#536: My face is a blushing traitor, and creepy older dudes have definitely noticed.

Hey Cap’n & Crew,

Fairly straightforward question here. Sometimes my face can be a traitor…it turns bright red and gets really hot at any extreme emotion, particularly embarrassment. I am sure many people can relate!

So here’s the question: What would you suggest for scripts for when someone (99.9% of the time it’s an older man, at least old enough to be my father if not grandfather) gives a weird, flirty, unwanted compliment (for example, how beautiful I am or some such nonsense), triggering a red-face explosion, and then they comment on how they made me blush. Now I am not only red-faced with embarrassment but also with anger and helplessness. You just KNOW that they’re pleased as punch with themselves and see nothing wrong with flirting at an unwilling participant because hey, they’re old and married and male! No harm done, right?

If these were random men on the street, I’d have no problem ignoring them or coming back with a scathing retort. However, this most often happens when it’s a client, a family friend, a friend’s family member, or fellow hobbyists. Particularly with the clients, I can’t give them a death-glare like I really want to.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!
Red (Wishing I Was) Dead Revolver

Dear Red:

For any gregarious older dudes reading this, when you comment on the involuntary physical reaction of a young female acquaintance or colleague, we don’t find you adorably avuncular. We find you creepy and domineering. You shown yourself to be someone who uses a another person’s distress reaction as a perceived weakness that you can use to pick on them. Or as someone who deliberately tests and pushes boundaries to groom people for further manipulation. Some people wear their handles on the outside — it doesn’t mean you have to pull them.

So, Jolly Old Fellows, let’s go back in time to puberty, when a screen door shutting in a distant room could give you an instaboner.

Would it have been cool for people to point at it and comment on it and see if they could get it to happen more? Like, teachers, cafeteria staff, fellow students, people on the bus? Would you have enjoyed that particular attention?

Even if this is a highly specific  fantasy of yours, would you appreciate it if it happened all the time? Everywhere you went? From everyone you met? “Oh, hilarious, Jolly’s penis is acting up again. Everyone look! What’s the matter, don’t be so sensitive! We’re just joking, Jolly!

Howabout as you aged? Like, in work meetings? Where maybe it affected people’s perception of your qualifications? “We are considering you for the promotion, but….awwwwww, buddy, I’m glad you’re excited, too!” “Well, we could have Jolly do the presentation, but not if he’s going to release the Kraken again like he did last time.” 

Or religious ceremonies? “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to join this man and this woman in…Oh Jolly, not again.” 

It would be pretty violating and patronizing to have someone assume a lot of stuff about you due to an involuntary physical reaction, right? So knock it off. When a person is blushing, give them space and don’t comment on it. It’s just their face being a face, it doesn’t need your “Well aren’t you a precious young LADY” commentary.

Back to you, Red. Snappy comebacks don’t defeat ingrained sexism and ageism on their own, and you have to walk a fine line with clients. I wonder if being super-boring and factual isn’t the answer.

  • “Yes, my face does that sometimes. Now, about the pricing information…”
  • “Yes, the capillaries in my face sometimes fill rapidly as an involuntary reaction to stimulus. So, about rehearsal….”
  • “I DO know that tends to happen, and I definitely do not like it when people call attention to it. So, what were we talking about it?”
  • “Yes, and it’s hiLARious.” (Think how Professor Snape would say this.)

Save “It’s a fight or flight reaction. Still deciding which,” for special occasions.

And look for patterns. Someone who realizes that their “joke” is not funny and backs off immediately when you don’t reply favorably probably made an honest mistake. Someone who looooooooves to make you blush and comments on it at every turn and makes it about how sensitive you are when you ask them to stop is someone you don’t want to be around, ever, because they are making creepy sexist power plays designed to maximize your discomfort. Ew.










112 thoughts on “#536: My face is a blushing traitor, and creepy older dudes have definitely noticed.

  1. I am someone who blushes easily too – the absolute worst example of someone pointing it out was when I had my feet in the stirrups during an exam and my (woman) doctor said it. Seriously.

    Thanks for filling up my toolkit with more suggestions. Just another option for the arsenal when the person is an unwelcome stranger, I’ve only used this once but it went like this:

    “Yep, I’m embarrassed on your behalf for acting so creepy/inappropriately.”
    Awkward pause by him.
    “Oh look, now you’re blushing too!”

    Then he had the good sense to laugh nervously and walk away.

    1. Yes this is exactly what i was thinking, I’m impressed you actually did it!

      “I am blushing because your comment was inappropriate and I am uncomfortable. Can we get back to business now?”

      said very calmly and in a neutral tone of voice, it should not be considered inappropriate by any reasonable workplace. I really hope your workplace is somewhat reasonable

      1. OT: I am wearing a Full Of Awesome tee-shirt right now.

        Pigtail Pals fistbump? *offers fist*

    2. Yes, this. That was word for word the response that came to mind. I also blush easily and wish I’d been sassier and more comfortable setting boundaries like this when I wad younger.

  2. I tend bar at a golf course. The food and beverage staff is almost entirely female, mostly under-25, but for me and two or three others. We’re still presumed to all be the same age (early 20s). Many, many one-off visit patrons, who know they’ll never come back for it to be awkward, do this. The most management allows us to do is gripe about it after the fact- we have to smile and take it while it’s happening. What I’m saying, LW, is that this sucks. And I feel you.

    What helps me is my bitchy resting face. I focus very intently on my mixology at work- at most they tell me to smile, then I give them a grimacing approximation of one. If they play the Blush Game, I’ll har-har along and then oh, look, something very interesting and attention consuming on the opposite end of the bar or in the kitchen, oh dear I’d better take care of it. I don’t know how well this will work in an environment with clients. It’s mediocre at best in a recreation/drinking/bar environment with mostly older, wealthier men. Sometimes they get the hint, sometimes they don’t.

  3. I blush easily too and I can feel you here, LW. I’ve had so many people comment on “Awww, isn’t that cute, he blushes so easily!” and try to poke at me to make it happen more….it also happens with other things I do, like how I yelp or squeak (seriously, I sound like a dog toy being stepped on) when startled, scared or completely floored and unable to get my brain to process what I should do….which people think is hilarious and try to get me to do all the time, scaring me at every chance they get (though this has backfired before, as another thing I tend to do when scared because of mental conditions and life circumstances beyond my control? Lash out violently. Very violently. They can’t get mad at me for it or do anything about it because it was their fault, they know it, and most people that I’m around who do this know I can’t control it….which makes it even stupider for them to purposely scare me), which is really annoying and makes me jumpy everywhere I go.

    First and foremost, use your words. Tell the ones you can (Friends, family friends, anyone you’re not in a business relationship with) to knock it off. You don’t appreciate it, and you want them to stop. If they whine that they’re just joking, cut them off and tell them you don’t find it funny, and if they’re the kind of person who thinks it’s funny to cause suffering to others then you don’t care to know them or interact with them. Cut off contact for a while, then see how it goes. If they do it again, cut them off again, and keep it off for however long it takes for them to get the picture.

