How not to give a compliment

“Show me that gorgeous smile.”


Look, I know I’m not hideous. But as a woman who is neither particularly handsome nor well put-together, I don’t get a lot of remarks on my physical appearance (save for the daily affirmation I get from my eternally supportive team at work, God bless them and their compulsions to scream “I LOVE YOUR EYELINER” or “YOUR CULOTTES ARE ADORABLE” or “WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR EARRINGS THEY ARE FABULOUS” at one another given any opportunity to do so).

What I do get a lot of is, “I love your tattoo.” And I will say, it makes me happy to hear that. I gave the multi-coloured floral design on my right shoulder a lot of thought and Oliver did a stand-up job with it, so it’s nice that people like it as much as I do. But guys, try not to lead with that if your intention is to pick a girl up? Because unfortunately for you, every girl with tattoos has heard that one a million times.

Some time ago, IY and I talked about problems women with visible ink face for a story she was working on and this issue came up.

Is a man more likely to approach a woman with ink? Experience informs me that the answer is yes. Put me in a blazer or a shawl and drop me in a bar, and I’d never get hit on. I’m just an average chick with bad dress sense, after all. And if I’m surrounded by the likes of my gorgeous girls – Chyn, Mello, Celine and the rest – it’d be my luck if anyone even notices that I’m there.

But take off the outerwear to reveal the explosion of colour on my skin, and suddenly people are interested. If I had a dollar for every “hi, I just had to come over to say your tattoo is amazing”, I’d have started investing in ETFs by now. (Because according to my financial advisor, no amount is too small to start investing in an ETF.)

IY and I couldn’t establish the causal relationship: Do men assume I’m easy based on some antiquated stereotype, or is it that the ink gives them a convenient starting point for a conversation? Is it possible that guys are just lazy af and thinking of an original compliment for the other girls around who are without ink just takes more effort?

Okay, to be fair, it can be challenging to come up with a decent compliment for a painfully ordinary-looking person. Mostly you’re clutching at straws (“you have… neat eyebrows?”), so I guess I should be more appreciative when the occasional person tries. But boy, the things people come up with… SAD. Pro tip: don’t try to be smooth if you have no material to work with.

Here are some examples of what NOT to say, drawn from real life experience:

1. “Your hair is not black.”
This not a compliment. It’s a fact. I don’t know what you intend to achieve by telling me this. Yes, I am aware that my hair is a little lighter than most Chinese girls, I do own a mirror. Thanks for the information, anyway.

2. “I like that you don’t care about how you dress.”
Translation: You have zero taste in fashion and I have noticed that. Um, ouch. I’m sure what you really meant was something along the lines of that stupid One Direction song about being beautiful just as you are or some corny bullshit like that, but it came across as something much more grating, so please revise the lyrics of all your favourite trashy music before you spit the lines in the face of an insecure woman.

3. “You’d look great once we fatten you up.”
I was this close to hitting this dude (although in reality a punch from me delivers as much force as a housefly landing on your skin, so maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t end up swinging my fists at him a la Scrappy Doo. Lemme at ’em!!!). First of all, fuck off. If you don’t like skinny girls, then don’t fucking talk to us. Second, I don’t need to be fed. I am not a prized cow. And even if I was, I’d go to South Asia and be worshipped by hot Indian guys (um yeah that’s the dream, um yes I have a type and it is borderline racist), faaaaar away from creepers like you. And third, I highly doubt that you are capable of preparing a meal for yourself so don’t fuckin’ talk about provisioning for anyone else.

4. “You know how people always say they are butt or boob or legs guys? Not me, I don’t need any of that.”
Did you really not see how much of a burn that was, you cruel, cruel human being?

5. “You look like an interesting person.”
Interesting how, like Michael Jackson post-surgery? Interesting like a blobfish? Or like, that guy in the Dos Equis ad? Any way I look at it, it isn’t great. Although the last option isn’t too bad. Jonathan Goldsmith is about as badass as TV commercial actors get.

I’d go on, but I am going to go to bed instead because this is depressing me more than I thought it would. As my mother always says, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything. It’s good advice, guys. Restraint is key!!1111!


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