Ask the Lisa: The Slap Heard Around the Room

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 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!”  I went into damage control mode and tried to clarify my comments but I think I only exacerbated things when I used the term “healthy”.  With a look of complete disgust, she slapped my face and departed. I will never forget those agonizing moments in the immediate aftermath, as I was standing there alone rubbing my cheek, drawing some judgmental stares from onlookers.  Needless to say, it was not my proudest moment, LOL. 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?

Lisa’s thoughts…

That was a harsh lesson, wasn’t it.  What a great example of miscommunication.  It sounds as though you felt you were being complimentary – and she clearly took offense to it. As well meaning as you were, I think it’s probably a good rule of thumb to be cautious when commenting on a woman’s body, particularly when you’ve just met her.  When you don’t really know a person, perhaps you can start with, “That’s a lovely dress,” which has less chance of being perceived as offensive.  Remember that women are more pressured in our society around their bodies and sometimes it can bring up insecurities.

Clearly to you, mention of her “nice, full, hourglass figure” was intended to make her feel good.  I think it’s probably best to stay away from any references to a woman’s size initially…until you know her better.  And you also learned the hard way about how the word “healthy” can be heard in regards to a woman’s body.

Lesson learned via a hand-print and lost opportunity, unfortunately.

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