    Business relationships are tougher, both because they’re unavoidable and because you can’t risk offending them or making them mad, or you could lose their business and/or your job. Again, words work pretty well for anyone with a shred of decency.

    “Sir/’Mam, I would appreciate if you didn’t draw so much attention to my blushing, and continually try to get me to do it more. It’s distracting, and this kind of behavior is very inappropriate for a workplace environment. It will be very problematic if you continue this behavior. Now, about those reports…”

    Say what you need to, be polite but firm, and always redirect at the end of the sentence.

    Best of luck to you, from one blusher to another!

    1. Good luck, Frost. I’ve been lucky enough to have an awesome manager at this job, who takes it seriously when people screw around with me, and doesn’t think that putting up with being screwed around should be part of my job. The phrase “hostile work environment” comes to mind…

  4. I have a stock response for that line of discussion too. In general, I try to keep it “dull” so that the person loses interest. That usually helps. I say something like: “Yes, I have a very red face.” It sounds stupid, but it’s such a dull way of putting it that conveys no embarrassment, and I think it makes them feel stupid for saying something so obvious. I use the line on a couple of men I work with who like to tease people in my office. If I make a big fuss the “teasing” intensifies so I just try to make it boring for them.

    1. This!! I have very rosy cheeks naturally, and I spend quite a bit of time outside weekly vending at farmers markets, which can give me wind burn. Occasionally people will make a comment about my rosy cheeks (why??? would??? you??? do??? this????) and I usually respond like Lily does. “Yes, I have naturally rosy cheeks and spending time outside makes them even redder. Is there anything I can help you with?”
      I think if you can keep it matter-of-fact and move it away from being a response to what someone said, that can be helpful. It can also help de-escalate the blush, in my experience. (I.e., rather than blushing harder because you’re embarrassed about the blush, you remind yourself that it’s not embarrassing and then you stop blushing. maybe. if you’re lucky.)

  5. “It’s a fight or flight reaction. Still deciding which.” is the best.

    I would probably try something like “Yes, I tend to blush when someone makes me uncomfortable.” said in a really straight-forward factual way, so it kind of puts the onus back on them. I think it would work in a client situation because you’re not being rude, just replying to what they’ve said to you.

    I have an unusual accent that people like to mimic and I often call people out on it by saying “I love when people point out ways that I don’t fit in.” but in a bit of a monotone so I don’t sound angry. It’s about getting them to recognise how their behaviour is affecting you, without being overly confrontational.

    1. I have started saying “oh… is that supposed to be an [accent not the one they are mimicing]?” Or “huh, that’s not a bad approximation of [some other accent].” That tends to get people to stop it with the har de har accenting.

  6. I don’t blush super easily, but it does happen sometimes, and I’ve gotten the “Ooooh, you’re blushing!” comments before. I usually respond with a very dry “Yes, and…?” or “Probably,” which seems to take the wind out of their sails. They then sometimes complain “You’re no fun!” to which my response is an equally dry “No.” I’m sure they think I’m bitchy, but I’d rather be viewed that way than as an easy target.

    On a side note, this post made me remember the poor girl in my small junior high who had nearly translucent skin and turned beet red at almost everything. Kids found out that they could make her blush just by saying “You’re blushing!” even if she wasn’t, and well, you can imagine how that ended up. I hope she either outgrew the blushing or learned some snappy comebacks – 20 years is a long time to put up with people’s crap.

    1. I think “probably” is a phenomenal response, especially in the work context where you might not be able to say to “you’re making me uncomfortable” to a client without repercussions for yourself. “Probably” is going to take all the fun out of teasing you, is completely non-objectionable to a jerky client, and doesn’t give the person any extra material to work with.

      1. I think when a verbal reaction overrides the physical one and contradicts unequivocally that makes people stop it. “Sure, my face may be turning redder and redder as you push it. But my voice and posture and words and everything else are the dominant communicators here and they are telling you you are being a tool, so.”

        Har har you’re blushing!

        Am I? Huh…

        Oh, probably.

    2. I like “Probably” because it’s so short and somewhat random. Unlike a snappy comeback, it gives people no possible grip for any kind of response.

      My go-to in these situations is a sort of confused fake smile and “Mmmm.” I am in my thirties and quite good at self-possessed, though – as simple as it sounds, it takes a certain amount of confidence to respond in such a non-committal way and leave the awkward moment on them, and leave feeling good about it. If I’d done that when I was younger, I’d have felt like I’d missed an opportunity to be zingy and sassy and gone away feeling a bit rubbish. Nowadays, I feel like, “you’re the one making things awkward, I don’t owe my energy to you or anyone else,” so bare minimum responses work for me.

  7. Maybe even “I’m sorry I have intermittent hives” or something? Then it becomes less “cute” and dampens the joy they get from emotionally manipulating you. Not sure how well this would work…

    1. “Hives” is perfect, but without the “I’m sorry,” because medical conditions don’t need apologies.
      It also pushes embarrassment back where it belongs, because “ohes noes I just called attention to a medical condition instead of teasing a cute girlie”

      Try, in a flat voice, “Yes, I have intermittent hives. Thank you for pointing that out. Now about this paperwork…”

    2. I’ve got mild rosacea, and a ridiculously sensitive flushing response is part of it. I suggest “Again? Crap. Excuse me – I need to splash some water on my face. Maybe it’ll keep my rosacea from flaring.” Then go to the restroom.

      But if your face ever actually turns purple (stupid flare-up), go see a doctor.

  8. Delivered brightly and obliviously:
    “Yes, I go red very easily. It’s such a pain because guys always use it to try and hit on me. They must think they’re being cute or something, but it’s actually pretty creepy, don’t you think? Can you pass the crimping scissors?”

    (That one might be particularly useful with older dudes who flirt from behind the veil of plausible deniability because I’m Married How Dare You. They can’t take offence unless they want to tacitly admit they were hitting on you.)

    Goold old sarcasm:
    “Wow. What an incredible observation. Seriously. Do you ever write this stuff down?”

    “Aw look, she’s gone all red!”
    *stare with blank incomprehension*
    *pull out pocket mirror*
    *being screamingly hysterically*

    1. Sarcasm and screaming are, unfortunately, not appropriate for work.
      Wage earners are automatons with no feelings, everyone knows that.
      Displaying inappropriate feelings might be grounds for dismissal, or not getting the promotion or bonus.

    2. Only problem I can see is Creepy von McCreeper might either take offense at your ‘assumption’ they’re hitting on you (re: It Was Just A Compliment™), or worse, turn it back on you by asking what you think they meant by it. I’m a big fan of sarcasm, but for those who may not have the skill, experience, and/or confidence to handle real-time manipulation, sometimes it’s best to just make the ball vanish in a puff of awkward instead of throwing it back in their court.

      Of course, if they’re just a random passerby on the street and not a family friend/distant relative/client/boss/gatekeeper, then let the acerbic acid flow. 😀

  9. I always go for a dry and very slightly bewildered–as in “Seriously? You’re actually saying this, like it’s a thing anyone should care about?”–“Okay.” And then immediately change the subject or just jump right back in to whatever we were talking about in the first place. It’s worked for me in a variety of situations, because it takes people aback but isn’t outright rude, so they usually just stop. (If they don’t, I’ll break out “Yes, you already said that” with an either patient, annoyed, or totally bland tone, depending on the circumstances.)

