What Did She Mean “I really admire how you’ve done nothing with that nose”


Here is an abstract painting showing a woman with a large nose and the titles refers to a backhanded comment about it. I’ve received some backhanded comments in the past: “You look quite nice today – did you have a bath?” and “Those cool corduroy pants will come back into fashion one day” and “A monkey could do that job – even you could do it.” It was almost as bad as, “Just act dumb – you know, just be yourself” Yeah…thanks.


The queen of backhanded compliments is Chloe from the Chloe & Co comic strip in the newspaper. She’s famous for her dizziness and dry humour (she thinks cooking is a town in China.) She’s a twenty-something money-motivated single party girl and man-magnet. Her friend is called Angela and is equally funny. She’s obsessed with fads and diets and resents Chloe getting all the attention from men. Both have dished out many backhanded compliments over the years. I remember in one of the cartoons a man at a bar said to Chloe something like, “It’s terrific how you go out in public with that nose.”


This must have stuck in my mind and triggered this painting. I did it quickly. My dad and Irene were out all day and I was minding Alfie the hound. I propped up a canvas board on the easel and Goldfinger was just starting on television. I’d been reading some of the Chloe & Co cartoons I’d cut out of the newspaper. I wanted to get started and copied part of the cartoon. I’m sure this board would like good in your bathroom and it can be on your wall for £2864.


Probably the biggest nose I’ve seen was on a second-hand book shopkeeper in Ashton’s indoor market. I used to take my mum shopping on Saturdays and when we split up I’d say, “Meet you outside Conks at four thirty.” She’d know where to meet up – outside the bookshop. Once I can remember being on a coach holiday and I shared meals at the hotel with an elderly widow called Margery whose face features a long large nose. It was embarrassingly long – she could have smoked a cigarette while in the shower. As the days passed she told me she’d inherited her mum’s sweet tooth and flat chest and her dad’s long legs and bad eyes. She didn’t mention her nose thankfully but I remember thinking to myself “…and you’ve inherited your parent’s noses – both of them.” When she put some large glasses on to read the menu she looked like she’s bought one of those clip-on glasses/noses kits from a joke shop (I’m sure she could smell what was being cooked in the kitchen and didn’t need the menu.) Margery is probably long gone but I still think of her when I read the Chloe cartoons and see the long noses.


Here are some backhanded compliments I’ve read over the years…


I’d meet him at night if I was you then he doesn’t see all of you.

I really admire how you don’t care how rough you look.

You’re so courageous to go out wearing that.

You look really good when just the lamp is on.

I’d like boobs like yours when I’m older – only bigger.

I wish I could be as laid back as you about big bits.

It’s okay for you; you so slim you can get away with wearing cheap clothes.

If you were tall and slim that coat would suit you.

It’s magic what you’ve done with your bald spot.

You’re lucky you’re flat chested or you’d look like a slut in that dress.

Your legs make up for that weird accent you’ve affected.

I know you’re kind underneath…well I’m guessing you are as I haven’t found it yet.

I’m glad you’re my friend. I wouldn’t want to meet you in a back alley.

Well at least you’re a good dad.

It’s a good job you’re good at doing make-up.

You’re so useful – like a hammer.

Yes, it’s always better to be interesting than attractive.

You look so healthy these days; I hardly recognise you.

You must be really confident to always have that “Just got out of bed” look.

The way you’ve covered up those acne scars is great.

I wish I could be as direct as you but I just try to get on with everyone.

At least your boyfriend doesn’t care about looks.

Your dress is lovely; it must have been so difficult to get it in your size.

Your dress makes mine stand out so much better.

I’d have my hair done like that if it ever came back into fashion.

How early in the morning do you have to get up to look like that?

Oh is this your baby….what a lovely pram.

Try to be kind to grandma as we don’t know how long you’ll be a live do we grandma?

You’re not a stunner but a good all-rounder.

I can’t tell if you’re just huge or fat.

I feel better going out with you as people will just look at your chest.

You look okay but you’d better just eat celery tonight.

I like your dress. My boyfriend would never let me wear anything like that.

I feel so classy when I go out with you.

You’re really lucky how your ears diverts people’s attention from you face.

Half of your clothes look good.

I love your curves – like bends in the road.

Finally you look as good as when I first met you.

You look much better Instagram.

Really? You don’t look like you’d enjoy films where you have to think.



Not sure Daphne and Velma think…