I encountered my first “well done” a year ago. My son, home from college, delivered it after I'd made ham. I thought, “What uppity alien has hijacked my son?”
Do I look like a piece of meat? I’m beginning to feel like one. Lately, whenever I have done something good or noteworthy or challenging, someone looks at me and says, “Well done.”
More often than not, this someone is a family member.
Well done? Hello?! Since when do people I live with talk to me with such starch?
When I close my eyes and consider the expression, I envision a Founding Father patting the head of a bashful child who has finally mastered the alphabet after studying for 20 fortnights. “Well done, Patsy,” he might say, between pulls on a pipe, “you finally got it. That you are 14 is beside the point. Now, run along, father needs to sand his choppers before he delivers his first inaugural address.”
I encountered my first “well done” about a year ago. My son, who went to college in the South, delivered it during spring break. I’d made ham for dinner, and, at the end of the meal, he surprised me by saying, “Well done.”
I recall thinking, “Holy ham hocks, Batman, what uppity alien has hijacked my son?”
And then: “Thank you, Robin, that he did not add ‘mother’ to the mix.”
Sensitive to the South’s penchant for formality, I chalked my son’s lapse up to cultural osmosis and let it go.
Since then, however, I have weathered numerous “well done” assaults by family members, and each time I am floored by the formality. A few that have stuck in my craw: a “well done” after a big holiday meal, a “well done” after scoring some choice concert tickets, a “well done” after finding the remote, a “well done” after sneezing.
What’s even more distressing? My circle of well-done wishers is widening to include friends, acquaintances, service people and complete strangers.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate recognition and compliments — I do. Bring ‘em on! It’s just that I am not used to hearing such highfalutin acknowledgment. Sincerely, whatever happened to “sweet” or “great” or “@#$%! You da bomb!”?
Not so surprisingly, I have spent a lot of time contemplating the emergence of this high-and-mighty expression, and here’s my take: We’ve glommed on to the pretentious “well done” to offset how poorly mannered we’ve become as a society. Too bloated? OK, how about this: We want people to think we’re smarter than we really are. Still too puffy? OK, here’s my last stab: The South is reclaiming the North, word by word.
Whatever the reason, I’m no fan. But if you insist on using a carnivorous term with me, please describe my efforts as “rare.” That, I like! Use it with housecleaning efforts, however, and you are dead meat.
Anne Palumbo writes for Messenger Post Media. Email her at email@example.com.