    1. This is perfect.
      Anything which doesn’t really push the conversational ball back into their court, but instead pops the ball and makes the conversation fizzle out, is exactly what is needed.

  10. I turn red a lot when I’ve been drinking, my cheeks get very red very quickly, and everyone comments on it. (Especially at work where we often have a cocktail hour.)

    Fortunately that also gives me a great cover for blushing when I’m embarassed and there is alchohol around. (Great with clients.) “Oh yeah, that happens a bit when I’ve been drinking.” ANd then I tell the story about the time I did a shot of fireball and everyone thought I was dying or I joke about how you know I’m really drunk when I get pale again. (SHE”S GONE PALE, Verbal fitler disengaged!)

    There is also – “Aww You’re blushing.” “Yes because i’m so embarassed for you.” or “Yes I find your comments inappropriate.”

  11. This used to happen to me ALL the fricken time in my early twenties and people were horrible about it. The WORST was when my co-workers caught on and collectively tried to make me blush as often as they could. The fact that I was shy, soft spoken and easily flustered did not help in an epic way. I also have the completion of a ghost, so it really showed up. I can say that it got better over time and happens much less frequently now. I have no idea if this is because my body got older and decided to get over it or if I tend to get less flustered now – but feel free to live with the hope that it can get better.

    What has not gotten better over time is that my stupid, super sensitive skin will turn red in a non-blush, much more splotchy way at the drop of a dime. Which is literal, because if you dropped a dime on me, my skin will turn red. If I wear a necklace, my neck will turn red. If I touch my neck, it will get red. Sometimes if nothing at all touches me, my skin will get blotchy and red. And then people will point it out in a “oh my, what’s wrong?” kind of way that drives me nuts. It’s not nearly as horrible or uncomfortable as sexist blush flirting, but it makes me feel super self-conscious and weird looking every time someone does it. My usually response is some variation of “It’sathingthathappens,nothing’swrong,lookoverthereatthat!” but so often I want to be all “Dude -don’t tell people about how they look weird!”

    1. Nice to see I’m not the only person with skin that randomly blotches. I have permanently red cheeks so when I blush (which used to happen really easily), I turn very red indeed. When I was younger and more self-conscious the blush would go all the way down my neck and I would sweat a little. I also turn red in the heat or when I’ve had a couple of drinks. It’s been a very long time since I was teased about it. These days people only comment on my red face if it’s a hot day, in a “gosh you’re red, is it that hot outside?” kind of way, and generally only friends would presume to do this.

      My apple cheeks helped hampered the jerks. As I grew more self-confident any attempt to discomfit me was met with a flat “Yes, my cheeks are always red”. This also helped lessen the blushing. The blush gets worse the more self-conscious you are about it, which is what the jerks are trying to achieve. Refusing to give them that satisfaction also helped control the blush reflex.

      1. Oh, the apple cheeks. My sisters and I have those, and it’s bad. This story won’t help the OP, but I hope it brings amusement:
        I was 16 years old and competing for the oh-so-prestigious crown of Dairy Princess (yes, my family milked dairy cows), mostly because it came with a lovely scholarship. The competition was mostly an interview with the judges, as the greatest criterion they were using was knowledge of cows, so the pageant organizers brought in makeup consultants to do makeovers of the girls to pass the time while they were waiting. The consultant was teaching how to use blusher, and since I was firmly aware of how red my cheeks always were, I didn’t apply any. The consultant looked over and me and exclaimed “Oh, Honey! You’re not supposed to put it all over your face!”

        I’m sure that there have been other times where I’ve been embarrassed, but since I can vividly recall the entire situation and how I felt about it 25 years later, I can’t remember one.

        I won the stupid pageant, though!

        1. I have apple cheeks too, and I comforted myself as a teenager by reading a lot of Celtic mythology, where clown cheeks are WHERE IT’S AT.

    2. “Dude -don’t tell people about how they look weird!”

      I think that’d actually be a pretty great response.

    3. My skin’s not quite that sensitive, but close. My general thing is “Red marks on my skin? It just does that. I can make it look really horrible! Want to see?!” In an excited sort of way, as I demonstrate that very lightly dragging my nails over somewhere like my forearm makes bright red stripes and then painless whelps. “Isn’t that cool? Doesn’t hurt at all”

      Taking control of the situation and making it something I’m choosing to do rather than just something that happens seems to help keep me from being self-conscious about it most of the time. This is only my own experience though, and no one should ever be under any pressure to ‘put on a show’ and try and make it stop being awkward when the other person should be the one not making it awkward by pointing stuff out.

      1. Taking control of hte situation.
        Congratulations for being brave, I wish I could do that.
        But my skin usually reddens like that too, I’ll keep the fore-arm scratch in mind!

    4. Dude, that happens to me all the time! I get these really random red marks all over me that show up for no reason. If I scratch at an itch even lightly, I get these horrible red claw marks all over. I wear a watch? Red marks. Someone pokes me lightly? I look like I was shot with a bb gun or something. No idea why. I’m somewhat darker in complexion (Half Japanese and part Cherokee) so it shouldn’t show up that much, but mine show up so vividly even on my skin! They get bumpy too. It’s frustrating as heck.

      1. I’ve had that start happening in the last year – sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does it’s so red and raised I can play tic-tac-toe on my stomach by running fingernails over it. (Yayyyy, dermatographia.)

        I’ve found that taking allergy medication helps keep it in check (Benadryl, Reactine, generics are fine), and mosturizing ridiculously aggressively helps.

        1. You have dermographia, a form of hives. In general, ordinary allergy tests won’t help, since your skin will react to everything. Moisterizers help, but make sure you use unscented *everything* for your laundry, and if you use perfumes, try switching to organic essential oils. It’s just a periodic nuisance.

          1. Yep, hence the “Yayyyy, dermatographia.” 🙂 Didn’t specifically know about the allergy tests being unhelpful thing, but am unsurprised now that I think about it (and unsurprised that my GP, who I badly need to replace, sent me to an allergist who ran the prick tests and informed me I was badly allergic to cats. I’m, uhm, not).

            Already use unscented laundry detergent–I have real trouble finding unscented shampoo, though, so I’ve rather given up trying on that front. Use EO fragrances when I use them, but find I’m using those less these days too–less for the dermatographia, more because I always seem to end up in places posted “no scents, please”. (The yarn shop doesn’t mind, though, which is lovely and nice.)

    5. Urg at the ‘what’s wrong?’ response when everything’s normal! I have very pale skin and once I made a new friend who wasn’t used to it, she kept asking me if I was ok and I couldn’t figure out why, she said ‘you’re so pale, are you ill?’ and I suddenly started thinking ‘oh no, what if I AM ill?’ I’m a hyperchondriac and I don’t need any excuses to make myself feel ill!

      I also hate when people tell me I have food on my face when it’s actually a spot. 😐 I have to say ‘actually it’s a spot, thanks for drawing attention to it, can we please move on?’

