot me. But I was just like: “Tawk bAck and yewww get a fuckeeng fry-dayyy skøøl”

      • Kandeel

        You are my idol.

    • amirali

      i happi it

  • Leandra Medine

    Is it, though? (More fun than talking about tacos or should I say

    • Leandra Medine


  • pinkschmink

    A few years ago, when my sister and I were both single, we used to go out together and if we got talking to guys and the subject of our being siblings came up, I would (without fail) pipe up: “Who do you think is the eldest?!” The guys would *always* say my sister, even though I’m older, and I was super smug about it until I realised what a horrible bitch I was being … I don’t do it any more.

    I did not even know this was a tactic men deliberately used until I read this. Maybe that explains why some guy said to me the other night, “You’re so much less aggressive on the phone than in text.” And instead of thinking he was a douchebag, I thought, ‘I should really think about how I come across in text messages …” What are they doing to us?!

  • Laura

    A girl a few years younger than me once told me: “You look so good! Your skin is perfect for your age!”
    And I’m 27.

  • Leah

    I’m really tall, so I always get “What’s the weather like up there?”
    HAHAHA yeah no, I’m not a freak thank you very much, and my legs look so much better in these shorts than yours do so

  • Ali

    There’s this toxic ho bag I work with who is the QUEEN of negging. My first ever conversation with her, she asked how my husband and I met, it came up that we’d been long distance for a year and a half, she said something like “That’s amazing, you’d think most people in that situation would have cheated” ..UGH. And,I died my hair grey last week – when she saw me she did the classic, “How adventurous! Well, it’s just hair you know, it’ll grow back.” I barely ever even interact with her, but she’s already managed to make me detest her with the fire of a thousand suns.

  • Actually, Nr. 1 is the one I believe straight away – heck, I’d even take it as a compliment after having noticed I was being negged! It’s because of my firm belief we should all “express ourselves” and because of my experience that we may commit a few mistakes while doing so (Leandra having discussed that before).
    And since I find “being so me” so important, I automatically assume others do, too. OK, maybe, just maybe I assume others “should” find their own being their own important, too 🙂
    Anyway, it is quite possible I have made this same compliment to others and really meant it. I totally adore diversity, whether expressed in a perfect way or as the intermediary expressions of it (aka trial and error), and may feel the need to express my appreciation if too strong.

    Don’t know how many other people feel so, but if you like being you and expressing it, than maybe you should simply consider all such utterances as compliments. Why not?

  • Ele Berunizo

    My favorite one is I cant bealive you’re still single :))))


  • Oh, and, lest I forget: there’s a campsite in Sweden, an old and slightly derelict one, with terrible restrooms I tried to avoid and when I finally couldn’t anymore, I went in and sat down and that was when I read something scribbled on the door that really almost took my … breath 🙂 away:

    I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.

    Liked it a lot.

  • Victoria

    a manager at one of my jobs (she hates my guts) will say every now and then “oh, your hair looks so good…today” and occasionally will switch it up and insert clothes or make-up for hair…i used to just cock an eyebrow and walk away but it got so annoying i started giving her a smug grin and saying “ha, my hair looks good everyday” meanwhile I’m fairly certain she doesn’t own a hair brush. And idk if this counts but i have really light blue eyes and people will be like wow, your eyes are so pretty…are they real?! so i started reaching toward them, in Frankenstein fashion, and saying no they’re glass…come closer and let me feel your face so i know what you look like…most people are usually just really confused after that.

  • Ray, L

    Dissing “The Game” it’s how I met Your Mother……,

  • Dani

    “You look….. skinny”

  • Anneli Botz

    This article is underneath the usual standard of intelligence and wittiness of the blog. I do not see why you would even spend a second to read an insult into 90 % of these comments. If you start caring so much about things like this, your level of self esteem has probably already reached a level that you should be more concerned about than your photoshop skills. This is meant neither offensive, nor negging.

  • First of all…love your writing style!
    Secondly, yes I get so many backhanded compliments.
    Before it was “You’re so pretty for a bigger girl.” now its “You’re so beautiful now” (after weightloss)

  • Elzanne Pieterse

    Seeing someone from school years later and getting: “O, hi! You look exactly the same!”

  • Oh, I’ve heard several of these. Sometimes I take the compliment positive, other times I get the exact thoughts as you do. This is one of the reasons why I nearly give compliments to other girls, because I don’t want them to think I don’t mean what I say when I actually do. The compliments are supposed to make you feel better about yourself, not worse, and if people that are considered to be fake “hey look at me I’m fab and want to be popular look how nice I’m to everyone” gives compliments, it pretty much ends up with doubt about whether it was ironic or not.

