Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Harry Agrees With Hadley

Well, up to a point.

Hadley Freeman in the Guardian was asked recently what is ' the safest way to compliment a lady?'. ( Read it here).
The question is revealing. It shouldn't be about what is safe, but what is right.
She has certainly got it right in identifying some of the things that should not be said: ( 'that dress makes you look pretty').
But I am less convinced of her recommendation. Yes, it may be ok to say 'That's a nice dress',. Or 'that colour really brings out the colour in your eyes'. But in my humble opinion neither of these are likely to pass muster.
Because they sound like a rehearsed response. Unless the male in question has a track record of paying attention to others ( perhaps a loaded question) , and  a track record of comment and compliment, this is going to sound anything but spontaneous.
Ok, it's difficult for men. So many ways to get it wrong. It's not surprising that steering through these troubled waters results in something anodyne.

The real answer is simply 'You look fabulous'.
But it has to be said unprompted, and with spontaneity.
There may well have been time for a couple of martinis before being called on to say anything. That's what the martinis are for.


Toby Wollin said...

'That's a nice dress',. Or 'that colour really brings out the colour in your eyes'. Those two responses hold the loaded intimation that the dress is good looking but that YOU are NOT. If you WERE, then they'd talk about YOU and not the dress. "You look fabulous" is the proper response because it communicates what the lady really WANTS to hear, which is that the viewer is looking at the entire 'package' and as a complete, pulled-together presence, you are pleasing to the eye. and any person, no matter what their age, will be vastly pleased to be told THAT.

miss cavendish said...

Ditto Toby's response. Hadley's suggestions focus on the clothes, not the person. "You look especially lovely" is what I'd like to hear.

Anonymous said...

Why do you have to search for compliments at all? Be gracious when you receive them but also not bothered when you don't. Just look in the mirror and think 'I am fabulous' regardless. Yes granted it is nice to be told that you are, but is it really necessary? Men don't seem to need that kind of validation even with todays focus on male grooming so why perpetuate the need that woman do to.

If fact is there a male alternative for such comments both good and bad? "Darling that really is sliming to your beer belly".

Linda Grant said...

Post accompanied by picture of average looking girl.

indigo16 said...

I must confess to not believing a word a man says, complements are always so loaded however they are phrased. The best complememnt for me comes from my daughters. Children are without guile and so
spontaneous, so they cannot fail to melt the hardest hearts.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The one I hate the most is "you do not look your age"! It sounds like a compliment, but what it really means is, "you're HOW old?".

lagatta said...

Parole, parole, parole!

Seriously, though, I love having someone special compliment me on going out of my way to look interesting or attractive.

And indigo, children can say viciously hurtful things as well.