A Scotsman asks Margo to help him understand how a flirtation at a party went awry:
Dear Margo: I recently moved here from Scotland. I thought you might have some insight into an experience I had involving an American woman’s image of her body. 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 30s. We had been talking for a good half-hour and really seemed to be hitting it off. We’d even made plans to meet for coffee sometime. Then, things suddenly went downhill.
I commented that she had a “really nice hourglass figure.” I thought she would be complimented, but instead she became deeply offended. I went into damage control mode and tried to clarify my comments, but I think I only exacerbated things when I used the term “healthy.” With a look of complete disgust — WHAP! — she slapped my face and departed. I will never forget those agonizing moments in the immediate aftermath, as I was standing there rubbing my cheek, drawing some judgmental stares from onlookers. Needless to say, it was not my proudest moment, LOL.
She had a classic hourglass figure — large bust, narrow waist, shapely hips and legs. I guess she had interpreted “hourglass” as meaning overweight or full-figured. I just thought it meant shapely. I have her e-mail address. Do you think I should send her an apology? — Kevin
I don’t think she “interpreted ‘hourglass’ as meaning overweight or full-figured.” I think she had a problem with a a guy she doesn’t know saying, “hey, I like your large bust, narrow waist, and shapely hips and legs–let’s get coffee!”
Clearly he enjoyed meeting this woman, talking to her, and looked forward to getting to know her better over coffee. In addition, he found her physically attractive. And there’s nothing wrong with that….but he expressed it poorly (not even taking into account, for the moment, his random use of “LOL.” I’m choosing to assume that it didn’t figure into his conversation with this woman). It doesn’t sound like he was just leering or trying to get some action, so it’s a little bit too bad that he was lumped together with catcalling construction workers and drunken lurkers, and got the slap this woman had probably been saving up from years of interactions with such types.
But, if you meet a woman you like, and and hope to set up a conversation and caffeine date with her in the future, why, why, why would you attempt to seal the deal by complimenting her boobs?
So, then, the dilemma: I think it’s rather silly for anyone to pretend they don’t notice or appreciate any aspect of another person’s outward appearance. If you’ve just met someone, you don’t know him or her well enough to sincerely comment on their intelligence, sense of humor, kindness, or integrity. You think they’re attractive and friendly. It should be OK to say so.
But in what way? Clearly, boobs, bellies, and butts should be way off-limits, even veiled under the euphemism of the “hourglass figure.” To this list we’d probably also need to add hips, legs, neck,….maybe any body part taken in isolation. But what about eyes, smile, and hair, which would also fall into this category? Is smile OK, but lips not?
In the context of conversation with a person that you’re attracted to and would like to date–we’re not talking about shouting from a street corner or car window here, that’s a whole separate issue–what kinds of comments on appearance are welcome, and likely to prolong the conversation, rather than end it with a slap?