How can I deal with comments about a part of my appearance that I'm not fond of?
July 2, 2012 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I have terrible dark circles under my eyes. How can I deal with the comments I get about how tired/sick I look? Any other advice for coming to terms with people constantly pointing out something I dislike about my appearance?

If I go a day without wearing concealer under my eyes, it's almost guaranteed that at least one person will say "are you tired? you look really tired today" (seriously, this happened today) or even "are you on drugs? you don't look well" or "why do you have two black eyes?".

I've always had these dark circles under my eyes. However, I don't want to keep wearing makeup on them. Feeling like I need to wear makeup just to go out in public or to class makes me feel worse about my appearance, but I know someone will ask if something is wrong if I don't wear it.

(FWIW, I had a few difficulties with personal/health issues in high school that made the questions people asked hit closer to home. When someone comments on my dark circles or says "wow, you look super exhausted", it reminds me of this. This bothers me because the people who ask these things just don't know if there's something going on in my life (being exhausted all the time or on medication, etc.), and it still makes me feel bad even if my life is great right now.)

Inspired by this question.
posted by cp311 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You're kind of making it more difficult for yourself.

You can't control what other people say, but if you wear makeup they probably won't say anything at all. As some people just naturally have dark circles under our eyes (me), there's no way of getting rid of it.

You could try thinking about it from the perspective that they're just concerned about you, not that they're doing anything deliberately to cause you pain.
posted by heyjude at 7:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Yes, I am on drugs! They should really put a warning label on heroin, don't you think?"
"I decided to join a fight club on a whim last night Those guys punch HARD. I'm not really supposed to talk about it, though."

But a better response might be along the lines of what Miss Manners suggests in situations like these, which is to reply with a thin-lipped smile and say, "how kind of you to be so concerned."
posted by phunniemee at 7:23 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

You could try thinking about it from the perspective that they're just concerned about you, not that they're doing anything deliberately to cause you pain.

Bullshit. You have every right to be annoyed when people say things like this. People who are truly concerned about you will ask how you're doing without bringing your appearance into it. People who couch it in terms of damn you look like hell are just nosy boors. Feel free to reply tersely and move along.
posted by phunniemee at 7:27 PM on July 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

Sometimes I have replied in a hurt tone "thanks for pointing that out..." and just leave it hanging there... usually they apologise and don't point it out again!

I should note I have only done it when I was SO fed up that I didn't care about being 'polite' any more.
posted by latch24 at 7:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have this too! For years, my solution was to wear glasses that mimicked the curve of the circles under my eyes. Now that I use contacts, I wear makeup or just don't bother. I'd recommend telling them flatly that this is just how you look.

But a better response might be along the lines of what Miss Manners suggests in situations like these, which is to reply with a thin-lipped smile and say, "how kind of you to be so concerned."

Uhh, if someone said that to me in this particular situation (blackened eyes) I would assume something super terrible was going on.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:31 PM on July 2, 2012

Phunniemee - you are right, they're being arseholes, but you can't stop people from being arseholes - the OP does, however, have control over how they feel internally.
posted by heyjude at 7:33 PM on July 2, 2012

I would probably leave a long, awkward pause after the comment (I kind of love doing that) and then flatly say, "I'm fine, thanks." And then if possible leave the room or go back to what I was doing.

If this is someone you are at all close to, you might consider taking them aside and telling them that you have natural dark circles and it makes you self-conscious when they point it out. It's really not appropriate to bring it up in public and embarrass you.
posted by Aquifer at 7:33 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also have pretty dark circles under my eyes, which I usually cover with concealer if I'm going somewhere where I want to look presentable. One time when I forgot to put on concealer and headed to campus, a friend said "Boy, you look exhausted." I matter-of-factly (with a touch of, let's say, bemused pointedness) replied, "Nope. This is just what I look like without makeup." He looked a bit embarrassed, I changed the topic, and maybe he's learned not to tell people they look tired!
posted by enlarged to show texture at 7:37 PM on July 2, 2012 [16 favorites]

Not wearing concealer will probably help reduce these comments a lot. (or always wearing it, but you said you don't want to do that.) in my experience people who say these things are reacting to the difference between a day with concealer (or blow drying or whatever it is) and the next day without. There are
occasionally people who will point out negative aspects of your appearance on first meeting you, but mostly
it's people you see every day at work, etc.

As for how to deal with them, I usually just go for honesty. So in your case something like, "No, I just
have dark circles genetically. It's very common." They feel bad but not too bad, and you didn't have to think of anything mean or clever.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:57 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

This may or may not be suitable to your personality. But my go-to response to those kinds of comments is to smile as if they just paid me the biggest compliments ever and say "Oh, how kind of you to notice!"
posted by The Deej at 7:59 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with DestinationUnknown. People notice the change more than how you actually look. If you start not wearing makeup, then people will only comment when you do wear it (and it will be "you look nice(er)" today).

