I sincerely wish Accepting a Compliment: 101 were a high school subject, because now I’m a grown human woman and I’m still working to master this seemingly simple aspect of interpersonal communication. But I’ve made progress over the years, most notably when I befriended a gaggle of gay men and started spending an unusually large amount of time at drag-queen-hosted bingo events. These occasions, you see, basically doubled as compliment competitions.
It was here where I first experienced the joy of being gassed: applauded and cheered on for doing anything, sometimes simply just showing up. These exchanges tended to skew seriously hyperbolic in nature (being told I look like a young Elizabeth Taylor because I have mascara on, for example), but they helped me feel confident during a time when I was fraught with insecurity.
Man Repeller brilliantly coined the term “gassing up” to explain the over-the-top friendly greetings, compliments, or unsolicited statements of support and encouragement that have finally—thankfully—become a normal mode of interaction between friends. And despite the issues I have with accepting compliments, I couldn’t be happier that gassing is a part of my life. I now commonly find myself on both the sending and receiving ends of texts, Instagram comments, and Instagram Story replies with messages the read something like “biiiiiiitch,” with 12 heart emojis and a barrage of exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!).
Screeching “OoOoOo, who is SHE?!?” at my friend as we approach each other in the park to gas her up is supposed to give her an ego boost. It recognizes all the seen and unseen hard work and effort she’s put into whatever facets of her life that week.
Complimenting one another isn’t a new thing, but the idea of gassing up your friends takes things up a notch. It’s excessive, happens for no reason at all, and frequently celebrates mundanity. And it makes sense that I first encountered gassing (before it earned its name) in a queer community, because its members have been historically disregarded and “othered.” These people have long fought against conventional beauty norms and redefine the concepts altogether. So, not shockingly, they overcompensate for the void left by mainstream culture and society by gassing each other up whenever possible.
And especially now, women could use gassing in their lives and relationships, too, given that the news cycle is full of goings-on that are especially hostile to us. That’s why screeching “OoOoOo, who is SHE?!?” at my friend as we approach each other in the park can give her the ego boost she needs and deserves. It’s a moment when she gets recognized for all of the seen and unseen hard work and effort she’s put into whatever facets of her life that week.
But one psychotherapist says extreme complimenting among the sisterhood has been around for quite some time, just without a cool name attached. “Over-the-top support for one another is something that women have used historically in difficult times,” Diane Barth, LCSW, says. “It’s one way of counteracting cultural and personal denigration of women—coming up with superlatives for who women are and what we do,” Barth says.
And it’s true. When a friend texts me words of praise about a recently published article accompanied by the slam effect, virtual confetti, and emojis, it feels like a warm embrace in a frigid world.
Telling someone they look like a golden goddess on a day they’ve encountered nothing but micro-aggressions is an easy, authentic, and effective way to lift someone up. So yes, our current culture’s use of exclamation marks and emojis might be teetering on the edge of excessiveness, but it’s the exact type of vigorous optimism we need right now. Don’t stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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