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Okay guys, seriously now, FFS.

I promise you, I like a compliment as much as anyone, and yes, today I was looking particularly nice in my silk Laura Ashley dress that I found at the thrift store for $10.

(I had to throw that in there.  It is a fabulous dress.  My shoes were pretty hot, too.)

However, I swear sometimes, you guys just blurt out whatever's in your heads instead of thinking about what you're saying.  You do not follow up "you look nice today"  with "except for that arm", and point to the Thermacare patches I have wrapped around my wrist and hand.  A compliment followed by a criticism is not a compliment.

(I'm not even going to go into the stupid idea that men expect women to always meet some arbitrary beauty standard, because it makes me clench my teeth until they crack.)  

I assume, though - at least for the ones of you I'm giving the benefit of the doubt - that you aren't really looking to score, and you aren't really telling me that I don't meet your standards, you just want the attractive lady to smile at you.  I understand this, I do.  It's a nice thing when someone attractive gives you the glad eye; it puts a spring in your step and a song in your heart.  But for God's sake, please think before you open your traps, okay? 

Because I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt, I'm going to give away a few girl secrets here, and tell you how to give a chick (you may not call her that; only we can call her that!) a compliment she's actually going to enjoy, rather than making her wonder if you're pulling some creepy power play to make her feel like shit for not living up to your high standards of feminine allure.  I'm not sure y'all deserve the instruction, but I'm feeling generous, and I have to write about something before I disappear for the weekend.

#1:  When you see a cute woman, your first impulse is going to be to try and get her attention any way you can.  This is not clever, and it contributes to women feeling that most men think of women's bodies as public property to be commented on as they see fit.  For the love of all that is sweet and good, DON'T CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PERCEPTION.  It makes women hostile, and they will start to snarl at you instead of smiling, and then no-one's happy.  Remember, she's a person, too.

(A surprising number of men seem to forget this.)

When you see her - say she's standing in front of you in the checkout lane - don't blurt out something without getting her attention first, and for God's sake, DON'T TOUCH HER.  You really want to avoid being creepy at this point (well, any point, to be honest), and avoid putting her on her guard (as she will run away from you very fast, and you will not have the opportunity to tell her that she looks nice).  Say something like  "Excuse me, I just want to tell you that you look really nice in that dress", or "I hope you don't mind me saying so, but your hair/those shoes/blah blah really suit you".  This lets her know that you understand that it can be a little weird getting an unsolicited compliment from a stranger, and hopefully will also give her the message that you are not a threat (this is very important for a woman to be able to enjoy a compliment).

Any variation of the above is a big improvement over my experience of "you look nice today", especially since it was said in a monotone, and the word "today" tends to give a woman the uncomfortable impression that she has been watched for a while, in that "today" is a follow-on from "yesterday" or "last week". 

EXTRA SPECIAL GIRL TIP:  Stalking is not a compliment.  It usually ends in death for the woman involved, and as such, is really, really, scary and not a joke.  Avoid the impression of being a stalker at all costs.

#2:  This is very important!  Once you have given her the compliment, SHUT UP!  Use your casual observational skills, and see how she reacts.  If she doesn't make eye contact, smiles briefly and/or without showing her teeth, or hunches her shoulders slightly, she is not interested in making conversation.  Yes, even if she say "thanks".  To her, you are a stranger, and it's quite likely she might find you threatening.  Are you standing very close to her?  Are you staring?  Are you considering what she would look like naked?  She can tell.  Trust me.

Conversely, she may just be in a bad mood, or very busy, or simply not in the mood/lacking the energy to strike up a conversation with a man she does not know.  Respect her reaction!  She is not a bitch for not being all smiles and gratitude - yes, you decided to compliment her, but she doesn't owe you anything for it.  In fact, if you think she does, get the fuck out of here, I don't want you sliming my blog.  Men like that make it absolutely miserable for women, and they're the ones to blame if she isn't particularly charmed by your compliment.  Blame the slimeballs that called her names for refusing to agree to sex with them right then and there, not her for her reaction.

#3:  Allow her to choose whether she continues the conversation.  If she gives you a small smile, says "thanks", and then says nothing more, she doesn't want to talk to you.  Don't keep saying inane things to her in an effort to make her talk to you, let her be.  You paid a compliment, you got a smile, what more are you expecting?  Your little moment is now over.  Getting mad at her because she doesn't want to talk to you further just makes it more likely that the next woman you try this on will ignore you completely.

We compare notes.  I'm just sayin'.

What this comes down to is that two people are participating in this verbal exchange, and if one is unwilling to go further, then the other must respect that, or else they're being a jerk.  Yes, even if you try to justify it with "I was just trying to compliment you!".  This, contrary to popular male belief, does not make it all better.  By demanding more from a woman than a simple "thanks", you are saying "my wants are more important than yours".

This makes a woman twitchy, because history (in general, and in her personal experience) is full of men who demand her time and energy, even if they have no right to it.  Some have used that very trick to demand access to her body, and many of them have called her despicable names when she refuses to comply.  There is no reason for her to think of you as the exception, and if you get mad at her for it, then you've just proved you aren't the exception.  It is very important for you guys to understand that women will fear you if they don't know you, because painful (and often horrifying) experience has taught them to be fearful.  If you find that insulting, then blame the men who stalk, rape, and kill, not women for trying to avoid being victims.

