Body image: a hypothetical question

Here’s a year-old repost from my old myspace blog; I found the responses interesting there so I thought I’d try it here.

A stranger walks up to you and says, “I just wanted you to know, I find you attractive.”

Your reaction:

1. Why, thank you!
2. How dare you!
3. something else

Please explain your answer.  Thanks!  (I’ll explain why I’m asking later.)

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36 thoughts on “Body image: a hypothetical question

  1. Why thank you!

    How do I know this? Well, a couple years ago I was walking home from the neighborhood grocery store when an AT&T van came to a rather sudden halt in front of me and the (quite handsome) driver jumped out just so he could start a conversation with me. We chatted for a minute and then I told him I had to go. He asked if I was married. I said yes. He told me to tell him he was a very lucky man.

    Yeah, I still get a glow from that one.

    And then just a few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend in a local bistro we love. Midway through the meal the woman at the next table got up to go, but stopped by our table first. She said: “I just want you to know I think you’re fabulous.” I was startled, but thanked her with a smile.

    Five years ago I’m not sure I could have reacted to either situation with aplomb… but then I was in the midst of so much depression and body hate I doubt either one would have happened then, either. Now, while it’s not a common experience, it does happen. I honestly think it’s because of my increased confidence and open delight in life.

  2. 1, Why thank you!

    I’ve also had this experience. Sometimes it’s just a nice boost to my day; sometimes the person in question asks me for coffee or to dance or what have you. (How I responded if they did ask me for _____ had a lot to do with my impression of the person, whether I had other plans, whether I was with someone, etc)

  3. I was walking through a mall coming back with a snack for myself and my workmate. Sausage and onion wrapped in bread, dripping with tomato sauce. (REAL healthy!)
    Anyway a young man well dressed and nice looking walked up to me, stopped me in my tracks and said “I just wanted to say I noticed you before when you walked past me and I think you are a very beautiful Woman and if I was a little bit older and didn’t have a girlfriend I’d ask you out.”
    (I initially was concerned he may be after my sausages.)
    But once I realised the snacks were safe I thanked him and said “Oh OK wow thanks! That’s really nice to be told that, have a great day!”
    It really boosted my day. I felt awesome.

  4. Great story; thanks, bexkee!

    (By the way, I’m not sure why my replies to comments aren’t indented; WordPress usually does that but I guess it depends on how you enter the reply.)

  5. If anyone ever actually said that to me so nicely, it would be #1.
    Unfortunately the sentiment is always communicated to me in much more unpleasant (or outright nasty) ways, so while I think it’s sort of cliche to say “how dare you!”, that’s usually the idea behind my response.

      • Sexually suggestive, sometimes in a scary way.
        I’m sort of what they call ‘conventionally attractive’, so I guess that’s just what I get for being out in public without an accompanying male…
        Just realized that sounds like I live in the middle east or something; nope, California.

  6. why, thank you!

    I actually think that it’s not that easy for people to tell strangers that kind of stuff (cat calling from car windows aside, obvs), especially if the object of the telling is fat (how dare someone exclaim publicly that they think a fattie is attractive!), so I say it for two reasons: it’s every so lovely to hear that, AND i like encouraging people to be nice to one another. win-win!

  7. i think i would probably say “why, thank you!” followed by a self-deprecating joke about something. but i am actively working to just accept compliments with a thank you and a smile.

  8. “Why, thank you!”

    Though, as much as I would be happy and flattered, I’d feel a bit concerned. Is the next question gonna be “Can I have your number?” or a cheesy pick-up line? But if it ended without any creepiness, it would make my day.

  9. It has happened a few times, & I usually blush & say thanks. I have spent my whole life being told that I am unattractive, ugly, unlovable, by most people in my life, so it is nice to hear the opposite occasionally, even if it is hard to believe.

  10. I would often say “why thank you” if it wasn’t usually from a homeless person who is trying to flatter me into giving them money. In that case it’s often much ruder than the example, more along the lines of “will you marry me?” or “I’m looking for a girlfriend” or “Hey beautiful, take me home”. If someone just passing by, who had no other agenda, said that to me, I’d be flattered. But I tend to suspect most people of ulterior motives. There are some really insistent, really creepy people that I have run into, such as the guy who was coming up to every fat woman in the student center the other day and trying to flatter them into giving him their number.

  11. Probably “Why, thank you,” but it would sound more like this:

    “Ummm… thanks… ??”

    Then, I would probably run into the nearest restroom and spend 20 minutes turning back and forth in front of the mirror, checking for defects in my appearance that day (Do I have something in my teeth? Is my hair messed up? Are my buttons in the wrong holes?) that might cause a perfect stranger to make fun of me like that. Because my automatic assumption (which I am trying to learn to fight) is that the only reason anyone would say something like that to me is as a joke.

  12. It has happened to me, and the way I respond depends on the way it’s asked. Once it was in a very aggressive, “I want to F you” way, and that was not cool. I said, “I’m married,” and tried to leave and then he said, “your husband doesn’t need to know.” ICK.

    Another time, it was just a “you’re very beautiful” but without the aggression, and I said, “Thank you, you’ve made my day!” He also wanted to know if I was attached, but when I said I was, he wished me and my husband well. That was nice.

  13. 3. Something else: Totally caught-off-guard stare. Scanning for sarcasm. Sarcasm detector compromised! Thank the person but remain bewildered as to their intentions, probably offend them with inadequate enthusiasm and delay in thanking.

    • Thanks, meerkat. Someone else mentioned here that it takes a lot of guts to compliment a stranger like that, but on the other side of it, the person taking that step has to be ready for the unexpected. So there’s a good change that the person wasn’t offended so much as resigned to the fact that people react differently.

  14. Why thank you! For sure even if its not said in a nice matter!

    One of my girl friends always tells me how cute I am and it always makes me blush and I just smile and say thank you!

    Its the same response I give to people who call me fat. Why thank you for noticing! Is my regular response no matter if its said in a positive way or a negative way!

  15. 3. something else, I think. It would probably be “Um, thanks … “, waiting to see how this person was going to follow it up. Unless it was in a setting I would find it natural that someone would hit on me, and then it would definitely be 1.

  16. Mine would be 1. Why, thank you!

    Simply because if someone gives me a compliment, particularly without doing one of those double handed “I find you attractive, despite you being fat!” things, then the least I can do is say thank you.

    However, if I got a skeevy vibe, I’d still say Thank you but I’d move on.

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