Dear 100 Hour Board,
Something's been bothering me. I've dated around a bit and have noticed that men, almost without fail, are very quick to tell me they think I'm beautiful. They usually find a way to slip it in on the first date, sometimes more than once. I'm happy with how I look, but I'm pretty sure I'm not an unusually attractive woman - so I suspect that their urge to comment on my appearance isn't actually a function of how pretty they find me.
I'm not looking for reassurances that I am beautiful and that these men might actually be sincere, because it's not the potential for insincerity that bothers me (and really, I'm not insecure about my looks). I guess what bothers me is that it feels inappropriately familiar, like a violation of boundaries I can't quite articulate, to say "I think you're very pretty" when you hardly know someone. Even if I like the guy and don't think he's at all creepy, it makes me a little bit uncomfortable. At best, it seems shallow - here I am, trying to build a relationship with substance, and you want to talk about my body?
So I'm curious about your thoughts and experiences, from either side of the equation. Have other women here experienced this? Have any men here done this? Is it just harmlessly flirty? Is it part of the first-date script, something you have to say to help communicate that you're interested? Is it because men know that women often suffer from a poor body image and want to help bolster their confidence? Is it because men think it's what women want to hear? If so, are they right - do most women like being told they're beautiful? Is anyone else bothered by it? Or am I overreacting?
-You're beautiful, 100 Hour Board
I honestly don't find anything wrong with giving other people compliments on their appearance, whether it be on a first date or otherwise. Obviously there ways to make it creepy and inappropriate, but a simple compliment about someone being beautiful isn't bad. I also have never interpreted it as a segue into, "Let's just focus on your body" (which would be super creepy).
Finally, it's not shallow to compliment people on their looks. It's shallow to judge people solely on looks, but it's totally fine to be aware of whether you find a person you're on a date with to be physically attractive or not.
Dear you but also me,
I just polled a room of beautiful women about their experience, and they said they don't get "you're beautiful" on a first date nearly that often. I also polled some really confident nice guys who said sometimes they want to compliment a girl because they're excited to be with them, but they don't know enough about them to genuinely compliment much other than their beauty. They didn't seem to think it was a big deal. They just thought the girl was beautiful so they said it.
I have felt something similar to what you're describing when I was getting asked out at institute. I couldn't articulate what I didn't like, because it was genuinely flattering, and exactly what you're supposed to do when you're attracted to a girl at institute. But I sometimes felt frustrated that they wanted me to invest 2-3 weekend hours based on "I think you're pretty." I mean I don't think they were doing anything wrong. It just kind of felt like a Swan Princess situation.
I also get frustrated if I'm interrupted. Like if I'm talking about something, and I'm really thinking hard about what I'm saying, and then I'm interrupted by a compliment (especially if it's on my looks) I'm like "yeah, yeah thanks but I just made a great point about Kant." I also find myself a little bothered on a date when someone asks me all the questions and won't thoroughly answer my questions. I'm bothered because I need to know who they are, and it feels weird to me that it's imbalanced. Is it possible that you're feeling like the get-to-know-you process is being interrupted? Or that it feels imbalanced because you don't know them well enough to return the compliment?
Also VERY MUCH what Fozzie said. That is really true. There are intimate compliments that are scary to get when you're not comfortable with a person. It's like cuddling with someone you don't know. It's feels good but it's also a little painful because you know they might not mean it, or they might ghost you tomorrow. It's scary for people to speak to our insecurities when we don't know their intentions. I propose, however, that we have to let people see and speak to our insecurities before we can really connect. Maybe not on the first date. But here a little and there a little.
I'm kind of over the bad feeling about getting asked out at institute. Other than the general awkwardness I feel about receiving compliments, I think now I just appreciate how much it takes to put yourself out there. I think for the most part they're just trying to have a good time, and make sure you're having a good time too. I've found I'm way too down-to-business on first dates. Like "Alright team lets figure out if this is going to work THUNDERCATS GO." When I should be there to have fun. So just try to let go, enjoy the moment, laugh heartily at his jokes (the good ones anyway). The right guy will get to know how smart you are. He might have even picked up on that subconsciously already. It's okay if all he knows how to articulate right now is that you're beautiful.
Dear Aww Shucks,
I, too, have felt similarly unsettled when guys I barely know call me beautiful, maybe partially because I feel like they don't have any right to call me that if they don't know me. Like, I'm happy with the way I look, but it's weird for them to be? I don't know, but it's one of the many reasons why my brief stint on Tinder several years ago was so brief. I could not handle the compliments, and instead of being flattered I was just creeped out.
Your question made me think of this poem by Rupi Kaur, and because she says it far more eloquently than I can I'll just let you read it.
"i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that”
Coming from a perspective of someone who has dated women, unless I already had a strong pre-existing friendship with the person I don’t think I have/would comment on the way someone looks on the first date. Even though people say it all the time, calling someone “beautiful” feels like an intimate thing for me that I don’t throw around. When I do say it I often mean more than just how someone looks. I want to be sure how I feel before I say things like that, which I don’t think I could know on a first date.
With that being said, I think your feelings are valid. Hearing something like that can be extremely meaningful, personal, and make you feel vulnerable, so you want those words to be true. If you don't know if the other person is being genuine, that can hurt your trust in that other person or make you doubt what they are telling you entirely. I hope the guys saying it to you don’t have any ulterior motives and are honest, but I understand how that could be uncomfortable.
I don't think complimenting someone on their looks is inherently creepy or shallow. But personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that to someone or being told that on a first date unless we had a really stellar connection.