  12. Same problem here. I usually go for a disengaged “Thanks for letting me know” and then just continue with what I was saying/doing before.

  13. I blush easily as well, and have had to figure out responses to people who like to point it out and make a “thing” out of it, especially people I am working for or with.

    Ex: I used to work at a high-end men’s department store, where CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT mentality abounded. This crap was CONSTANT, and if I wanted to keep my job, I had to be “polite.” So my responses would be upbeat, but clearly directing the conversation away from my face and its capillaries.

    “Yup, that’s a thing that happens sometimes! Back to our previous subject…”

    “Ha, ok then! Back to previous subject…”

    If the guys persisted in their weirdness and couldn’t take a hint, the “re-direct the conversation” method would get firmer, with a more serious tone i.e. “Yes, but let’s seriously focus on subject at hand…”

    And if they still continued? That’s when you look them in the eye and stop the crap. Politely (of course! …gag…) but still, the buck stops there. “I appreciate your flattery, but I would like to get back to job and subject.” or “I’d really rather talk about subject and job” Most people normally back off immediately when this point is hit, but some will get huffy, say they were “just kidding around” or even attempt to threaten or make you feel bad about calling them out on their bs. “That’s not a nice tone, don’t make me call your manager!”

    These are indications that you’re dealing with a person who is both immature and entitled, and it can be especially difficult when you have to work with them. The best thing you can do? Stay CALM, and try your best to remain composed and above whatever weirdness these people are throwing your way. The response to huffiness and entitlement is an even toned: “I am simply uncomfortable with this interaction, I just want to do job as best as possible” No one can fault you for trying to do your job, and your job is not to allow them to say/do whatever they want. Any other work mentality would be a clear gateway to HR crackdowns and a potential lawsuit.

  14. “Aww, you’re blushing!” is almost always a grody power play. The last time someone pulled that on me, I just said, “Am I?” in a very cool tone and then changed the subject. Sure, I was still blushing, but there was nothing left to talk about. The “Am I?” can be said with a slight smile if it’s necessary to appease people, but even if you have to smile, you’re still just acknowledging and moving on.

    In my experience, one of the most important social skills is being able to maintain a straight face when someone does something embarrassing, like emitting an unexpected belch. This kind of thing happens to everyone. Ideally, no one will blink, the belcher will murmur a quick “excuse me,” and everyone will move on with their days. In this case, your face–not you, but your face–is doing something a little embarrassing. People who call attention to it are ill-bred. You, however, can offer your face the courtesy of not noticing that it is embarrassing itself, if that makes sense. When I was younger, I blushed very easily, but not so much anymore, and I think it has a lot to do with using this strategy. I got so good at pretending not to be embarrassed that I actually stopped being embarrassed. 🙂

  15. Maybe blink, and state a bewildered, “Why would you comment on that?” or “Why would anyone point that out?” Draws attention to the fact that they are targeting you and putting you on the spot. ACT like it’s weird and awkward, and it becomes weird and awkward. But if it’s a client I’d then switch subjects.

    1. Yes, I like this even for work situations. Or a politer variation for clients of looking TOTALLY BEWILDERED for a second, then suddenly changing topic as if they said nothing. Gets across the message without actually saying anything they could see as rude.

    2. Or, even better – “Why would you sound so satisfied at having said someone that makes someone else feel awkward and embarrassed?” Said in a tone of honest bewilderment that someone could commit such a faux pas, that could work great. I can imagine it might not be feasible with a client you can’t afford to offend, though.

      1. Or, in a social rather than work situation, a flat “That’s okay, I accept your apology” might be appropriate: They’re commenting on having made you uncomfortable, and the socially appropriate comment on having made someone uncomfortable would be an apology. (I wouldn’t chance it in a work environment.)

  16. I don’t blush when I’m flustered but I am very pale and tend to go bright red for no reason. I want to teach and so I’m really worried about going red in front of students because when I feel my face heat up I THEN get flustered and start talking rubbish.

    As for scripts, I don’t tend to get called on it much when I go red but my hands turn bright red and then pale blue in even slight cold so if people point that out I tend to go with “Yes, it’s called Raynaud’s syndrome and causes extreme vaso-constriction in changing temperatures”. If they say anything else then I’ll add “It’s actually quite painful” which tends to shut them up fairly fast!

    1. I was born with a condition called essential tremor, a constant, low-grade tremor that primarily affects my hands. It can spread up my arms and into my shoulders with even the mildest hit of adrenaline, and it doesn’t matter *why* the adrenaline got released (happy, sad, excited, anxious, I’m shaking.)

      In professional situations, like a job interview, I usually say something up front like “I have a mild tremor in my hands, but I’m very used to it.” If I don’t, they tend to think I’m just very, very nervous. It was particularly annoying when I was applying for veterinary technician positions, since there’s a lot of fine detail work involved like drawing blood/placing catheters. So again I had to be really up front and tell them I’d was very capable of doing everything required and had successfully proven so for many years.

      But for social situations, there are some people who just LOVE to point it. Even after I’ve told them why it happens, it’s always “Oh, you’re shaking! Why are you so anxious all the time!” If it’s someone I know well who should know better, it’s usually “Yep, I’m shaking again. And you’re being a jerk about it again. I guess some things never change!” Maybe that could work for blushing too?

      You’d really think adults would be better at politely not noticing things that are very obviously not voluntary.

      1. I can’t even imagine what motivates people to make comments like that! I can see myself calling attention to something like that the first time I see it (as privately as possible) to check in with a person (“Oh, man, you’re shaking. Are you okay?” or “I saw earlier you got *really red* when I complimented you in front of everyone. Would you prefer I not do it?”), but what good could possibly come from pointing out someone is anxious or embarrassed or drawing attention to a physical issue you already know about? It’s only going to make it worse. What a jerk thing to do!

        1. Right? I have a weak leg due to a birth defect and when I get tired, I limp slightly (and it’s not helped by the plantar fasciitis lemme tell you). It’s astonishing to me the number of people, ranging from strangers to people who should know better, who have actually said variations on “what’s wrong with you?” Gr.

      2. Another essential tremor person here! The one that always gets me is random people telling me to “calm down” or “relax” because my hands are shaking, often without actually speaking to me, like street harassers exhort random women to smile.

    2. It takes practice, but the most powerful thing you can do is just fake that it isn’t bugging you. You don’t have to risk rubbish by saying anything, usually. You’re the teacher, you can take a second to be silent and get your breath and let the silence build. Students are pushing boundaries because they are testing you. And they are testing you because you they think *you* have More Authority. Even when it feels to you like they can have an upper hand, I really don’t think students see it that way.

      With time, your resting face setting can be No Nonsense and even if you are turning red, the face is still “are you kidding me?” It’s nice to get to that place.

      I think we think if you don’t start that way in a classroom you have lost the opportunity forever, and it’s not true. It may be that on that day or maybe for that term. But over a career, you can develop the I Am In Charge Here And Whatever Happens I Will Win aura. It’s not that you don’t care about students or that you don’t have an engaged or collaborative goal in the classroom. It’s just that… you’re not peers, they don’t have to love you to learn, and whatever shenanigans they pull in class are probably not personal.