  • Emily Crawford

    I think I have received every one of these, which is hilarious because I’m 25, and NONE of them apply anymore. I was a scrawny, underweight, high-strung disaster of a person at 15… and literally the only things that have changed are that I’m now a curvy-but-thin 25 year old who used to look more like Mischa Barton with red hair, and now looks more like Christina Hendricks. (Note: I am not nearly as beautiful as either actress, I’m just talking body types here.)

    Also, no joke: Want me to write for ya’ll? I’m a former writer who now works in TV because no one pays people to write. I used to write this blog off as a snobby/privileged-girl thing, but now I’m like “Give me more NOW!”

  • Just Me, Myself, and I

    So one of the most recent neggs come my was, “Let’s face it, you’re not conversational. Guys are trying to be your friend and take you out for your looks.” To which I replied, “You’re right on about the conversational part, I find that very few people make conversation that intrigues. Most of what comes out of people’s mouths is just spewed gibberish. Probably why I have so few friends and find it hard to make new ones.” She is not a friend, just an acquaintance.

  • I’m reading an Elle UK article on Rita Ora, and the writer describes her appearance like this, “perfect skin, blood red-lipstick, flaring nostrils….” …NEGGGG

  • john
  • I don’t know.. Be it from a stupid guy or a ‘friend’ I do not take kindly to this sort of ‘complement’. If it’s from some idiot who thinks that I am insecure enough to fall for it, that I will very kindly thank him and tell him to fuck off. If it is a ‘friend’ I will thank her sarcastically and never see them again.

  • Haha, love this one – I’ve got a few of these before as well namely #1 and #9


  • charmystique

    I once got a, “You look so healthy in this picture.”

    What’s that supposed to mean?! I don’t look healthy usually? I also get the you’re so skinny you’re going to disappear if I look at you sideways. I just tell myself they’re jealous I can eat twice as much as them and never get fat. #sorrynotsorry #metabolicrateofa15yearold


  • Ella

    I once got ‘you’re beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise’. Umm no-one does….?!

  • Ajda

    I once got a quite surprised: “Oh, when you’re naked you’re actually hot!” But I kind of enjoyed that since I prefer to be positively surprising. Oh, and another beauty: “I think these two extra kilos look great on you!”

  • steph

    When I was in grade 8 I told this popular girl that her would would look really nice if she brushed it.

    • steph

      *her HAIR

  • Jessie

    Can we talk about THIS back-handed what-the-fuck I received from a (disgusting) guy I slept with two years ago? I had lost some weight and ran into him in a bar w some of my girlfriends and HE SAID: “damn, you look amazing! I wouldn’t be afraid to tell my friends we slept together anymore” Ouch..but thanks? Luckily the bartender overheard and leaned over to say to me, “this gentleman told me earlier he’d like to pick up the tab for you and your friends.” I thanked him, took my girls, and left.

  • I’ve unintentionally done it to others and it has unintentionally (and intentionally!) been done to me. Standouts: one involved an awkward reference to a girl’s weight and her choice to go vegetarian; the other involved ignorantly comparing me and my average height, bad skin, and weird build to my sister’s model height, great skin, and model build.
    May the Mean Girls references never cease.

  • Erica Rae Deutsch

    UGH shut up natalie

  • Maui

    “You look so beautiful today!” I got that a lot since college. A professor stopped talking in the middle of class just to say that to me. Folks at the office say that now especially when I’m wearing a really feminine dress. I still do not know how to respond to take it. Like, “so you mean I look like hell on most days???”. Damn insecurities (I’m not exactly living up to society’s perception of beauty). I do say thank you, nonetheless.

  • Emily

    “I forgot to tell you that I really like your hair now that it’s brown…I liked it
    blonde too, even though I was probably the only one who did!”

  • eviltwinjen

    D’oh! I’ve totally said 1, 2, 6, and 8 and meant them SINCERELY. I love tops and dresses that are meant to be worn bra-less, but I’ll never be able to wear them. And I envy people who are photogenic, because I look awful in all pictures despite thinking I’m cute in person. And I honestly don’t understand why any of my friends are still single if they don’t want to be, because I can’t imagine anyone not loving them. 🙂

  • Bethh

    and “You look so healthy” means ” HA HA you’ve gained weight.”

  • AP

    8. I can’t believe you’re still single.

    What we hear: You’re moderately attractive and live above the influence, so WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YOU?

    All the time but I guess those are insecure guys… I totally falled for the I can’t believe you are single, it seemed genuine. But I guess it was “ghost” guy. He seemed to be in the same situation that me and still he asked that question when I returned it back on him he just said: “for the same reasons that you”. Oh! what a catch! Even though he wants to date he doesn’t want to do it and it is not aware of this (at the end of the day). He is 25 so well that is expected.

    Case number 2: A proffesional nagger. It was funny because I totally do not beilieve in those guys, so I just had fun. He kept nagging all the time till it was obvious that was his style or his way troughout a human interaction with women. I never replied to his calls, and he keeps calling. 35 so well his time is passing.