Or, you can just manage your mental state by considering that they probably aren't thinking about dark circles in particular. What they really mean is: cp311 usually does her make-up and looks all put together. She didn't do that today. There was probably a reason--she probably didn't have time this morning. Either she overslept or was doing something, either way something unusual in the morning is pretty tiring. Conclusion: cp311 looks tired.
posted by anaelith at 8:27 PM on July 2, 2012

It's impossible to tell without hearing their tone and seeing their body language, but it doesn't sound like they're being assholes to me. It's unprofessional to call attention to someone else's appearance (unless it's 'hey, great suit, mind if i ask who made it?' or such), but this is right on the line between legitimate concern and nosey-ness. The truthful answer is the way to go, taking a snide or passive-aggressive tone is going to flip the situation into one where suddenly you're the a-hole. Not a good call at all.
posted by facetious at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a good point that people may only notice that something is different, then see about the dark circles and think I look tired because that's what they noticed. I find the comments a little strange because, like the one today (that was a teacher I've known for less than a week), they often come from people I don't know very well at all.
posted by cp311 at 9:54 PM on July 2, 2012

Personal anecdote:
When I was in third grade, I was standing at my locker and a girl I vaguely knew was talking to her mother. The mother made a comment to her daughter about her (the daughter) feeling sick. I butted into the conversation with a chatty comment. I can't remember the specific wording, but it was an acknowledgement that she did look a little under the weather, and there was some reference to the dark circles under her eyes.

Both mother and daughter looked slightly surprised. The mother said something about, "No, those (the dark circles) are always there." There was an awkward pause. I quickly apologized and left my locker.

I was wrong. I was in third grade and had no bad intentions or anything — it was in the context of "sorry you're feeling under the weather, hope you feel better!" — but I was absolutely wrong to mention any aspect of her appearance.

I felt bad about that. Bad enough that ten years later, I still remember it. I wonder if the girl still remembers it. I wonder if it makes her self-conscious about the dark circles. And as a girl who has been self-conscious about her appearance for her own reasons, I feel terribly guilty to think that I would have contributed to that emotion in any other girl.

So now that I have my personal anecdote out of the way: If someone brings up look like you're "feeling under the weather," "high," etc., I would recommend that you handle it by politely smiling and saying, "No, I always have dark circles under my eyes." Then change the subject before there is a chance for questions.

That's basically what the mother did in my anecdote. She didn't go out of her way to drive the point home, her language wasn't mean or belligerent or condescending. One right-to-the-point sentence was enough.

The world is a big place and people look different. Everybody needs to learn not to make comments about other people's appearances, no matter how well intentioned — including third graders. I learned, and I think I am a better person for it. Other people will learn, too.

Good luck. I wish you the best, however you decide to handle future instances of this!
posted by hypotheticole at 10:31 PM on July 2, 2012

The thing about wearing concealer is that if you don't wear it one day, you do look worse and people do notice. If you never wear it, you look the same every day. I did this experiment once when I was at an outdoorsy camp thing. I figured I'd be swimming a lot, so I didn't bother with makeup. No one commented about it, which was interesting to me because I got rude comments about other random things.

It's also funny because when I was overweight my dark circles went away and people made rude comments about my weight. And then I lost that and got dark circles, which occasionally earn me "tired" remarks and whatnot, but people are just rude. And I definitely make them feel bad by giving them a speech about genetics, how I was made fun of as a kid for dark circles, etc.
posted by melissam at 11:43 PM on July 2, 2012

Look stricken or mock-stricken and say "oh God, do I really look this ugly?"
I have always enjoyed the replies!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:55 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This happened to me about 2 weeks ago, at work on a day when I wore quite a bit less makeup and actually felt good about that until the comment. I went with this:

"That's not a very nice thing to say."
(She looked surprised.)
"It makes me feel bad and self-conscious when people say things like that. Would you want someone to say that to you?"

Somehow, making it really simple and explaining it like I would to a 3 year old worked. She quickly apologized, and we're still getting along.
posted by Houstonian at 4:03 AM on July 3, 2012

I don't have an answer regarding the dark circles since I have them and usually reply where the other person feels bad. "Are you on drugs?" Who asks that in 2012?

I was told they are "allergy shiners" I have them, my son has them and we both have allergies. Is it possible for you to talk with an allergist about what you can do to relieve them? They supposedly have a dark circle cream to lighten the appearance. If at least they fade, maybe you don't have to wear make up? Mine are more the brownish tinge rather than bluish but yea, without makeup I look hungover.

I'm sure you're beautiful and people need to mind their own buisiness.
posted by stormpooper at 6:01 AM on July 3, 2012

I've got them too, from actually being tired (horrible sleep issues). And I always get the comment when I don't wear make-up. From everyone. Lately I've been throwing it back at people: "Oh, you too! I guess we both had rough nights last night, huh?"

