Saturday, August 6, 2011

Don’t compliment me on my looks. I like to use my mind.

I care about how I look. I stress about how I look. The thought of walking out the door without looking in a mirror horrifies me. I know via my female friends that many women share my obsession. I blame the media and my mother. Although my mother probably got it from the media. She probably blames her mother.

The last thing I want is for others to draw attention to my appearance. Why would I? it takes up enough of my day as it is. I take a lot longer to get out the door in the morning than my partner does. I genuinely worry about not looking my best. Once I walk out my front gate, I have no desire to waste more time thinking about it throughout the day. Especially when it might distract me from my real job.

So I don’t want to hear about it. At least, not when I am at work. Especially not when I am at work. Privately, I am less militant in my objection. Slightly.

In my time as a female engineer I have been complimented on my appearance many times by colleagues, contractors and customers alike. I say this knowing that they were not doing so because I am stunningly beautiful. They were simply men who knew it was highly likely that I cared about my appearance, so they complimented me to illicit a positive reaction. In short they were sucking up. The easy way. I have never seen this technique applied to my male colleagues. Ever

Once I was in meeting when a contractor conspicuously interrupted a conversation involving several people to compliment me on my appearance. I felt awkward, embarrassed and and angry that all this man had managed to surmise about me was that I apparently looked hot in a suit.

When I am at work, I use my mind. My role is an intellectual one. When I am putting my mind to use I want people to notice my intelligence. If someone can’t get by without complimenting me then it had better be about my mind. I don’t give a crap that you know I care about my looks. Its totally irrelevant to my career and I care about my brain more than my face or arse. I don’t care that you have convinced yourself that you are just being nice. You could be nice in smarter ways. You are being lazy. If you select my appearance to compliment of all the potential attributes I possess, you are also saying “your appearance is more impressive than any of your abilities as a thinker”.

If you had just spent an hour presenting me with your proposal on a construction project and at the end I complimented you on your golfing swing, you would probably conclude the presentation hadn’t gone well. Because you would have correctly recognised that an irrelevant compliment when you are striving for a relevant one is a put-down.

Men, please recognise that many of your female colleagues see a compliment on their appearance as a put-down in exactly the same way.

Not to mention the fact that most women have no desire to hear about their appearance full stop. From anyone. Men or women. Most women already self-assess their appearance several times a day (when a mirror is handy) and simply don’t want further assessments throughout the day after that. You wont win points if you drag the focus back to looks. Again. Unless that is actually what her career is all about.

So how do I feel about a compliment when I am not at work? I still think appearance compliments are lazy. They sound cheap. Guys, if you really want girls to respond to a compliment in a super positive way then listen to her for a while. Work out what she loves to do, what she cares about, then compliment her on that. If you find out that all she can talk about is her boobs then you officially have permission to compliment a woman on her boobs. Trust me. She will love it. Get the gist?

Cheers.

Monika

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Feasibility is an engineering based blog designed to reach other STEM people. Non-STEM people are also welcome! I try to give good advice and well-reasoned opinions but please don’t hesitate to disagree with me. This blog exists because I realised that I live in a metaphorical bubble and that simply wont do. Nup.

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