      If everything *but* your face is delivering “don’t try it” then the blushing will not seem like it’s telling anyone anything other than “this building is overheated.”

      Which is off topic of this post, mostly. Just, in the future when you are teaching, remember that the students can’t read your mind, and they aren’t going to frame how you present yourself as scared or intimidated by them. At most they will think you are feeling mad, not disempowered.

  17. I used to think I was doomed to live a retired life, with a very limited range of job options, because I blush easily, and in highschool I was so self-consious about it that I became highly anxious, and any mild blush would turn into a shame spiral of deeper and deeper blushes. I wanted to teach, but knew I would never be able to.
    I’ve managed to quell the blush response a bit, by pretending as hard as I could that I wasn’t blushing (hence preventing the hideous shame spiral causing more and more blushing). I am now a teacher, and still blush when I screw up and sometimes just for no reason at all. And I hate it, and I have a hard time sounding normal and continuing my teaching when I can feel myself blushing (knowing, of course, that if the students hadn’t realized I’d screwed up, the blushing is now giving that away all too obviously). Still, it’s managable.
    And then my closest friend goes and says to me a few months ago: “Aw how cute that you’re blushing!” I couldn’t tell her how upset she made me at the time, and then it didn’t seem possible to bring it up later. But I hated her saying that. She had no idea how wretched I used to (and still) feel about blushing, and I’m sure she thought she was being affectionate.

    1. I am so glad to hear you pursued teaching even though it’s awkward or uncomfortable sometimes. I hope the rest of the job makes up for that.

    2. Heh. I’m a high-school teacher with a redhead’s royal blush.
      I blame it on the chalk dust, most of the time.
      Then I moved to a classroom with a white-board, no chalk.

    3. I bet there is some kid your class who is so grateful to have seen a teacher blushing and doing their job. By having a blusher there who is not A Blusher but A Teacher Who Turns Red Sometimes, maybe you are helping a person avoid that feeling that they can’t do X because of Y.

      I am such a blusher. And a word-snarler, and I talkreallysuperfast.

      But, aside from fast which is a communication issue, I think unless they say so, the students aren’t probably noticing anything like that. They’re so self-absorbed that it doesn’t occur to them, you know? And I think they think teachers are made of steel, so the fact that you can feel disempowered by blushing doesn’t occur to them. They might think you are annoyed with yourself for dropping the ball, or angry with them for acting up. But I don’t think they think you feel the same embarrassment they are feeling, because you are An Adult. They might be looking for a reaction when one of them says or does something boneheaded to get a rise from you, but that’s not the same as your own mistake throwing you, you know?

      And if they do notice, I doubt that it sticks with them much.

      Also, I will guarantee you a zillion million dollars that most of them are *so scared* of Official Speaking In Public. I teach first year college kids and they routinely say that public speaking is the thing for which they are the least prepared and about which they feel the most insecure. So even if they notice your reaction, they are not feeling superior about it, for sure.

      Anyway. Your closest friend… I think probably doesn’t realize how badly that knocked you for 60. And if you felt like it, it would be doing them a favor to tell them how unhelpful that sort of conversation is.

  18. Oh my god I HATE this. My *boss* — older married generally quite nice and supportive — thinks it’s the best idea ever to tell me whenever I’m blushing, which…uh. Younger female subordinate who blushes easily? MAYBE NOT THE BEST IDEA.


    1. does your place an HR department?
      Is there a place where you can complain?

      Does his wife ever come to the office?
      Can you snitch in the guise of ‘he thinks its so cute” gossip?

  19. Ooh, LW, I feel you. I am a blusher AND a nervous giggler, which undercuts any sort of withering response I might try. I tend to go with a very factual, “Yup” and move on like we’ve concluded the topic.

    1. Oh, lord, the nervous giggle. I can remember sitting on a bench on the college campus and a passing man outright leered at me and asked “Pretty day out to be so pretty, yah?” And of course I did the nervous giggle. To which he said “What, you can’t speak?” and I just giggled AGAIN. He just rolled his eyes and walked away, but it was a double hit of getting creeped on and being ashamed I couldn’t speak up for myself.

    2. Oh, I have one of those. Comes out in super-appropriate situations like job interviews, etc. Ugh.

  20. Have you tried the one eye-brow lift ? Not a word is spoken and it is very successful for shutting up morons. You just look with one eye-brow raised then continue on as if they didn’t speak. Learning that was one of the best things I did. Even if you can just get one to twitch a bit – it just looks like you’re being very restrained.

  21. I blush easily and very violently, whenever someone praises me or tells me i am in the wrong. The worst thing is that i simply cannot keep my composure, unless the flattery/chastisement lasts very little: i feel the temperature of my cheeks rising and somehow it triggers my tear reflex.

    It’s particularly embarrassing when someone is telling me about something i’ve done wrong… i get red and begin to shed tears, and feel i look like a baby who cannot take criticism, and i just want it to stop or to simply being swallowed by the ground x_x I really can’t control it, it’s an explosive reaction… which is why i prefer to get feedback from my boss by email or chat… and even that way i still blush, but at least nobody can see it.

    1. Someone else who can’t keep a handle on themselves when they’re being told off! I’m not a weepy person at all, but for some reason, having a tutor tell me that my [translation/essay/grammar] Just Isn’t Good Enough, however gently, will set off the waterworks. I loathe crying in front of my tutors because, as you say, I ‘ feel i look like a baby who cannot take criticism’, but if the rebuke continues for more than a few sentences I feel so small and stupid, and then on come the tears – which makes me frustrated at my emotional incontinence, which only makes me cry more. At least, despite my ghostly pallor, I’m not prone to blushing?

  22. I’m going red just sharing this… But the last person to make me blush was the 12 year old pushy queen bee bully friend of my niece (!) I guess she said something very adultish and risqué purposely to get a rise out of her friend’s uncle and it worked.
    Of course she played on the “Nah-nah-nah! You’re embarrassed!” card.

    What I call a “Gotcha! Move” all bullies pull.

    But hey. This was supposed to be fun eating ice cream. I couldn’t fight back against a young tween but I also had to show my niece her uncle is still a superstar. (Her friend was renowned for this attitude so I was sort of prepared)
    So I said “Excuse me. I decide if I am embarrassed or not.”
    And I guess I handled it but she really had struck a nerve and got her satisfaction.

    I like “I (really) don’t have time for this.” Followed by a serious eye lock is a general blanket “back off” phrase used with strangers or even buddies trying to play with ya. You can vary the tone. The more melodramatic you say it the more you shake off the blush and it also breaks the dynamic since they now have no come back.
    Everybody understands the concept of time and not having enough of it. And if they don’t understand just saying that last sentence puts the foolstick back in their hand.

  23. I make the response sound as boring as possible. Like, a neutral and evenly-voiced, “Oh, yeah, I flush easily.” Or similar. (I often get, “I wish my wife was as enthusiastic as you!” after I give a presentation, because I’m an energetic presenter. My boring-ass reply is, “I’ve taken a lot of speech classes!” It’s hard to go to the sexy place when you’re talking about speech therapy.)

