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You Asked: Is Complimenting a Woman on Her Figure Appropriate?

Dear Sugar--

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 thirties. We had been talking for a good half hour and really seemed to be hitting it off. Then, things suddenly went downhill.

I commented that she had a "nice, full, hourglass figure." I thought she would take it as a compliment but instead, she became deeply offended. She snapped, "Oh really....well perhaps I should do some plus size modeling!" and then she slapped my face and departed.

I will never forget those agonizing moments in the immediate aftermath...the sound of her high heels hitting the hard wood floor as she walked off in a huff...the murmur of the crowd...the stares of onlookers as I'm standing there alone rubbing my cheek. Needless to say, it was not my proudest moment.

She had the classic figure of a 50's pinup - large bust, narrow waist, shapely hips/legs. I guess she had interpreted "hourglass" as meaning
big/overweight/full figured. I just thought it meant shapely and well proportioned.

When I told a female friend about this she shook her head and said it was never a good idea to comment on a woman's figure, even if I thought it was complimentary. What do you think about this?

--Made a Mistake Mark

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Made a Mistake Mark-

Do not take that slap across the face lightly and take your friend's advice. As nice as you thought you were being, most women are sensitive about their bodies, and they don't want anyone else making any comments about their appearance. Woman can misinterpret what you say so it's best to steer clear of anything that could possibly be misconstrued.

Women want to be noticed for their charming personality, their funny sense of humor, and their brilliant mind. When you make a comment about our appearance, it makes us feel like sexual objects. It can be both embarrassing and degrading, especially if she is already self-conscience. Although you might have had her best interest at heart, It's kind of tacky to bring up a woman's body the first time you meet them not to mention it can give woman the wrong impression.

If you really want to compliment her on how she looks, say something sweet that you can't go wrong with like, "Your smile is really comforting," or "You smell really wonderful. It reminds me of summer," or, "That shirt really brings out the blue in your eyes." These kinds of comments is what make a women feel beautiful, strong, confident and admired. I hope this helps.


