Please Don’t Pay Me A ‘Compliment’

Why is it that when we try to pay a compliment to someone we always seem to focus on their physical appearance?

I realise that most of the time a person’s looks are the first and most obvious things we notice about them but this still doesn’t really justify our society’s obsession with looks and reducing people to their appearance.

We see it so often with catcalling, a man will make an unwanted comment on a woman’s physical appearance and if she doesn’t respond in the way he hopes she will he complains that he was just trying to “pay her a compliment”.

Here’s an idea, just don’t.

Personally, I don’t see being told I’m attractive as a compliment. In fact, I find it quite annoying. They can call me a bitch and tell me that they were just trying to be nice, I don’t care. Why should I be grateful that somebody finds me aesthetically pleasing? I don’t owe them anything because they noticed me.

Great, someone tells me I’m pretty. Then what? What am I meant to do with that information? All it tends to result in is an awkward interaction where they hope for my phone number and I hope they go away.

Let me make this very clear. Looks don’t mean anything.

I have no control over my physical appearance. In fact, my face is just about the only thing in life that I can’t change, (without drastic surgery, I mean). So, how about instead of trying to compliment me on something I can’t change, compliment me on something I have changed.

I have two degrees. Compliment me on my intellect. I donate to charities. Compliment me on my generosity. I’m goddamn hilarious. Compliment me on my wit.

Compliment me on my hard work. Compliment me on overcoming life’s obstacles. Compliment me on my achievements.

Do not reduce me to my physical appearance. Do not “compliment” me on the one thing I cannot control.

Image by Jake Stimpson via Flickr under this Creative Commons License.

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9 thoughts on “Please Don’t Pay Me A ‘Compliment’

  1. I remember reading an article a little while ago. It was a woman talking about a book she’d written about how to talk to children, especially girls. She illustrated very carefully how & why you can and should talk about other stuff before their appearance…stop it with the “that’s a pretty dress” stuff and start asking about hobbies and things…I’ve used it and it works. The kids love it. The closest thing to “commenting on their appearance” is noticing they have a cartoon character or sport or etc. on their jumper and using that to springboard!
    I can’t find the article right now but I think it was an online HuffPost op-ed?

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  2. Good for you! Being pretty is only temporary. When I was young I was always told things like, “You’re the prettiest girl in the family.” Others, would tell me how pretty I was, on a regular basis. Now, I am old and just hanging on to hanging on. If your in your 70’s or above you may still think I’m pretty -but is that saying anything? Not much!

    So, I’m glad you’re not hung up on your looks because one day, you too, will look in the mirror and see an old woman starring back at you.
    http://www.fiddledeedeebooks.wordpress.com

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  3. WOW! You nailed that one down securely! Please don’t take this as a compliment. I’m just still stunned by how clearly and concisely you explained that! 2 degrees? I didn’t know that! I’m always a steady 98.6… LOL! Well if we didn’t pay people to look beautiful, they wouldn’t be so encouraged! I personally admire ugliness because then you have to think to get someone’s attention: ‘May I have a glass of water please? It’s been three days!’ Carla, I’ve always deeply admired you for your mind! God! Now you’re making me say pick up lines! And it’s all your fault 😦

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    • You’re very right though, our society rewards people for being attractive so it becomes encouraged even more. On another note, I think your comment is my favourite out of all the feedback I’ve ever received.

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  4. I try really hard to compliment every one I know on anything besides their physical attributes, for the very reasons you mention above. It’s fun to have to focus on other things as well! “You’re funny!” “You make the best cups of tea!” “OMG I love the way you just owned that meeting” – I agree, physical appearance is what it is, but isn’t the be all and end all

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