how to compliment a woman (hint: the same way you tickle her)

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook:


Seen on the T:
Man: (reaches across train to slap woman’s sneakered foot) “Those are pretty.”
Woman: (takes out one earbud) “Excuse me?”
Man: (pointing at her shoes) “I said those are pretty.”
Woman: “So you needed to slap my foot?” [
Man: “It’s a COMPLIMENT.”

Woman: (sarcastically) “Oh great. Thanks.”


My friend commented,


 “[My jaw actually dropped. At first I thought he knew her and was trying to get her attention and then I realized very quickly that wasn’t the case. Yikes.“]{style=“color: #4e5665;“}


All the women who commented were like, “*sigh* and “men…” and generally “#yesallwomen”.

But I know – I KNOW – there are guys who would see that conversation and think, “What? It was a compliment!”

Which reminded me of this conversation I had at a bar a few years ago with a friend of a friend, whom I had just met that night:  

HIM: You’re a very attractive woman.

ME: (eyes dart from the bar’s TV to the guy and back) Uh. Thanks.

HIM: You are. It’s not a compliment, it’s just a fact.

ME: (eyes now glued avoidantly on the TV) Uh… thank you.


At the time, I used it as an opportunity to write a blog post about women’s body image, but now I’m thinking about it in terms of men’s sense of entitlement around women’s bodies.

This guy, whom I had just met like 30 minutes before, believed that a comment on my physical appearance was, ya know, even a little bit appropriate. He really was confident that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to say – he may even have thought I would ENJOY being told that a stranger found my body appealing.

Because… don’t people like being told that they’re attractive?  

Well… sometimes… but… no.

On the contrary, when an unknown man makes any comment about my body or belongings, whether positive or negative, my insides curdle in repulsion.

Because compliments are like… are like tickling! In the right context – when you’ve got some trust and affection happening between you – tickling can definitely be fun and playful and even lead to bigger things.

But in the wrong context – without trust and affection, or when she’s not in the mood for it and wants to be left alone – tickling will just make her want to punch you in the face.

She WON’T punch you in the face, because she’s trying to be nice.

But she’ll want to.

And she definitely won’t ever want to talk to you again.

And you’ll become the story she tells her friends about how some asshole annoyed her when she she was just trying to live her life.

And you don’t want that. You want her to like you and feel attracted to you and remember the interaction warmly.

You want to be charming and appealing and hot.

I can definitely help you with that, guys.


Here it is at last: your simple guide to knowing how and when to offer positive comments about a woman’s body or belongings:


Ask yourself: if I tickled her right now, what would happen next?

If the answer is, “She’s definitely giggle and flirt,” go right ahead!

If the answer is, “I’m not sure – I could try it and find out…” WOAH NELLY.


If the answer is, “I’m not sure,” then sure, you could try it and find out what happens. And if it goes badly – which it very likely would – you’ll become her story about That Asshole Who Couldn’t Just Leave Me the Fuck Alone.

So if it’s not a good time to tickle/compliment her, but you still want to compliment her, what do you do?

Talk about something substantive. Something you have in common. Something that clearly gives you a reason for talking to her other than the fact that you want to talk to her.

Which, alas, means that very often there will be no reason for you to talk to someone you want to talk to, and therefore you don’t talk to her.


Two more guidelines:

(1) You can say something positive about a person’s body or belongings ONLY AFTER you’ve said something positive about their personalities, their knowledge, or other attributes that you can only know about by, like, having a conversation with them. That means that a compliment about a person’s body or belongings is never how you START a conversation.

(2) And if she’s wearing headphones, she’s saying, “I’m really hoping no one talks to me.” In that case, the way to be the guy she likes most on that train or bus or elevator or in that coffee shop is to be the guy who DOESN’T approach her.

Hope that helps.