Yes, even when it's "just a compliment!".  We're not as vain as you might think; we can manage our days perfectly happily without getting compliments from men we don't know. Pay the compliment, by all means - if you want to.  But don't expect anything more than a thank you.  A smile is a bonus.  If that's not good enough, then don't blurt out backhanded compliments to strangers, and don't pretend that you're just trying to be nice.  We know that you want in return is a smile, and if you're lucky, maybe something more; we're not stupid. 

And we're not really interested in the abuse we get from guys that refuse to accept that we don't owe them anything.  We'll gladly give up compliments if it also means that we don't get called the c-word or the b-word or the w-word any more.


( 35 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Jul. 2nd, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)

Well said, Chica!
Jul. 2nd, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
Jul. 2nd, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
See, I would have translated that into:

1) "You look nice today"
Something about your appearance at this moment has made me want to pay you a compliment. I said "today" to emphasize that, as opposed to making it a blanket "You look nice" which sounds like a general "Yer hawt." Complimenting a dress seems like it's reinforcing that I'm checking out the body underneath it. Complimenting your shoes makes it sound like I'm a foot pervert.

2) "...except for that arm"
I realize it may seem like I've just said something stupid when no one uses Thermacare wraps as a fashion accessory. So I'll add that you're likely in pain and/or not pleased with the fact that you're somehow injured. I'm showing that I've both noticed it, and am trying to show some sympathy.

And from reading your post, if I'd been that guy, I'd have been dead wrong. This is why I don't compliment women unless I personally know them very well, even when I'm moved to say something, I've learned I'd damn well better not.

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(no subject) - sarahbellem - Jul. 2nd, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 2nd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
You know what I absolutely love? When I'm wearing my "do not fuck with me" face and some strange man feels compelled to order me to smile. Why should I smile for you, Strange Person? Who the hell are you to me? What duty is it for me to smile for some random person? Are you insinuating that I am only beautiful to you if I smile? Ever cross your mind, Stranger, that I do not exist to be a pretty backdrop for your life? And hell, did it ever occur to you that ordering me to smile for you only makes me even more pissed off that you are violating my personal bubble with your inane demands?

Oh, that, and shouting "Hey baby, have you got a boyfriend?" from a car as I walk down the street has never once, in like all of history, made a woman stop, turn around, walk over to your car and hop in? Obviously my whole life, I've been waiting desperately for some random skeezy guy to lean out of his beater of a car and offer me the chance to be whisked away to connubial bliss.

Jul. 2nd, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
It's a power play. You, woman, exist for the visual pleasure of him, man. That this is objectifying and demeaning doesn't matter to him, because it's not him being objectified. Control issues. Don't worry, it's universally hated by women, you're not alone. Many of us have decided to snarl in response - it's good practice for being unsubmissive. :)

(no subject) - sarahbellem - Jul. 2nd, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 2nd, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
I do believe that what gives New Englanders such a bad reputation is our tendency to assume that compliments from strangers are a prelude to death. All serial killers seem like such nice guys. Right up until they kill you.
Jul. 2nd, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, Mama
Very well put.

I'm not afraid of strange men per se, but I don't want to deal with the hastle* of fending off inappropriate advances. Since many of these begin with complements, I do find myself leery of men who want to continue inane conversations. I'm more patient with people in social situations - like at events - because it's more likely that we'll meet again and that casual conversation will translate into acquantanceship or friendship. If we're at the grocery store, I can guarantee that we aren't going to move onto a deeper, more meaningful (*cough* sexual *eyeroll*) relationship.

Oh, and the random male complements and staring have increased since I've been pregnant. It was truly unexpected and totally bizarre for me when I noticed. With one notable exception, the approaches have been polite and respectful, but it's still odd to me.

* I deal with people in as polite a manner as possible. This is how I prefer to live my life. Men who don't get that a polite "no" (in all its many forms) is still "no" get an extra dose of mighty smackdown from on high, since they are not playing nice. I don't like being pushed out of the Politeness Zone.
Jul. 3rd, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
I also interpreted the "except for that arm" as a clumsy attempt at sympathy rather than a comment on a person's overall appearance and attractiveness. Perhaps it's well-intentioned concern; perhaps it's a more manipulative attempt to engage in conversation by appearing to care. Touching from a socially inept friend, and creepy and invasive from anyone else.
Jul. 3rd, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
You know, I spent -months- trying to explain to various ex's the ideas you put forth here. I have an English B.A. as well as a nearly complete Gender Studies B.A.; I know what I'm looking at with gender dynamics and power abuse.

If I were still on speaking terms with them, I would send them links to posts like this. Thank you for talking about the things you do, and without apology. The world is better for it.
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Re: Adding a few thoughts... - popelizbet - Jul. 4th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 3rd, 2009 06:32 am (UTC)
I like to respond to inappropriate comments with "Oh, I heard about your penis. I'm terribly sorry"
Jul. 4th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
I love you so much, lady.

Being a Southerner means learning to navigate a sea of stranger-compliments - sixty percent of which are not creepy, but make it more difficult to explain why I was just really rude to that dude in Food Lion. Because he came off skeevy, whereas the little old man at the gas station didn't.
Jul. 6th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Amen to that!
(no subject) - popelizbet - Jul. 6th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - swwoodsy - Jul. 6th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 9th, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)
I confess that, when out walking the dog, I prefer to let the cars go first when they try to let me cross the road in front of them. Are they letting me by to be nice, or to see me jiggle as I walk? I'm wearing the tank top because it is hot, not for strange attention.

Complimenting the color of a garment means you've likely taken into consideration my skin tone/hair color/eye color, complimenting the cut means you are checking out the shape underneath.
Jan. 19th, 2011 01:23 am (UTC)
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( 35 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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