    This does several things:

    a) It avoids the horrifying backfires where your scathing and/or snappy comeback is taken as flirtation.

    b) It downplays their role in it (if I flush easily, it isn’t because they ~made a cutting and/or incisive comment~, it’s just because I flush easily).

    c) It’s polite, and therefore appropriate with people like clients who you can’t afford to piss off even if pissing them off would be otherwise merited.

    d) It’s boring, and therefore unlikely to make them keep hovering around the topic like flies at a picnic.

    In general, I find that snappy comebacks are overrated. A lot of people read them as flirting. Or find them amusing eniough to keep annoying you in order to keep getting amusement out of you. Or are annoyed by them and become belligerent. A boring comeback–while not as immediately satisfying–works about a zillion times better.

    1. A boring comeback–while not as immediately satisfying–works about a zillion times better.

      Ha, this has been so true for me too. Honestly, 95% of the time I don’t even bother to come up with a full-sentence boring comeback. I just say “hmm” with a completely neutral expression, then change the subject. It doesn’t really prove a point or state a boundary to refer to later, per se, but for people with whom I don’t need to have a long-standing relationship, it gets it over with pretty quickly. I’ve rarely had people try to divert the conversation back to [rude thing], and if they do, I seriously do the exact same neutral “hmm” + subject change again and then it’s usually dead in the water. Of course, ymmv.

      1. Ha, yes! A “hmm,” or “oh,” or “okay” often works well as a Super Boring Response.

      2. I have a tendency to just STRAIGHT UP IGNORE the weird-ass thing a customer (or whomever) just said. I work in retail, and also this stuff surprises me into freezing a bit. So I figure, if I give them absolutely no satisfaction at all, it’s less fun for them. Especially if you can tell they’re aiming for a reaction. Kind of like with a toddler or something.

        Also I think “That is important information” delivered in a dead-level voice would probably be entertaining…

        “HAW HAW women be shoppin’ amirite?” “That is important information.”
        “HAW HAW you’re blushing!” “That is important information.”

  24. I flush very easily due to my Rosacea, and I absolutely play that card when people mention my red face.

    “I have an incurable skin disorder that I’m being treated for called Rosacea that causes the flushing. There’s more information on Rosacea dot org if you are interested in learning about it.”

    I’m not snide or snarky, just very matter-of-fact about it, Generally people either shut up or fumble an apology after that. A few people have gone on to ask me about it, but they leave off the teasing. Because really, no one wants to be that jerk that keeps teasing the person with an incurable skin disorder!

  25. I’m also a very easy blusher, and it’s especially noticeable since I have very pale skin. I can also get very self-conscious since I can feel my face heating up, and it takes some time for it to subside. At least I haven’t had many people point it out to me, especially the creeps you’ve had to deal with. I love the scripts that turn it around on the other person and make them feel embarrassed, without lingering on the subject. Good luck LW, i hope these prove useful to you.

  26. To all the blushers (I am one too): If you’ve never checked, don’t assume that every feeling of heat in your face translates to blushing at the moment. I’ve had a really stressful conversation, went back to my friends and asked how red I was in the face, and they told me, not much. When I looked in a mirror, I was actually pale, from the adrenaline probably. I think it helps to assume when you feel your face heating up that this is one of the feel it, but don’t look like it situations. Like it was said above: if you don’t feed into it, it will probably get better. Likewise, for me it’s helpful to get back to what I was doing when I noticed the (probably) blushing. When I’m concentrating on something, the matter of blushing or not is of no interest to me.

    (These things surely don’t work as well if someone already rudely pointed out the blushing.)

    1. Yes, sometimes it’s not as bad as I assume. I’m an excellent public speaker, but I tend to flush regardless. Even though public speaking doesn’t make me nervous; I actually love it!

      Turns out I wasn’t flushing nearly as badly as I thought I was. Although, if someone else is claiming you’re blushing you’re probably doing it at least a little bit.

  27. This happened to me when I was younger. I think it stopped when I started to think about that a little more. Like, would I *really* consider a flirt/kiss/sex/relationship with this elder man? And the answer was usually “no” accompanied with “YUCK”. A friend of mine calls them “horny old horse radishes” and the name-calling in my head alone made me stop blushing.

    Also, my mother once told me how a friend of hers bragged he would still flirt with young women and make them blush or flirt back (including me). I realized then that I only did it out of pity for someone too old to really matter, so I told my mother that. Which helped her an me likewise in dealing with that guy. 🙂

    I hope those thoughts can help you too to get a distance and raise a barrier between you and those guys who apparently don’t know boundaries. They do it for their own benefit, not yours (mostly), so no need to blush.

    1. I don’t like the horse radishes (nice!) walking around thinking that their attentions are welcome and that women half their age are hot for them, rather than uncomfortable. It encourages them to hit on people who are more bothered/threatened by their behaviour than you are.

    2. I’ve been holding off on this comment because it feels like backseat moderation, but calling someone “too old to really matter” doesn’t seem like it fits with the Awkward style. I’m glad that reframing the encounters gave you new tools for them, though.

  28. I don’t blush, but I shake. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten since childhood, it’s quite visible to others. And gosh, men just looooove to feast on what they perceive as evidence that they’ve rattled me. Any time I start feeling emotional (anxiety, fear, anger, distress, etc.) I start trembling. All my life, I’ve heard variations of:

    “Am I making you nervous?” “Relax, take a deep breath!” “Don’t be so nervous, I was just kidding around,” “Calm down, there’s no reason to be nervous”, etc.

    Here’s the thing: I don’t necessarily shake because I’m nervous. I may start to shake because I’m feeling intense emotions (not just anxiety, but fear, anger, distress, etc.), but I also shake when I’m hungry or tired. After a lifetime in this jittery body of mine, I just don’t notice.

    It pisses me off to have others making assumptions about what I’m feeling based on a physical quirk I can’t control. It is particularly infuriating when some jerk comments on my shaking, mistaking it as confirmation of his sexual moxie or something. I’ve encountered guys who were actually so arrogant as to think that I was shaking purely in response to their physical presence. Really. I often work in corporate settings where I’m in close proximity to older, wealthy executive types. I chat politely while I go about setting up the lights for their head shot, thinking about how hungry I am and how it would be so nice to sit down, and suddenly they’ll say something inappropriate and absurd like

    “Don’t be so nervous! I won’t bite…unless you want me to, heh heh”

    Now, I think that it may have been easier to come up with this script because oftentimes I wasn’t even nervous to begin with, and any discomfort I felt was accompanied by irritation (Wait, why are you talking about my feelings? I’m trying to do my thing here and you’re being incredibly rude). And like blushing, I wasn’t necessarily aware of what my body was doing. So here’s my response:

    Me: Huh? What are you talking about?

    This forces them to repeat what they said. Having to repeat an off-color joke or comment to someone who apparently wasn’t paying as much attention as they thought feels really uncool. Many quit here. For those who don’t:

    Guy: You’re shaking, you seem really nervous. I didn’t mean to make you so nervous!
    Me: Oh, I didn’t realize. The shaking is a medical condition. Happens all the time. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

    Again, many will quit here. Others, however, feign (I’m pretty sure it’s not genuine, it’s covering their tracks) intense interest in this “medical condition” of mine. The fact that I don’t have any particular diagnosis to discuss makes it easy to dismiss their questions.

