I'm an outgoing extrovert (is there any other kind?) with a sincere, positive attitude and lots of friends, many of whom are visual artists, actors, belly dancers, models, performers, etc. I like giving compliments when they are genuinely deserved, but don't want my female friends to think I'm coming on to them. I'd definitely rather be seen as a gentleman rather than a player, a perv or a phony. Can you give me some guidelines on commenting on a woman's various traits and physical features? Which body parts are OK to mention and which are out of bounds? And under what circumstances and with which kinds of women? For instance, now that it's pool season and getting hotter every week, I'm noticing lots of girls with amazing tattoos in interesting places and others who have really cute feet with toe rings or fun colorful designs painted on their toenails. I'm inclined to give a thumbs-up on the best body shapes or decorations, but I always wonder if my female friends or their friends (or boyfriends) would be weirded out or pissed if I ever say anything about a girl's breasts, feet, ass, etc. Of course, these "subjects" do come up, especially when everybody's been drinking, so they must not be totally off the table.
I've almost never had an awkward moment when I have spoken up in a friendly, nonleering way. But for the most part, I play it very safe and keep my opinions to myself. What are my options in a friendly conversation vs. hanging out in a group? Should I be on the lookout for various signals from women that say, "I'm OK with guys talking to me about my body"?
— Eye For Beauty
So a Sikh, a Muslim, an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman, a Jew, a Buddhist and a Hindu go into a pub. The barman looks up and says, "Is this some kind of a joke?"
That's how I felt reading your letter — is this some kind of joke? The fact that you took 30 minutes to ask a 30-second question tells me you're not really interested in complimenting women. You're interested in leering at them without getting caught.
That said, I admit complimenting women can be a bit of a land mine.
They wear push-up bras, plunging necklines and necklaces that tell time. Namely, breast o'clock. And yet, they get insulted if you notice or, God forbid, actually say something about it.
Last week, I was talking to a woman whose heaving bosoms made my eyeballs feel like they were taking swan dives off a cliff. It was so hard NOT to look I finally said, "I'm sorry, I can't pay attention to a word you're saying because of all that racket your breasts are making."
Of course, you can only get away with saying something like that if you're gay, so I wouldn't recommend it. Still, I feel your pain. No matter how flowery or indirect you try to be, you just can't compliment a woman's sexual body parts without sounding pervy. Try it and see what I mean: "It's amazing how your boobs cushion that lovely necklace you're wearing." "I love a woman with a strong back." See? It just doesn't work.
You're better off complimenting a woman for what she's wearing. Here are a few examples:
Good: "That's a beautiful dress."
Better: "You look beautiful in that dress."
Best: "That dress really sets off the green in your eyes."
Worst: "When's it coming off?"
Lana Turner once said, "Gentlemen are patient wolves." So hold off on the body compliments, wolf. Be patient.
Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? E-mail him at email@example.com. Mike Alvear is the author of a line of How To Meet Guys On Facebook and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.