30 July 2005

Mysogynistic or Complimentary?

Quite often I find myself struck by the beauty of a female (I use the clinical "female" because the ages range from a young teen to an aged grandmother). Most of them probably don't think they're beautiful, thinking themselves less than the standard aesthetic of womanly allure. But, something in them strikes me as uniquely pleasing to the eye.

I want to tell these beauties how gorgeous I think they are but cower from such action. Why?

1. I lack confidence in myself.
2. I fear a negative reaction, like a slap across the cheek.
3. I fear they may find my comments a come-on from a married man, making me look like a creep, like a pig.
4. I fear their "man" will round the corner right after I express my pleasure in their appearance, pounding me for daring such outrageous behavior with their "woman."
5. I fear they will find my commentary shallow, which in essence it is.

These fears are also the reasons I should follow through; if I don't face my fears, how will I grow? Then again, is this growth or a ruse to become more of a rube? Will they receive my opinion well, or scream about how men like me are the problem with the world?

Before I go any further, I must tell you I don't have a typical concept of beauty, the standard presented in the media. I find the standards harmful, the most recent cover of Fit Pregnancy, for instance, depicting an all too slender woman in her sixth month of pregnancy—poor little starving fetus.

What sort of image does this present to pregnant English-reading women. All the models are rail thin with exception of their bulging belly. How realistic is that? To what extremes will this lead women?

Media criticism aside, I like the look of a woman who doesn't meet the ideal standards. Some I think are gorgeous because of the way their eyes start wide at the bridge of the nose but taper into the tightest points toward the temples—but, she's 100 pounds overweight or has chronic acne. Some I think are gorgeous because of the way their cheeks are always flush right below their eyes.

Some I find beautiful because of their shy nature, always looking away and fiddling with a piece of their clothing. Some I find beautiful because of how their voice makes me melt. Some I find beautiful because they have confidence in their nonstandard aesthetics, not afraid to wear a crop top and low riders that let that gut hang out, no constant tugging of that shirt over that gut whenever a boy is around.

That big-breasted, rail-thin blonde wearing the latest fashion does little for me. No, I don't think they're unattractive, just cookie cutter. I dig originality (even though I doubt originality is actually possible anymore). As the old, piggish adage goes, "Well, I wouldn't throw her out of my bed if that's what you mean."

But back to my original concern: Am I being mysogynistic to tell some woman who strikes me as curiously stunning that I dig her style, or am I being authentically complimentary?

I've considered taking the easy way out and making some business cards I can hand to such women so as to avoid having to verbalize my fascination. I've even gone as far as to consider devoting a blog to the women who attract my eye, where I can write a short description of the beauties and they can read what I've written about them (I would include a link to my beauties blog on the card so they could visit the blog and comment on my description/impression).

So, why don't I just do it?

Audience analysis.

The town I live in, Ashland, Oregon, is supposedly a hot bed of liberalism, of openminded people. I've come to find this town is far more conservative than most. Certainly much of the vibe around here is one of progressive thinking, but it's limited to matters of environmental consciousness, social responsibility, spiritual growth, and ironically, tolerance—ironic because the tolerance only includes those who are normally outcast. Those who admit they are into carnal sexuality or nonspiritually (I use "spiritual" in a very broad sense here) centered, nonmonogamous relationships are the outcasts in this community. Tantric relationships seem to rule this town.

So, when I tell that hippy girl with her hippy skirt hanging low, allowing her belly to hang out, and stylistically deficient hairdo I think she looks great as she sways her hips past me, she tells me she doesn't walk like that for my leering pleasure, or looks at my wedding ring and turns a sour expression.

At this point, I must explain that Renee, my beloved bride, supports my decision to tell other women they're beautiful, and in fact encourages me to pursue it, because she always enjoys the random compliment.

Despite my fears of rejection or appearing a pig, I believe I shall pursue this endeavor because I think many of the women will appreciate a random compliment from a stranger. Maybe by following through with this endeavor I will epitomize the one bumper sticker other than an aum sticker that flourishes in Ashland, Oregon: "Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty."


Robert Casserly said...

Have you heard of Leo Buscaglia? He was famous for telling people they are lovely and loved with a joyful heart.

They have an online discussion forum, maybe ask some of these folks your question about how to spread love and compliments without offending, or. more precisly, how to deal with it when you express love and people get offended.


theresa said...

Great post!
If my partner DIDN'T find other women attractive, I'd probably consider him mysogynistic.

I've noticed that many gay men freely compliment women about everything from fashion to physical attributes to attitude or image. Maybe I also get a particular thrill when I turn heads in a mostly gay male crowd.

Lastly, I also feel somewhat uncomfortable about sharing a compliment with a woman I don't know. I worry that she'll think I'm trying to pick her up or that I have some other motive ... because I've received that feedback in the past. However, I almost always appreciate compliments from men and women, gay or straight. I don't usually even care if they are hitting on me. That's often flattering too.

Anonymous said...

There are always going to women who are either too closed off to receive a compliment or wary...understandable in this world. However, there will be those who will be delighted by your compliment. My advice is that you not think so much about it. Where did you first feel the beauty of the woman? Was it her eyes, the tilt of her chin, her smile, her lilting walk? It seems like you are thinking more than feeling. Go with your gut. "You have a beautiful smile." , "You have a joyful demeanor" , if she's walking by happily, and that's what hits you, just say "I love your energy!" ...light, quick positive comments and walk on.
I was at a convenience store and I had smiled at the clerk and turned for the door. Another man held open the door and said, "your smile was wonderful." Needless to say it returned immediately and that was that. We went our separate ways, but I have never forgotten it. It was a gift that he gave that demanded nothing in return. That, I think, was the key.