    “Oh, there isn’t any particular cause. I’ve had it all my life. It’s annoying having to explain it, but I definitely don’t notice it as much as other people do. So, what were you saying before that?”

    And yes, there are people who will continue ad nauseum. They’re curious to know if it’s genetic, they ask if I’ve tried meditation or calming exercises, or they want to tell me how their aunt has the same thing, or whatever. The important thing is that I’ve managed to neutralize the conversation.

  29. I have been a terrible blusher most of my life. To the point where the fact that people use blusher as a product to make their cheeks look more pink is baffling and hilarious to me (it’s like they invented a product to make your hands shake).

    So, I know that other people’s *reaction* to the blushing is the real problem here. Blushing is not inherently bad, if people would just shut up about it, and that’s what the LW has asked for help with. But if anyone is interested in help with the blushing itself, I did find hypnotherapy quite effective for this. (I didn’t get hypnotherapy specifically for blushing, more to do with general anxiety). But one of the exercises involved seeing yourself at the control panel of your mind and managing the physical symptoms of anxiety by, for example, just turning the “blushing dial” right down.

    It sounds a bit ridiculous, but I did it this morning before giving a presentation (usually a source of huge stress and anxiety for me) and I didn’t blush at all. Still got the shaky voice to deal with, but it’s a start.

  30. I had no idea this was such a common problem! On the client thing I have a suggestion, but it’s not the easiest of moves/will depend on your comfort level. People often comment on my accent. It makes me uncomfortable because I live in the town I’m from but my accent hits 50% of people as Not From Here and they don’t like to be told they’re wrong, (people won’t let it drop/assume I’m joking/press for further detail).

    So I developed a routine of total innocence. It goes like this: Customer asks about my accent, I smile and tell them I get it a lot but I’m actually from here/have no explanation. At this point, if possible, I steer the conversation back to the matter at hand but this can’t always be done without appearing rude. If they persist, I keep up the smile, and agree with them in conversational tones that yes my accent is weird to some people, then I carry on that it’s really frustrating for me because I don’t have an explanation but people expect one from me. But the key is I say it with no accusation whatever; I act as if I really am talking about all the OTHER people who ask, and not the person I’m talking to. 80% of the time they stop talking about it after that.

    I hesitate to add you shouldn’t HAVE to do that; in my line of work it’s paramount that the customer feels you’re someone they can talk to, and my accent problem doesn’t carry the same connotations as someone older commenting on a physiological reaction, but it works for me and I find it easier than a quick shutdown because it suits my work persona as a chatty, approachable person.

    1. ohmygodohmygod I have the same inexplicable Not From here accent and people WILL NOT believe you! So you have to have the most boring conversations – “did you ever live overseas?” etc like you are holding information back from them, and if they ask the right question, the mystery is unravelled. Also because the accent I should have is Australian, and people read it as slightly Americanish, there’s some hostility like they think I’m doing it to be unpatriotic, or I watch too much TV or something.

      Lines that do not end the conversation: “There is no explanation, it’s just how how I talk I guess. I really am from here.”
      People can’t let go.
      Line that I have found pretty successfully winds down that conversation topic: “I think it’s because I grew up reading too many books and not speaking to enough real people.”
      It’s an explanation. Any other lie would do of course: “I had a Canadian babysitter when I was learning to talk.” but the ‘books’ lie is a more accurate representation of who I actually am, so it bothers me less to tell it.

      1. I used to get that “you have an accent” accusation a lot when I was younger, even though I am most definitely from around here. I started telling people who wouldn’t take no for an answer that it was just a speech impediment, not an accent.

        1. I have a sib w a speech impediment that makes her sound like she has an accent. She gets asked a lot if she’s from [Country 1] or [Country 2] — it’s always the same two places. I can’t really hear it, myself, because after all I’ve been listening to her for her whole life.

      2. Me too! Me too! I get a ton of different nationalities. For one year in high school, everyone thought I was French, an entire hospital ward thought I was Russian, a co-worker thought I was German for a month. All of these were in the same American city I grew up in. Then I moved abroad, and so I thought “well, finally I’ll actually be from somewhere else,” except then I got people not believing me about being American, to the point where a panel of interviewers who were interviewing me got sidetracked from discussing the job to discuss how Irish I sounded, including “My brother moved to America a year ago…He sounds more American than you!” I really didn’t want the job by the time that was over.

    2. ohmygodohmygod I have the same inexplicable Not From here accent and people WILL NOT believe you! So you have to have the most boring conversations – “did you ever live overseas?” etc like you are holding information back from them, and if they ask the right question, the mystery will be unravelled. Also because the accent I should have is Australian, and people read it as slightly Americanish, there’s some hostility like they think I’m doing it to be unpatriotic, or I watch too much TV or something.

      Lines that do not end the conversation: “There is no explanation, it’s just how how I talk I guess. I really am from here.”
      People can’t let go.
      Line that I have found pretty successfully winds down that conversation topic: “I think it’s because I grew up reading too many books and not speaking to enough real people.”
      It’s an explanation. Any other lie would do of course: “I had a Canadian babysitter when I was learning to talk.” but the ‘books’ lie is a more accurate representation of who I actually am, so it bothers me less to tell it.

      1. Oh God mine’s American too, (mostly – I also get Irish and Scottish a lot), – some people suggest it’s because I watch so much TV. (Um, no.) I’ve only ever met one other person with the same problem!

        Lying is a good way to go – people often seem disappointed by the truth/weirdly hostile about it. I think from now on I’ll just tell them the voices in my head are American!

      2. I’m a New Zealander and people used to ask if I was British or South African. Oddly I grew up reading a lot of books too – every so often I’ll mispronounce something because I learned it from a book, not conversation. I think it might be that I enunciate differently? Normally I’d answer in a baffled tone as though I had no idea what they were talking about – “Oh, are you from South Africa?” “Noooo?” “You have an accent!” “Do I? Weird. *switch back to previous subject*”

    3. I have the Not From Here accent, too. Or at least, I did as a kid, and occasionally I still get that as an adult. When I was a kid, my parents interpreted it as an effect of my being very precise about how I pronounced words.

      I’ve lived in upstate NY for my entire life, except for two years at college in a Southern state. My father’s family is from a part of Connecticut that is near NYC, and apparently I sound somewhat more like them than would be expected since I don’t live there. I also had “y’all” start showing up in my speech after two years in the South, at first unconsciously and then consciously when I decided that really, “you guys” isn’t as gender-neutral as I thought it was when I was trying to be a chill girl. And then I picked up a couple of the Pittsburgh linguistic quirks when I was spending a lot of time with my godchildren and their family there. (I now use “needs doing” and “needs done” pretty much interchangeably, perhaps with a slight tendency towards “needs done”.)

