Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not a Compliment

Not a Compliment

It's come to my attention we need to seriously make some guidelines about how to compliment a woman, specifically a middle aged woman (OK, specifically, me). Far too many people out there, maybe even YOU, seem to believe it's a compliment to tell someone "You're really aging well!".

This is not a compliment.

I'm not sure which category it falls into but it would be the same one that would include such comments as:
"You don't stink!"
"You aren't fat!"
"You don't look ugly today!"
And I think we can all agree, those don't sound much like compliments.

Prior to entering middle age people seem to be the frequent recipients of what I think of as the 'compliment spectrum' or a variety of compliments, about their hair or hairstyle or eyes or eyelashes or lips or smile or figure or a million different things.

Then middle age hits and what seems to pass for a pseudocompliment is this: "You're really aging well." Not only is this NOT a compliment but it also implies that this is the closest thing to a compliment that the speaker can get. It's along the lines of commenting that someone's baby has "nice toes" or that your date had "good penmanship". It tries very hard to pass as a compliment with no success whatsoever.

I know, you mean well. You had no idea this comment was offensive. WELL IT IS. It implies you feel the need to comment that we're getting old, and we already know we're getting old. It also implies we should be aging in a certain way that is pleasing or semi pleasing or not horrific and that you're giving us a grade.

Now you may be confused. You aren't sure what to say. It's a good thing you're reading this! You need to learn how to actually compliment people so they'll like the thing you just said. Because if whatever you say makes them want to hit you, nobody wins. Am I right?

When complimenting a man, you can say pretty much anything. They aren't fussy with the wording; they just like praise. They eat it up. (This is much like how they enjoy being fussed over when they almost have a slight sniffle or some equally terrifying medical issue, but that, my friends, is a separate column.)

With women, compliments are trickier, or very easy, depending on how you look at it. Pay close attention. There are two compliments you can give a female. Two. You can say they are Beautiful or you can say they are Gorgeous. Either one works. No other substitutions are permitted.

That's because any word you THINK is also a compliment is wrong. Pretty is wrong. Cute is wrong. Nice Looking is wrong. Good Looking, also wrong. Men somehow believe all of these words mean roughly the same thing. They don't. To a woman, any of those phrases: Pretty, Cute, Nice Looking, Good Looking all mean: Not Beautiful.

If you tell your girlfriend "You look pretty," what she hears is: "You don't look beautiful"
If you say to your wife "You look great" what she hears is: "You don't look beautiful."

Not only does she NOT look beautiful, but you just took the trouble to tell her so. How mean of you.

Only the word Beautiful means Beautiful. (Again, "Gorgeous" may be substituted, but it's the only word that is the auditory equivalent of Beautiful. There are no others)

My friend Kiersten described it perfectly: "If a man can't tell me I'm beautiful, he should shut the hell up." This is very true. If you can't say Beautiful or Gorgeous, don't say anything.

You may be skeptical. I challenge you to put this to the test. The next time you compliment your lady, tell her she looks beautiful. Watch the look on her face. And of course, pause for a moment to be thankful you read this piece. Each time you compliment her, do it just that way.

And when she gets to be in her forties, no matter how much you're tempted, don't tell her "You're really aging well."