The Compliment Translator
I’ve spoken about compliments before. Receiving them, giving them out, the ultimate compliment, and so on and so forth. Compliments are important, not because they help raise self-esteem, but because when we receive just the right one, they make our day. I know how good it feels to receive a compliment, but I know the greater joy is in giving one to a woman who upon hearing it, smiles so deeply I can tell her face is going to stay like that for the rest of the day.
But the question remains, how do we give them out? There is an art in compliment giving, as I’ve said before, as Esquire once wrote an entire article about. One specific rule of thumb I apply is to be specific when giving out a compliment. I don’t like the umbrella types of compliments where I’m acknowledging everything about a woman. I mean, she could be fine with ashy elbows. Who knows? So, instead, if I see she’s wearing some flashy accessory, I acknowledge that accessory. If I like the way she’s walking, I might say something about her walk. Fly hat? “Fly hat.”
But as a lady friend of mine recently pointed out, sometimes specifics can do more harm than good. If a woman just got her hair done, and I’m complimenting her shirt, what’s that say?
With this logic applied, sometimes the umbrella compliments, ones like “Hey beautiful,” or “You’re pretty,” are our best bet. What’s left to figure out is what umbrella compliment do I apply? I’ve thought about this for a couple of weeks, and I finally have what I like to call the compliment translator.
Below, a break down of the most general compliments men give and what they might mean.
TRANSLATION: YOU’RE TOO YOUNG
“You’re cute,” is intended to be harmless. The only time a man says anything is cute is when he sees a baby, not a grown woman, but if he does say it to a grown woman, she usually looks younger than her years or, in some cases, she’s not grown at all. I honestly get the feeling R. Kelly called that girl he made that video with (allegedly!) cute, which is why I stay away from these words as much as I can.
TRANSLATION: YOU’RE PRETTY
I have never felt 100 percent comfortable letting these two words fly from my mouth. They sound, I don’t know, too feminine. Women call other women pretty. Men should never say it, but if they do, know this: A man says his mom or sister are pretty, so if they say a stranger is pretty, it’s not to say they want to do much beyond the compliment. Pretty is hollow and general.
TRANSLATION: I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU
Lately, I’ve met quite a few women who have met the “You’re sexy” compliment with a healthy dose of indifference and skepticism. As my lady friend told me (the same one who broke down the minuses of specific compliments), there are plenty of women men call sexy but aren’t attractive in the least bit. They’re just wearing a shirt with a deep v-neck or have on some tight jeans. She has a point. Another point I would like to make is strippers are sexy too, which is not to say all sexy women look like strippers, it’s just to say strippers get the same compliment, and that’s just a coincidence. Because I notice most are now seeing through the “You’re sexy” compliment, I am starting to say it less, and when I say less, I mean, only when I see her in her underwear.
“YOU’RE A WOMAN”
TRANSLATION: I’M AN OLD MAN
Old people, men especially, have this thing where anything they think is really good, gets praised by repeating exactly what that thing is with emphasis (read louder). If they have a slice of pie, and they really like the slice of pie, they say, “NOW THAT’S A SLICE OF PIE!” If they see a good catch in a football game, they say, “NOW THAT’S A GOOD CATCH!” So when a fine woman walks by, one who catches the eye of everybody she passes, she will know who the oldest guy in the bunch is because all he’s going to say is, “THAT’S A WOMAN!”
TRANSLATION: YOU LOOK GOOD/YOU’RE ATTRACTIVE/ALL SURFACE
I wonder when “fine” evolved from meaning just okay to WOW. Whoever thought of doing such a thing should be paid royalties every time another man uses it. I meet fine women often. I have no idea how women feel about being told they’re fine, but to me, this is the safest way to go. “You’re fine” could stand alone, with nothing more said, or it can be a gateway into a conversation. “You’re fine,” gives me room to make the next move or no move at all. Either way, she still knows exactly what I think. It’s direct, with no pretense. That’s why I say it.
TRANSLATION: I WANT TO GET TO KNOW YOU
A lot of men say this, few men actually mean it. Here’s how a woman can tell a man means it when he says, “You’re beautiful.” A beautiful woman makes a man stop what he’s doing, and asks his friends, “How do I look?” If no friends are around, the man looks for a reflection and gives himself a once-over. A beautiful woman makes a man stand up and say something to her not for the world to hear, just for her ears only. A beautiful woman makes a man tell stories about her off sight alone, like the one about the beautiful woman who kept walking past him and merely smiled and said “Thank you” when he told her she was beautiful, or the one about how he met this beautiful woman right here on his arm, the one he’s introducing to all his friends.