      1. Ah, but have the dreaded “redd up” or “yinz” passed your lips? 😉

        I grew up in the area and sounded just like everyone else in my family until I took AP English from two teachers from Edinburgh, who were by God beating that out of me if it was the last thing they did. Add moving across country at 17, a friend who’s a speech therapist from the UK and the Brom (who’s a Midwestern radio guy), and when I go back to visit everyone is terribly confused.

  31. I also developed bad blushing problems in adolescence, related to general social anxiety. It calmed in my 20s, and now it’s not too noticeable and I’ve gotten used to it. I never came up with a good response to people bringing it up, as nothing sounds good when delivered awkwardly. I just ended up developing a more aloof demeanour which puts people off making personal remarks.

  32. Blusher here also. A friend taught me the response I use: “Blushing is my hobby.” (said very matter-of-factly), then back to another topic.

  33. I teach English to folk in China and Taiwan online, so all of my clients see me on cam, but I don’t see them. Multiple times a day they comment on my looks–“you’re so pretty!” “you’re so young!” and so forth, and I blush every single time.
    The other day, during class, I got embarrassed over something like that and blushed, and one of the men commented, “your face! it so red!”
    Of course I blushed even redder at that!
    All I could do was teach them the word “blushing,” turn off the camera for a few moments, and move on.
    I guess just acknowledging the blushing in a matter-of-fact kind of way and moving on with as much dignity as I can muster is the best way I’ve found to deal with it.
    At least in person when they’re not clients you can just give ’em the finger, eh?

    1. I don’t blush much but the “you look so young” is a constant barrage. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found the best response to comments about my apparent youth is to smile and say in a cheerful voice “Yes, it’s very useful to me as a lawyer” or “Yes, it’s very useful the way it makes people underestimate me”. People back right down, and quickly agree that they can see how it would be very useful indeed.

  34. The response that I’d like to say, and probably would inside my head, would be: “It’s not a blush, it’s rage.” But that wouldn’t work for clients. In reality, I’d most likely go with “Eh…” and a shrug with a side of faint disdain

    1. “I turn red right before I turn green. GOOD THING HULK WORE PURPLE SHORTS UNDER PANTS TODAY.”

  35. I’ve read several accounts of women who were high up the social tree – Queen Elizabeth, was one, I think – who were taught how to control their blush response. Apparently one technique is to take a slow, deep breath as soon as you feel yourself begin to blush, and hold it for a few seconds while turning your eyes away from the person or situation causing the blush, and a second deep breath while returning your eyes to the person’s ear or just off to the side of the situation. While doing this you call to mind something simple and cool — I remember one of the women used a pet white cat, because it was always at ease. Blushing is a visual indication of the ‘fight or flight’ response, and by taking control, you trigger the fight instinct rather than the blushing flight response. A bonus is that there is a certain elegance inherent in a slow, controlled movement, and purposely allowing yourself that moment to regroup, rather than stammer or react spastically, will give you more confidence; you initiate a positive feedback loop, which means fewer blushing responses.

    1. This is interesting. Apparently I have taught myself to do this without knowing why, possibly in order to control rage-blushing (I also blush easily, and have spent much effort in learning to control it).

      My technique usually consists of turning my head VERY slowly to regard the person who is being offensive, while taking a deep breath. Sometimes I blink, once. I usually say nothing, feeling that this is sufficient cue for them to retract what they have said before I (verbally) rip their spine out.

  36. Anyone older than 14 who calls attention to blushing has disgraced themselves so badly they only merit a glare of disdain. Women blush all the time; men blush sometimes too. After secondary school no one ever mentioned my blushing, or anyone else’s for that matter.

    Would any of these people say, ‘Aww, you’re blushing!’ to an older woman? I think not. A man calling attention to a young woman’s blush is sexually harassing her, in exactly the same way as guys who tell women to smile: they feel they can get away with it by pretending there has been some kind of faux pas. Most women need to learn a response to that kind of ‘harassment in plain sight’; the eyebrow twitch, the death glare, and all the Captain’s excellent scripts for these situations. The blusher doesn’t need to feel embarrassed that they have somehow caused the situation. The situation has been caused by an arse.

    I also wish I’d understood how beautiful young women look when they blush. When I was young enough to look like that, I hated it and thought I looked terrible. I wish I could have realised that, aesthetically, it does at least look awesome to others.

    1. “men blush sometimes too”

      This reminds me that I have a male friend who blushes if someone makes a really raunchy comment or off-color joke, and he deals with it by calling attention to it himself – “OMG I’m turning red!” – before anyone else can. Somehow “turning red” is a less loaded description than “blushing” even though they’re the exact same thing…I guess because “blushing” is associated with flustered (and in the eyes of grody older men, slightly titillated/aroused) young girls.

  37. I’m pale and blush easily, so I have heard my share of these comments. A few things that I like to reply. These first few are acceptable in professional contexts in my opinion:

    “Oh yeah, that happens all the time. You should see me after a run, I look like a tomato.” (This is good to desexualize the blush. Tomato head = not sexy. It’s also such an unexpected thing to say that it’s easy to change the subject afterwards.)

    “And…?” (Enhance the awkwardness! Embrace the awkward silence! Whatever the dude replies, just keep going “Hmmm…” and “Okayyyy…”)

    “Why would you say that?” (Just put them on the spot. They’ll be thankful afterwards when you go to change the subject.)

    And when you just don’t give a fuck:

    “Thanks for the update on my face.”

    “You’re looking a little blotchy yourself.”

    “Now that you mention it, I’m feeling a little feverish. I hope I’m not coming down with something contagious.” (Feel free to fake-shiver and/or fake-cough for the rest of the conversation)

    Also, I always find that taking a deep breath and a sip of cold water will quickly stop the blushing. So if people do this to you at work, definitely keep a glass of water around!

  38. As I feel my face heating up, I remind myself that it’s just my face which is overheating, not my brain. I can continue whatever I’m doing, unless someone is rude enough to point out the redness.

    And it is rude, never doubt it. “Fun” for the dude, maybe, but still rude.

    My favorite response is a puzzled, “Do you _often_ point out other people’s physical characteristics?” followed by a short pause, and back to “About the paperwork…” or whatever business related thing we were just talking about.

    Because the customer (or student, or boss) is always right, yo!
    But sometimes they are too crass for words.

  39. I’m a big fan of “And?” in these situations. It minimizes whatever it is the rude person was commenting on, and puts them in an extremely awkward position of having to explain, possibly at length, why they thought it was appropriate to nitpick/troll/state the obvious/whatever their game was. Plus, it’s easy to move right along from there; people tend not to get many words out from around the foot in their mouth.

  40. Wow, LW. This is so similar to me, for a moment I wondered if I’d written it. My face turns red at the drop of a hat, and I have the nervous laughter to accompany it. I work in a hotel, so I deal with a lot of young guys who want to flirt with anyone they can. Generally, when they comment on the blush, I try to shut it down with a “Oh, yeah, I didn’t realize. Was there something you needed/ do you have a reservation/ other work related question?” It doesn’t always work, especially because of the nervous laughter. But if you change the subject enough times, it should help. If it’s at all possible, don’t smile or anything; try to look like you’re restraining an irritated sigh.

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