Compliments, PostScripts, And Upping Our Game4 min read

"Ugh," she [1] texted me, "Every 👏 single 👏 guy 👏 only ever comments on my looks. WHAT LOOKS?!? I HAVE ONE PHOTO THAT SHOWS VERY LITTLE ON PURPOSE!!!!"

It’s true. In her profile picture, my girlfriend’s wearing a mask, and you can’t even see her hair because she’s got a hoodie on (pulled up). Sure, it’s a dating site, but she wants to avoid people who are just concerned about looks. (One of the things I like about her, really.)

My first guess was that it was a low-effort script they were effectively spamming everyone with. On my first dip into the "Live" section of the site, I’d seen plenty of examples of guys joining a woman’s stream, immediately just saying "sexy" at whatever the streamer happened to be doing, and expect it to work as a line of seduction.

But maybe some of them are guys who don’t know another way to "do" dating. Either because that’s the model they were taught by rom-coms, or because that’s what they actually want.

My experience on dating sites has been very different than that of pretty much every woman I know. Matches are pretty uncommon, I regularly get "matches" that unmatch within five minutes [2], and so on. Most women I know are (comparatively) flooded with attention. Low-quality attention, absolutely. But attention.

Which is kind of my point.

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Recently, my girlfriend complimented an aspect of my physical appearance. (My ass, if you must know.) And it floored me. The times I’ve been told I have "a silver fox thing going on" are infrequent enough – and make enough of an impression – that I’m pretty sure I remember every time it’s happened.

My point being that, for those of us who don’t look like we’re preparing for a role in a Marvel film, I think guys don’t really get complimented very often on their appearance. So even the most minor compliment – to me, at least – seems like a really big deal.

Because I kind of misled you earlier.

Sure, my first guess was that bit about spamming people with generic compliments.

But my first thought was "Man, that would be nice if I got random compliments on dating apps like that."

Let me be clear: I’m not excusing crappy, unwelcome, and unwanted behavior. I don’t think this applies so much to the guy who just says "sexy". But the otherwise articulate guy whose first comment is about your appearance? Sure, it might be because he’s objectifying you or because he thinks that’s your only value. He could be sexist as hell.

Or maybe that’s what, deep down, he really, really wishes someone would say to him.

And he doesn’t have the vocabulary to ask.


I want to leave this at this point. Just a point of saying that "men get complimented so rarely that, to them, they really do think that’s a big compliment."

To be able to imply – instead of having to say it with all the disclaimers in – "maybe that’s not a red flag, but a yellow flag saying that he’s still working on empathy (because then he’d understand that his experience is different than yours), that he’s still "leveling up", that his emotional IQ may not be the greatest yet. But it’s not necessarily a red flag."

To leave it as an implication that men have to do the work of getting in touch with thier needs.

Instead, I have to worry.

Because it’s all too possible that some entitled douchebag would take this whole post as justification for a man’s self-pity. That rather than see it as a call for them to get more in touch with their feelings (and trust me I know how hard that is sometimes), that they’ll see this as a justification for demands for undeserved affection. That they will weaponize this attempt at increasing empathy and understanding.

I don’t have an answer for that problem. Nobody wants footnotes all over any conversation. There’s only so many sidebar disclaimers you can make per sentence.

Except to say it again, and again, and again: Getting in touch with our feelings and needs is the responsibility of men to address. No-one is ever owed affection.

And if guys want to be complimented, if we want to have our feelings acknowledged, our needs met, ourselves complimented…

…we gotta up our own compliment game way above just randomly saying "sexy" and stereotypical comments about appearance.

Featured Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

[1] Artistic license; you know the drill.
[2] Implying either that it was a bot or someone "swiping right" on everyone and then filtering people out (yes, that’s real advice out there).

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