Dear Celibate: The Wrong Compliment

Dear Celibate,

I met a really attractive and intelligent woman at a party a few weeks ago.  It was a public event at an art gallery.  She was a high school teacher in her early thirties (I'm 27) and seemed very educated and sophisticated.  She had classic curves - large bust, narrow waist, shapely legs/hips, etc., but not what I would consider "overweight", and was wearing an outfit that really flattered her figure.  We had been talking for about a half hour and really seemed to develop a great rapport.  We had even made tentative plans to meet for coffee sometime.

Then, things suddenly went downhill. There was a pause in the conversation and I commented that she had a “really nice, hourglass figure”.  I thought she would take it as a compliment but instead she became deeply offended.  She said, "Excuse me?  Why are you talking about my figure?"  I went into damage control mode and tried to clarify my comments but I think I only exacerbated things as she rolled her eyes and shook her head.  She told me I was being "inappropriate" and that she was "very disappointed" and started to walk away....then she came back and with a look of complete disgust, WHAP!, she slapped my face and departed.

As I stood there alone rubbing my cheek, I was trying to figure out why she was so upset.  It seemed like a harmless comment to me but maybe I don't understand women as well I should.  I do have her email address.  Do you think I should send her an apology note or should I interpret the slap in the face as a definitive way of saying she wants no further contact?


Dear Confused,

Wow, that's quite a story. I can't believe she slapped you. I'm wondering how the people who saw it reacted-- they were probably telling their friends the next day.

First of all, she is kind of a freak. At the least, she is probably from a very conservative and religious background. I polled some of my girlfriends to see how they would have reacted. None of them would have been so offended, but they all said it would have turned them off. It sends the wrong signal and you could look like a creep. It would definitely make most women uncomfortable and destroy whatever you had going for you.

Why? Complimenting a woman's body in your first conversation crosses a line of civility. The expectation is that you are having a conversation because you want to talk to her. You are not there to ogle her. By suddenly pointing out a woman's body, for whatever reason, you are alerting her to the fact that you are inspecting her body. Which says you have sexual intentions. When she thought you were interested in talking to her. So, either she bored you with her conversation, or you are a creep. That's why the woman walked away the first time.

She came back to slap you because she later processed your compliments as a sexual proposition. That offended her because it meant you thought she might accept. Because you thought she was that kind of girl. In her mind, you basically called her a whore.  Most woman know better than to read things that way.

Still, in the future, do not compliment a woman's body or any of her body parts when you have just met. Not unless you are prepared to back it up with a sexual proposition which you expect to be accepted.  Only after having VERY VERY strong social cues to that effect. (this is the wrong blog to discuss those cues.)  Even then, you're in high danger of offending a woman. Again, because it implies you thought she might accept and you don't know the woman well enough to know how she'll take that implication.

How should you compliment a woman in your first conversation? Here's a list of acceptable things to compliment:
  • Her dress (what you say when you like how her body looks) -- Don't compliment her shirt or sweater, she knows that you're really talking about her rack.
  • Shoes. (Don't gush if you want to present yourself as a heterosexual) 
  • Smile
  • Eyes
  • Hair
  • Glasses (I used to get a lot of those until I got my new glasses :(
  • Her Intellect, knowledge or wit (will win you super brownie points)
  • Say she is cute, attractive, stunning, if you have the stones for it.
  • Call her "Fascinating" and watch how far it gets you.
Don't use more than one compliment per conversation. That makes you sound desperate and cheesy.

SECONDLY, you asked if you should contact her. I would have said not to. But, in our email correspondence Confused told me he had emailed an apology. She replied graciously, but has no interest in further contact. Although, I think the fact she replied means she doesn't completely hate you. Keep your eyes on her. (NOT THAT WAY!) If you get another chance to talk and she makes steady eye contact or gives you a smile, go in for another conversation.

Love, JL