Monday, October 11, 2010

Ask Artemis: Sexy Curves

A reader recently posed a question I would like to share with the community: Is there a right vs. wrong way to compliment a curvy woman?

Dear Artemis,

I met a really attractive and intelligent woman at a party a few weeks ago.  It was a public event at a museum.  She was a columnist in her early thirties (I'm 27) and seemed very educated and sophisticated.  She had classic curves - large bust & butt, narrow waist, shapely legs, etc., but not what I would consider "overweight," and was wearing an outfit that really flattered her figure.  We had been talking for about a half hour and really seemed to develop a great rapport. We had even made tentative plans to meet for coffee sometime.

Then, things suddenly went downhill. There was a pause in the conversation and I commented that she had a “really nice, hourglass figure”.  I thought she would take it as a compliment but instead she became deeply offended.  She said, "Excuse me?  Why are you talking about my figure?"  I went into damage control mode and tried to clarify my comments but I think I only exacerbated things as she rolled her eyes and shook her head.  She told me I was being "inappropriate" and with a look of complete disgust, WHAP!, she slapped my face and departed.
As I stood there alone rubbing my cheek, I was trying to figure out why she was so upset.  It seemed like a harmless comment to me but maybe I don't understand women as well I should.  I do have her email address.  Do you think I should send her an apology note or should I interpret the slap in the face as a definitive way of saying she wants no further contact?

-Red-faced & Confused

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Hi R&C,

Glad you found me and thank you for sharing your story. First off, as a general rule of thumb, proceed with extreme tact and caution whenever you comment on a woman's figure. Most woman have dealt with some form of body image issues in her past and chances are, a degree of self-consciousness and self-loathing are still present in her everyday thoughts. Women are constantly comparing themselves to other women around us, and even a model will confess to have body insecurities whether or not they are justified. When in the presence of women, please try to divert the focus of the conversation to her talents, her interests, and all the great things she as a person can offer others. The type of woman I assume you are after likes to be appreciated and recognized for her abilities and what she can bring to the table rather than her physical attributes.

I don't think your comment was that inappropriate, however, but it does reveal some news that may not play in your favor: If a woman does not respond positively to something you said about her physical features, then she is most likely not interested in you as a romantic partner. What you said should have been very complimentary to the woman that is seeking it, but she wasn't and probably saw it as an unsolicited advance. The slap was completely uncalled for and also serves as an indicator of what you have in store for you in the future should you establish a romantic relationship with the woman. She is moody, defensive, and probably still dealing with some insecurities that you do not want to be a part of. A truly sophisticated woman may have said something about not appreciating your curvy figure woman comment (if it triggered something unpleasant for her) but would not have physically repelled you.

That said, I do believe in always moving forward with the best attitude possible so I think it would be a nice gesture of you to send her a follow-up email. Keep it short and professional and acknowledge that you regret having had said anything that could have possibly offended her. Don't expect her to write anything back but at least the ball is now in her court and you can wipe your hands clean from this experience.

Lessons to learn from this are: Education and "sophistication" are no indicators of how a woman will respond in a situation that rubbed her the wrong way, avoid pointing out a distinguished feature on a woman (even if you are trying to pay her a compliment) until you are well past the point of just meeting her, and focus on keeping the conversation on her non-physical assets. The best part of this is while the woman wasn't completely wrong in finding your comment inappropriate, she certainly didn't have to wig out over it so see it this way: You averted courting a hypersensitive and possibly high-maintenance woman. No matter how sexy her hourglass curves may be, they can't be sexy enough to have you constantly worrying about accidentally offending her.


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Have any insight to add?


  1. i think you offered a very thorough and insightful response. i would hate to have i guy i just met talk about my body in ANY way. it's just not his place.

    on the flip side, a slap in the face was just as inappropriate.

  2. Good response, Missy!

    I agree with Candice's point that if her first instinct was to respond to a comment made innocently with violence, he's probably dodged a bullet there.

    Onto the next.

  3. Nice response Artemis! I would say that it depends on the woman, the compliment-er and the situation.

    I'm in a relationship now, but thinking back to my single days I can tell you this: if someone said something about my curvy figure and I was into them, I wouldn't care. Because, as you pointed out, there is a base level of attraction.

    But it also depends, I don't have a complex about my curves. I'm not skinny, I have hips and such, but I'm proud of them. Maybe this woman is insecure about her figure. And no matter who you were this would have triggered a soft spot. Even if she was attracted to you and thought you were the cat's pajamas.

  4. Not that I know anything about anything, but I have had better luck with complimenting women on something slightly less of a "hit or miss" target like her figure.

    Her eyes can be pretty, she has a great smile, she is so warm and welcoming, etc.

  5. hi martin, "warm and welcoming" is ALWAYS safe.

    i only appreciate the "eyes can be pretty" and "great smile" comment if the guy is not a creeper.

  6. You were made for this! GREAT response and advice :). Dear Artemis will totally be the Dear Abby of this generation ;)! I have to agree though - she may have been offended because she just wasn't diggin' him like that.

  7. You are the best question answerer : ) Really!

  8. I agree with your line about her wanting to be appreciated for her accomplishments/skills, not for her figure.

    Over the years, I have received somewhat random compliments on my figure (small bust, big butt...apparently, that just screams "tell me you like my butt"). I don't like it at all. It strikes me as skeevy for a guy to say, "I like your curves" when first meeting. I would likely not want to see the guy again if he were focusing on my body and not on what I was saying.

    That being said, I would never slap a guy for saying such a thing. That was definitely an overreaction on her part. I also agree that he should send a polite, professional apology and be done with it.

    And in the future, he should probably avoid complimenting any feature that falls below a woman's neck, until at least the third date.

  9. I complete agree with Candice on the slap - totally inappropriate. Maybe a scoff and an eye roll, and then walking away...but a slap is too much. I also agree with Martin - I would steer clear of any body talk. Eyes, hair, smile - all good things to compliment, if you are a gentleman about it.

    But most of the time, I think a woman can tell a man is physically attracted to her by the way the man talks to her, looks at her, etc. So words are usually not even necessary (when first meeting, I mean). Flirtation and attention are generally enough.

  10. Apparently I DO know things about womens.

  11. I am laughing so hard. I hope that's not inappropriate! Martin, I dare say your heart was in the right place but the execution was somewhat clumsy. And she really shouldn't slap you in the face, it shows that she's over dramatic. I would have joked about it and not dated you again. This was fun! Please post more answers. I love it and you are the best Artemis! It was a nice diversion on a rainy day!

  12. Wait a minute, Puna, I wasnt the one who got slapped.

  13. That's correct. Martin didn't get slapped I did. I'm none other than "R&C" :-) Anyway, that's for all of the great feedback. Amazingly, everything has been resolved and we even had our coffee date. It went quite well and we're getting together over the weekend.

  14. oops meant to say "thanks" not "that's"

  15. Oh goodness. I’m sure the young man meant well. We women can be extremely sensitive and have a tendency to over-react. I’m certainly not alone in that regard. I once slapped a guy I had just broken up with because he was not the least bit upset that I broke up with him. How crazy is that?! The story doesnt end there. He actually sent me an apology card and flowers. I often wonder if that young man truly understood what he was apologizing for. lol! We ladies can certainly be a handful ;-)


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