Join The Conversation
gossipqueen gossipqueen 9 years
LOL! I do NOT agree with some of dearsugars comments....if you told me I smelled like summer....IT WOULD CREEP ME OUT!!! specially coming from a stranger... save the cheese compliments..."you have a nice smile" is very safe! that others have said was over the top...don't get discouraged Mark. Keep trying!
bbkf bbkf 9 years
I completely disagree with DearSugar-- I'm always flattered by a compliment on my body, just as I would be by a compliment to my hair, smile, intelligence, etc. If telling a woman that she has a nice body is sexist and derogatory, is slapping a man in the face the correct response? I couldn't think of a more blatant example of sexism that it being okay for a woman to assault a stranger-- what if the guy had slapped her back! He'd have been arrested.
herjoiedevivre herjoiedevivre 9 years
She didn't have a right to slap you, but complimenting her on her "nice, full hourglass figure"- sure, you guys had a great connection, but it sounds a little sleazy. even though I think that's a compliment. "I just meant you had a full bust!" lol. that's a liiittle shady and disrespectful. better luck next time with the safer compliments, regarding her eyes and other non-gender neutral things, etc.:)
jnnfrcyl jnnfrcyl 9 years
Yeah... I would avoid commenting on complimenting any woman on her figure except for a really good friend. Or if you already have her in the sack and it falls under the category of sweet nothings.
vmruby vmruby 9 years
I agree with the others, that woman smacking you was a bit on the dramatic side.I think you should have consulted your female friend first. It sure would have saved you that huge slap in the face.I guess you can consider this a lesson learned.
screammylungzout screammylungzout 9 years
ooooo.....i wasn't paying attention to the name at first and thought the post was written by a woman....i think the reaction and the advice given to you would have been completely different for a man vs a woman, so there's part of the reason for your confusion, i think.
c0rkie c0rkie 9 years
that's crazy how that chick slapped you! perhaps she thought you were coming on to her?
PJ-PJ-PJ PJ-PJ-PJ 9 years
I'll admit, this does sound a bit made up, but assuming it did really happen (do ladies still slap?), here are my two cents... The slap was uncalled for. Sounds like she has some issues. However, you have to be very careful when complimenting a woman's figure, especially just 30 minutes into the conversation. That would only be acceptable if she brought it up first. Now, about the comment you made. Never use that line again. If you MUST tell a practical stranger what you think of her figure, say something like "You have an incredible figure." I have to agree with the rest of the posters. Do not use that "It reminds me of summer" line...ever. It actually does not sound very manly at all. Sorry, DearSugar! Reading that made me chuckle. I do agree with the rest of your advice though. I wonder what E Jean would say?
viridiana viridiana 9 years
That woman has problems with herself and her figure!!!!!! When a compliment is given towards a woman, with all the decency and morality, I assumed you had, it shouldn't be a problem and a polite thank you is required... but if what you said to her was disrespectful or obscene... every men who does it should get a slap in the face!!!! LOL!!!! I wouldn't be that drama queen... If I had find it offensive, I just would have avoided any contact with you... and It would show!!!!! She honestly has to rethink about herself and woman figure...
missro21 missro21 9 years
I think it depends on how it was said if I would get offended or not. For instance, if you had talked about working out and then mentioned her figure I would not get offended. However, if you just blurted it out in a bad way, then I would be kind of offended. But honestly I would have taken it as a compliment. In some cultures this is a compliment and not an insult!
books-and-shoes books-and-shoes 9 years
Greggie! :rotfl:
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I do not think the slap was real.
EllaBella EllaBella 9 years
the slap was really over the top. But commenting a woman's body after knowing her just half an hour is really really wrong. If you had said that to me I wouldn't slap your face but I would have ended the conversation thinking you are an asshole.
onesong onesong 9 years
dude, you just met her and decided that a comment on her body was a good idea? you do realize that what you said was a classed up version of "Hey chick, nice t*ts"? I would have slapped you silly too. If you must compliment her on her physical appearance, please stay in the "You're very lovely" or "You havea gorgeous smile," lines. You don't know her, don't tell her she has a great full figure. My gosh!
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 9 years
ashcwebb - that is EXACTLY what i wanted to say but you've said it so much better than i ever could. please be careful when commenting on women's bodies. we don't like to be made feeling like some sort of object, and to often, the skeezy guys are the only ones "complimenting" us and it gets old and gross.
controlledspin controlledspin 9 years
I don't really feel like this is real, but if so, the slap was uncalled for. I would've made a funny joke instead about you if you would've said that to me, which probably would've given you time to redeem yourself.
Greggie Greggie 9 years
I agree about the "smells like summer" comment being totally cheesy, too. It sounds like it'll be immediately followed by "And that's a beautiful dress, it'd look great on my bedroom floor."
Greggie Greggie 9 years
I don't consider "full" to be a compliment on my figure, especially coming from someone I just met. You were both out of line - you sound like a cheap lounge lizard in a singles' bar and she should've just flipped you off and walked away instead of slapping you. I agree it sounds made up, though, and the whole "aftermath" thing makes me roll my eyes so hard that I saw the back of my head.
clarapl clarapl 9 years
this sounds made up!
cubadog cubadog 9 years
What you said made it sound like she was fat and no one I know would appreciate that comment from a stranger. That is what you were to her. Next time think before you speak.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Men have to be VERY careful how to comment on a women's body without sounding like an a**hole or a pervert. I have gotten comments from guys before and they have insulted me, and I know they mean well, but when it came out of their mouth I felt gross. When someone comments on your body, they are obvisouly looking at it and thinking about it, and women don't want to think about that! We get enough gross men that act like perverts that we have to put up with. I certainly don't think she should have slapped you on the face..I wouldn't, but some women are different I guess.
the-makeup-blogette the-makeup-blogette 9 years
i wouldnt know if i should be flattered or offended if a guy i just met says i have 'hourglass figure'...
the-makeup-blogette the-makeup-blogette 9 years
the slap was uncalled for. prolly she already has issues and doesnt need a man she met just that evening to point it out. so, no thanks to you too, for making such a comment, using such words.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
Slap was over the top, but your comment was inappropriate. If I were talking to a guy and he commented on my figure, I would stop conversing with him immediately. Particularly at a nice event at an art gallery. It sounds sleazy, and it makes it seem like you were focusing on her assets instead of the conversation. Save comments like that for when you are naked in bed with a woman, and learn how to phrase them better :) And please don't tell a woman she smells like summer. If a guy said that to me, he wouldn't get slapped, but he'd get an eye-roll and I would no longer be able to take him seriously.
laurencia laurencia 9 years
Yes, the comment was rather gauche and I can understand the woman fleeing. But the slap? Completely over-the-top and incredibly immature in my opinion. Yikes.
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