Not an Odalisque

Don’t Tell Me I’m Pretty

with 4 comments

Somebody hurt me last night with something they said. They made me feel worthless and angry. I don’t think it was deliberate. The words were “I bet everyone wants to dance with you, you’re the prettiest girl in the room.”

I’m sure most people reading this, up to and including the lesbian separatists, are thinking “he paid you a compliment, what’s your problem?” Perhaps you even suspect me of boasting about my attractiveness from behind a veil of feminism. The truth is, I was honestly upset. After years of not entirely understanding why feminists can’t take a compliment, I finally got it.

I’ve been going to the same Modern Jive class once a week for months. Every week I’ve danced with this man. I’ve been happy when he’s said that my dancing is improving, and tried to thank him without looking too pleased with myself. I’ve been comfortable with him. I wasn’t about to invite him round for late-night Cointreau and a heart-to-heart, but he was one of the people who made Wednesday evenings good.

Then he said I was pretty. Not only that, but he said that the reason men want to dance with me is because I’m pretty. Not because I can dance. Not even because I can’t dance, but they would like to help me learn. No, the reason men dance with me is because I’m pretty; how good I am isn’t a relevant factor.

I got to wondering why men want to dance with pretty women. Is it just to bask in their presence? Is it to be seen on the dance floor in their company? Or is it, the thought nibbles on the edge of my mind, to cop a feel? Modern jive requires physical contact. Some moves put people in your personal space, others involve quite a bit of physical touching. Usually you get a choice about how close to get (the last time an instructor invited the ladies to press their pelvis against the man’s buttocks and wiggle, I declined), but often you don’t, and it is easy to engineer a bit of touchy-feely with a stumble, or by spinning the lady off balance. From that thought on, I’m flicking through my mental catalogue of dance partners, wondering who touched me for the purpose of the dance, and who had ulterior motives. Is that man sweating due to exertion or arousal? Is this one really unsure where my hips are, or just trying his luck? Paranoia is setting in.

I’m sure the man who said I was pretty thought he was being nice. Most girls like to be told they are beautiful. It would be lovely to think that I really was the prettiest girl in the room last night (I wasn’t, but she’s straight, so never mind). I want to be more than pretty, though. I want to be clever and well-read, to make great meringues and write interesting stories. My looks have no effect on my ability to understand ‘Madame Bovary’ or whip egg whites. Tell me I’m pretty, by all means. There’s a comments box just down there. While you’re at it, if you could tell me why men want to dance with pretty women, and testify that it isn’t about feeling them up, you’d put my mind at ease. And the next time you’re about to compliment someone’s looks, consider mentioning their meringues, or their intelligence, or their dancing, as well.

Written by Not an Odalisque

March 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Totally understand this!

    I would much rather be complimented on something I tried to achieve than what nature dealt me. – My outfit perhaps, something I’ve written, my choice in book.

    – x


    March 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

  2. When a boy first meets a girl, there is no prior knowledge of what the girl has done or what she stands for, the only things that a man may say to a girl is the immediately apparent – good looks, good fashion sense, a nice sounding voice, a good group of friends, etc. A boy determines he is interested in a girl by deciding that he approves of one or more of these things, and when he asks to dance with a girl, it isn’t because he is trying to cop a feel (sometimes it is, but you have to be a pretty daft bloke to think that works on a girl), but because he is trying to find any way he can to get closer to the girl to have a chance to get to know her and her him and maybe, just maybe, in the ideal world the two of them would hit it off, and something more can happen.


    March 9, 2010 at 6:55 am

    • Thanks for the comments.

      Why does everything have to be a boy-meets-girl scenario? If it is, why does he have to pass comment, when he could, say, ask questions? Does no bloke ever think to himself “I’m significantly older than she is, and very badly dressed, so I have no chance. I’ll not make everyone uncomfortable by trying for this long-shot.”?

      Thanks for the effort, uioae, but I still don’t understand.

      Not an Odalisque


      March 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

  3. Who doesn’t want to make great merengues? I guess some don’t want to, some might redicule for having a copper bowl for just that purpose.

    Sounds like the guy insulted you by saying he and others didn’t dance with you on the merit of your hard earned dancing capability nor out of friendliness so much as out of base desire for eye candy. It was a put down (though maybe meant as a compliment).

    What if some leads asked initially for the looks but asked subsequently due to your dance?

    Why do men want to dance with pretty women? Hmm well assuming the man wants to dance (as the sole or primary objective) – what are we basing “pretty” as? Physical attractiveness using social groups’ misguided yardsticks? The female’s confidence or style?
    Part of it can be that the guy gets a chance to he himself be chosen or danced with bot so much for his looks than for his skill.
    Don’t forget men get judged in this way also. It gives the guy a valid reason for a few minutes to have fun and be in proximity of a lass of his fancy without pressure or rebuttal.

    Pretty – hmm not the best adjective really.
    I’d rather a foxy or sultry or cheeky or raucous or hilarious or teasing dance partner than a pretty one. Because if you say they’re pretty, it’s like youre saying they don’t have features that trump their body, unless it’s part of a longer compliment.
    Maybe all in all a good reason that some advise men to think about giving a specific compliment to a lady when wanting to compliment.
    (you look hot/pretty/stunning vs
    Wow – that outfit goes so well on you..- are you sure you haven’t been dancing for longer?
    Sometimes the best compliment is a laugh, an involuntary wheeeeee! Or other ejaculation whilst dancing.


    August 31, 2010 at 1:29 am

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