Last week, I was with a girlfriend at our favorite wine tasting room, sipping and chatting our way through a few local varietals. An hour or so into the evening, the female wine steward came up to our table and said with a smile, “I just wanted to tell you that you have really beautiful skin.” I was delighted by her spontaneous and genuine compliment. It made my day.
When I got home, I happily repeated her comment to Hubs. “I tell you that all the time.” he said, “You’re not that excited when I say it.” “That’s true,” I replied, “But we’re married. You’re legally required to say it. And it usually constitutes foreplay, so it doesn’t count. She had no agenda. She just thought I had great skin.” Hubs furrowed his brow, which he does whenever he’s slightly confused by my logic, and went back to watching the Big Game. But it got me thinking about women and compliments. Why is it that a compliment from another women makes us so giddy inside? And why don’t we do it more often?
My completely unscientific theory is that society teaches women to be slightly competitive with each other. It’s widely recognized in the retail industry that insecurities sell products and clothing. We learn to measure ourselves against other women, especially if they’re beautiful. “Wow, she looks great. I wish I looked like that.” Whether she’s thinner, more fashionable, or simply appears more confident, it can make us feel like she’s somehow “better.” We feel weird about walking up to her and asking her where she got those fabulous boots. She’s a bit intimidating, and we’re not sure how she’ll react. What if she’s annoyed or unfriendly? Yeah, that would be embarrassing. So we stay silent and swallow our envy, hoping it will pass (or, if we’re being brutally honest, that she’ll suddenly develop a thyroid condition and gain 20 pounds).
So, in the spirit of female solidarity, my belated New Year’s resolution (yes, in April. I’m slow, but I eventually get there) is to give a sincere compliment to one different woman every day for two weeks. I’m intrigued by the idea, and curious to see the responses. It might be a good friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a family member, or a total stranger (those get the best reactions). If you’d like to join me, here are a few to get us started.
“You’re beautiful.” I’ve never met a woman who was offended by being told she’s beautiful. Especially from someone who isn’t trying to do her. (Unless you are, in which case it doesn’t count.)
“Gorgeous handbag.” This also works for shoes, boots, haircuts, and or any item of clothing. One time a woman walked all the way across a restaurant to ask me where I bought my handbag, because she “just had to have it.” That was five years ago, and I still carry that bag because she loved it so much.
“You have a great smile.” Think Julia Roberts, in Pretty Woman. Virtually every tabloid or magazine article about her mentions her mega-watt smile. It appears to come from her core, and it defines her. We covet that smile. Tell a woman she’s got one, and she’ll be flashing it for days.
“Have you lost weight?” A universal favorite for women of all ages. Be careful not to wax on with “You look amazing. Wow. What a difference.” The original compliment gets instantly obliterated when you basically tell her she looked like crap before. If she ever gains the weight back, she’ll be suicidal. If you must keep talking, a simple “You look great, but then you always do” is the perfect add-on.
“You’re uber talented.” You may be referring to her corporate negotiating skills, her decorating skills, or her ability to groom cats. Everyone likes to feel special or unique in some way. (And if she’s a writer, she’ll love you for life. Just sayin’.)
“You’re always so funny.” Whether she’s a stand-up comedienne or just has a sharp wit with one-liners, funny people love to be told they make you laugh. Nobody stands alone in the forest and cracks jokes. Funny people thrive on audiences that they can entertain. If she entertains you, tell her. You’ll make her day.
“Your kids are so smart.” “Well-behaved” is also a good one. Those two compliments will zip-line you right up to the top of her “I love you, too” list. It’s women-speak for “You’re a good mother,” and pretty much guarantees you a spot on her list of “People I Would Throw Myself in Front of a Bus For.”
“You’re amazing just the way you are.” In a world where women often don’t feel “good enough” about everything from career achievements, to parenting skills, or to our bodies, it’s a relief to hear that someone thinks we rock, right now, exactly the way we are. It tells us we can shelve our How to Become a Better Person in Six Short Months Self-help reading list on Goodreads (at least for a couple of weeks) and get to that 400-page romance saga that we’ve been itching for months to curl up with.
“You look so young.” In our youth-oriented society, this is the Mac Daddy compliment. In all the years I’ve said this to women I’ve met, no one has ever responded with “Bite me.” It always leans more towards “Thank you!” with a purrrrr and a huge smile. She’ll buy the next round. Every time.
“You are fabulous.” I saved this one for last because you should say it to yourself every morning when you look in the mirror. That woman looking back at you is the person from whom you get the most feedback about your worth. Be as generous to yourself as you might be to another woman that day. She is fabulous. And so are you.