I’m not the most confident person in the world, but I know that I’m really good at a few very specific things. I can maintain my absurdly long natural nails, I will never forget how to spell the word “didactic,” and I give fantastic compliments.
I love giving people compliments.
I firmly believe that we don’t tell each other enough how pretty we look or how clever that joke was or how much fun it is to be around someone, and I’m doing everything that I can to change that. My approach often involves finding something positive, latching onto it, and then bringing in a fun adjective or a not necessarily applicable but still adorable noun.
I once referred to my pal Rachel as a “versatile butterfly” while talking about a bunch of her impressive accomplishments. Just last Friday I called another pal my “lovely little jellybean.”
It’s actually really fun to give compliments.
Of course, the tone and the setting all play into these interactions and how well they go, but for me the key is to get creative with them, taking people by surprise and making them feel special.
If all else fails and there’s no quirky comparison to be made, find a tiny cute detail and hone in on it. I mean, everyone is excited when you appreciate the skill and perseverance it takes to apply liquid eyeliner. Compliment that shit.
Of course, there’s a huge difference between a welcome compliment and an unnecessary comment. Yes, guys, I’m looking at you.
I don’t know who teaches men how to interact with women, but whoever they are, they need to stop immediately.
Women deal with a lot of nonsense every single day: not only do we face the same pressures that come up in life regardless of gender (keeping up with school or work, taking care of yourself, finding the time to spend with your cat), but we also have to deal with all of our gender baggage.
Our weight and appearance are WAY more scrutinized than men’s, and most often we’re scrutinized by men. We have to literally fight to be heard (in the past and in the present), and even though—news flash—not all women are interested in men, we’re all expected to constantly cater to the male gaze. Even women that are attracted to men don’t feel interested in every single man they see, but the pressure is still on.
So while we’re trying to navigate all of this nonsense, you approving of us? It’s not helpful.
Now, I’m not saying that men can’t compliment women. If you can manage to approach a woman in a nonthreatening, friendly manner, and pay her a genuine compliment that doesn’t make her feel uncomfortable, props to you.
However, there are very few times that this happens and that saddens me.
A lot of times dudes come off as really creepy or inappropriate or suggestive or condescending or some other thing that makes it harder for women to feel like their commentary is uplifting or constructive in any way.
I mean, why does it matter what the guys in One Direction look for in a girl? They’re just five pretty young dudes, and I don’t remember hearing about what qualifies them to talk about what’s desirable and what’s not in women.
While I love them (yes, including ex-member Zayn), I don’t think they’re in any position to talk about women’s qualities, physical or otherwise. Zayn fans were super excited when his magazine interviews started coming out at the end of last year and early this year, but when we saw what he had to say about what he likes in women in his Billboard article, it became less fun.
Honestly, Zayn: the part about liking “fuller women” wasn’t bad, but saying that you only like “girls that are a bit chunky in certain areas—the nice areas” [emphasis mine], that’s where you messed up, son. And then this bit?
“I enjoy an intellectual conversation as well, where someone can construct a sentence beyond what hair and makeup they’re wearing, and talk about something political or about the world. I like an opinion.”
That’s an interesting comment coming from a guy who’s dating a Victoria’s Secret model. (No offense to Gigi, I’m sure she’s a wonderful gal.)
And men obviously have a lot to learn about the complexity of makeup and hair if the “men doing makeup” videos are any indication. In fact, hairdressers and makeup artists go through longer periods of training than police officers, and I’m sure they have opinions, but go on and assume that typically feminine interests aren’t relevant or interesting, Z. I hope you know better one day.
What it boils down to is that men often feel entitled to women’s attention: see catcalling as an easy example. On the road from my college campus to the Catholic chapel nearby, there are a few Greek houses that are snugly nestled next to each other. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have complained about men yelling nasty things while they’re walking to church.
What is the point of this interaction? If dudes start yelling sexual things at random women on the street, it’s not like they’re trying to form a meaningful connection; it’s about power and opportunity.
And if a guy tried to actually approach a woman after yelling “nice ass!” or “I’d fuck you, baby!” I can almost guarantee that it would never work. That’s a surefire way to make a gal turn on her heel and sprint away from you.
Some guys see these comments as compliments. For women—who face the realities of sexual violence, rape culture, and victim blaming far too often—these comments are borderline violent.
Because of these kinds of things, even an innocent comment like “that’s a nice dress” or “you look cute today” from a guy I don’t know well is enough to set me on edge.
So how do we deal with this?
We talk about it. If it goes unspoken, it’s way too easy to brush things like this under the rug and pretend that everything’s fine.
Also, dudes? Stop saying nasty things to women. It’s not cool and it’s not funny. There’s literally nothing good that can come from that experience. Just stop.
A way to get better at talking to women is to listen to how we speak to each other. Sometimes familiarity and friendship can make things that gals say to each other a little strange, but y’all should pay attention to what makes them smile, what they respond to positively.
Ann Perkins and Leslie Knope have a beautiful friendship where they lift each other up with their words and their actions. They listen to each other. They know when not to push.
They also know that women don’t owe men anything. No matter what. Not even if a man has bought a woman a drink or taken her on dates or complimented her or acted as a friend or a shoulder to cry on. (I’m looking at you crybabies who are complaining about the friend zone.)
Women might be expected to cater to men, but we don’t actually owe you anything. So here’s a radical idea: treat us like equals, like human beings with thoughts and feelings and unique interests.
Bottom line… dudes, y’all ought to talk less and listen more. And ladies? Stay beautiful, you charming cherubs.