Yesterday, while walking up 105th street towards the dojo, I encountered a man. He was middle aged, typically dressed and Hispanic. When I passed him, he stopped, fixed his creepy gaze upon me, produced a half smile/half sneer and muttered "Que linda!"
This is not the first compliment I have received from a total stranger. Sometimes they like my shoes, or my shirt, or my hair. I have been called beautiful in multiple languages. Men have also told me to "Have a great day" and to "Put a smile on that face" and numerous other random comments. My response is almost always the same: I smile, say thank you, and move on.
There are, of course, much ruder comments that I have heard as well, although thankfully not very often. Comments that involve body parts, sexual acts, and so on.
I am fine looking. I am not fishing for compliments, I am happy with the way I look. I have a skinny athletic build and nice hair. I am also short and small breasted. I almost never wear heels or revealing clothing. I say that not because there is anything wrong with wearing these things, but because I imagine a tall, curvy, busty woman in a short skirt would get far more comments than I do.
While I do not speak much Spanish, I know what "Que linda" means. In theory, it is a compliment, as is "Hello beautiful" and "I like your hair." In fact, some women even speak positively of these comments, they enjoy them, and even go as far as to categorize who is allowed to compliment them; if he is cute and in a suit it is ok, if he is old and homeless, not so much. But here is what I hear when I am walking down the street and a total stranger calls me beautiful:
"Lady, I want to put my penis in you."
Excuse me for being so blunt. I am not saying all guys are jerks. I am not saying every man in a construction hat is a rapist waiting to be let off his leash. But when you stop a total stranger on the street, a woman you have never met, and the first comment (and often the only comment) you make is about her looks, that is what I hear.
"Lady, I don't care who you are. I don't care what you do for a living, or where you are going, or if you are married with five kids, or if you like to do Zumba in your spare time, or that your favorite food is calamari. I don't care how old you are, or how you are feeling today. I don't care that your mother is sick, your child is going through a tough phase, you have had a cold for a month, you were just stuck on the subway for an hour. I don't care about any of these things. You just walked by me on the street and I want to put my penis in you."
In other words, calling me pretty is really not that different from telling me where you want to stick it. Sure the words are more polite sounding. But in the end, it is all the same message. And it is not a compliment. Not because it is not ok to want to have sex with a woman. Or find her pretty. But because it is not ok for it to be the first (and sometimes the only) thing you think of when you see her.
Listen dudes, I get it. Sometimes you guys see a beautiful woman and you just can't help yourself. You want to say something. You need to say something. Just in the off shot that she turns her bright blue eyes to yours and immediately falls into a desperate love (lust) swoon she simply cannot contain. So how about you try this comment on for size.
Not "hello beautiful". Not "hello baby". Just hello.
In other words, speak to me the way you would speak to the old lady in the elevator. Or the dude behind the counter who makes your egg sandwich. Hello. How are you? Have a nice day!
Do you know what I do when someone says hello to me. I say hello back. And then I smile and keep walking because I am not interested in meeting you. But I am not insulted. Let my husband call me beautiful. Or my friends. Or my mom. Or anyone who actually knows me. But the guy on 105th street? A simple hello will suffice.
Right now some of the ladies out there may be saying "Hey! But I like it when guys compliment my hair. It makes me feel attractive. What will a simple hello do for me?" I could go on and on about how that hello makes you a human being, gives you value beyond just your looks, yada, yada, yada. But the truth is it is fine to like the compliments. Really. So long as you are able to correctly translate them all into their true meaning:
"Lady, I want to put my penis in you. Even though we just met. And even though there are so many other qualities that make you valuable. I think you look nice and that is what matters to me."
And by the way, all men have penises. Not just the cute, rich ones.
So enjoy it! All of it.
As for what you say back, hey, that's your business.