If they're insulted, they can't complain!
posted by Dynex at 7:33 AM on July 3, 2012

Yeah, as someone who suffers from chronic illness and never wears makeup I get comments a lot when I'm feeling particularly tired. I usually take Omnomnom's tact and say, "Wow, am I really that bad?" as a reminder to them that they're kinda being rude to point out I'm looking rough. I mean, I know I probably look rough, I usually feel pretty awful. I don't need other people telling me how bad I look, thanks much.

On the flip side, I don't internalize how other people perceive me. I know I'm not going to win any beauty contests and I'm okay with that. I don't wear make up to hide imperfections because I'm just too tired to bother, and it's way too much hassle. People don't normally comment on my dark circles because they see them all the time. It's only when I'm having a particularly rough day that I get comments about my appearance. Even then it doesn't make me feel worse, just grumpy because they're being rude. I guess what I'm saying is you shouldn't feel bad because you have dark circles under your eyes because they are a part of who you are. Accept they're there and eventually you won't even care that you have them. Then when people comment on them, you can brush their comments off as so much noise that you don't' have to bother with. At least, that's how I dealt with it.
posted by patheral at 9:48 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. I'm consistently surprised at how thin-skinned the people on askme can be. A couple of commenters called these people "rude" or "insensitive" or "wrong" but that's not necessarily the case.

I have the same issue. Big, dark circles under my eyes. Mine come from sleep issues and the fact that I have kids that wake me up frequently. I've heard "How'd you get a black eye?" and "What happened? Did you get hit in the eye?" multiple times. I've heard it from co-workers, family members, and acquaintances. I've heard it from politically-correct liberals and from anal-retentive conservatives. But not once did I think "That person is an a-hole for asking that!"

Humans are interested in stories. We like to know How and Why and What. I assume that when someone asks me this kind of question, they want to know if there is a story behind the dark circles. If there's a problem, they want to commiserate with me. If something funny happened to cause it, they want to share a laugh.

Most of these people care about me, at least incidentally, so I assuming that they are just rude jerks would make me ... a rude jerk. So I usually answer truthfully: "Nah. It's not a black eye. I'm just really tired. Five kids, you know..." This leads to conversations about how my kids are growing up, which leads to discussions of their family, etc.
posted by tacodave at 3:40 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for asking this question! I have the same thing. My boss even asked me about it today -- despite me making it abundantly clear to him on several other occasions that it's just my face. Makeup would make me feel pretty self-conscious (I'm male) so my main coping mechanism is to focus on the fact that they're being rude and (more importantly) unobservant. I haven't had much luck convincing people that they're being rude.
posted by tavish at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2012

I posed the AskMe cp311 linked to above.

In the responses to that thread, I summarised my reaction to remarks about "how tired I look" here.

Essentially, I opt for a slightly too chipper tone (inside I am generally quite pissed off or upset, to be honest) in honest answers. If I really don't want any further comments, I opt for "I'm fine." with a redirect either to saying something general e.g. "I hear a bug has been sweeping through accounts though" or vaguely positive about them (people like compliments of any kind and jump on that) or massive dedirect as if I've not really heard them e.g. "Wow, the opening ceremony of the Olympics looks epic, doesn't it?" In all interplay resulting from a you're so tired opener, I allow white lying to get me through if necessary.

Also, explanations involving far too much detail can work. I once spent over 5 minutes detailing all the things I'd done the night before (lies lies lies) that resulted in me looking tired: tidying the house, reading a book, fixing the wifi, talking about nasty illness X family member has blah blah blah.

If people push me too far - it's become a common theme in our interactions, or they just won't let up - I go into brutally honest detail about the chronic condition that makes me look tired, and its horrible effects on my life. Then they shut up. In your case, maybe go for how long you've had the dark circles, genetics (who else has them in the family, if they do), how it makes you feel. But these are only in situations where you feel OK to be that open, and you don't feel vulnerable giving them the info.

As for not wearing concealer etc so people get used to your "natural" face, dark circles and all? Personally, I don't want to deny myself the experience of making myself up, looking extra groomed and pulled together etc, just to ward off future rude enquiries. It's my fatigued-looking face, and I'll do what I want with it. Notably, I enjoy playing with and wearing make-up anyway, and the ability to "pass" for non-tired is an advantage that I enjoy when made up sometimes.

The bigger issue for me is dealing with comments about dark circles etc. when I choose not to wear make-up, or my make-up is just not cutting it, which is something cp311 mentioned. I have just started to address this issue myself in the last few months, and now go out un-made-up when I want to. The tricks for me are bravery, large sunglasses and a fuck-off I'm awesome attitude. YMMV.

Apologies for this turning into an essay!
posted by thetarium at 6:42 PM on July 4, 2012

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