Listen, I don't need you to tell me that I'm beautiful. I don't mean that in a snarky or egocentric way. It's just not something I need to hear.
Wait. Let me qualify that. It's not something I need to hear from men. Sorry boys, but here's the truth: unless you're already my friend and we know each other well, I would rather you keep those comments to yourself.
Here's the thing. When I get complimented on my looks by a woman, I know that she appreciates the time that went into the preparation and that she relates to the joy of finding a flattering outfit. But when it comes from a man I barely know, there's often an uncomfortable undercurrent of desire and objectification. It's a rare man I've met who is able to express this kind of admiration in a way that doesn't feel like it has an ulterior motive. Some can, but most can't. Or don't.
It's true that I enjoy makeup and retro fashions and pretty dresses. I love getting dressed up and I love feeling feminine. (I also love to skip the makeup and hang out in comfy, baggy pants!) But I love dressing up because it's instrinsically fun. It's playful and creatively gratifying and empowering. The act of getting all "dolled up" (now there's a loaded old expression!) is rewarding in and of itself and doesn't require your validation because I am not doing it for your benefit.
Three more reasons I don't need you to tell me I'm beautiful:
- If it's true, it's the least interesting thing about me.
- It's the most superficial and least imaginative compliment you can pay me.
- I am comfortable in my own skin.
That doesn't mean I'm not a sucker for a compliment! If I've just poured my heart into a performance, tell me what you liked about it. Maybe you felt an emotional connection with one of my songs. Maybe you now you hear it over and over in your head. Or maybe you noticed the research I did to get the period makeup just right. Maybe you enjoyed the selection of material, related to a story I told, or learned something new.
This post isn't just for me, by the way. I may not speak for all women, but I know I speak for many of us. If you are a single man and you truly want to get to know someone better, this advice will help you stand out from the crowd of bland, covertly lustful "compliments" from men we hardly know. Trust me, virtually every woman hears these kinds of comments all the time. While most of us do care about the way we look (we're still human!), that's rarely what we care most deeply about. Here's my advice: avoid the superficial. If you want to compliment a woman, dig deeper and take the time to compliment her on something she cares about.
Actually, that's good advice for complimenting any human being of any gender.
(Photos by Christian Kuntz Photography.)