On a recent visit to Mobile, Ala., I was running laps on the paved walk that circles the football field in a city park.
I was about 10 feet away from a couple of women going the opposite direction when the one closest to me smiled, nudged her head in my direction, and said, "Na-yuss lay-yuggs!"
Sorry, that's the best I can do to recreate the accent. But no words describe the impact of hearing "nice legs!"
|Advice on Handling Compliments With Care:|
|Base your response on the context.|
|If you're alone in a closed space and the person's body language suggests other intent, it's not a compliment; it's a come-on.|
|If it's clearly a compliment, say "thank you."|
|Don't be afraid of complimenting someone else, but if it's someone you don't yet know, choose your words wisely.|
|It's one thing to say, "You look like you're in great shape." It's quite another to say, "You've got a really tight ass."|
There I was, a 50-year-old geezer in a public park in the Bible Belt, for Christ's sake, and like a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky, I am the victim of blatant, outright, shameless sexual harassment.
Or was it just a compliment?
Take your pick. I kept going, and next time around, the woman was gone. Fled into the bushes probably, before I could call the cops and the German shepherds to track her down like the wanton hussy no doubt she was.
Actually, I wanted to thank her, but no luck. Finally, after 50 years, some fine Southern belle has the decency to objectify me in a public park in front of half a dozen other people, and I can't even tell her that she made my day.
I'm kidding a bit here. I know the difference between sexual harassment and a compliment. And I know I would've been vilified had it been me complimenting her legs.
The thought of complimenting beautiful women has crossed my mind a few times. But I've always restrained myself, unsure how such a comment might be taken.
The answer to that should reside inside the spirit with which the compliment is offered. Sadly, that isn't always the case. One person's sense of flattery is another's sense of outrage.
This isn't to belabor our complex gender politics. It is really to suggest that fitness is only partly about feeling good. It's also a great deal about looking good and hoping others have the good sense and courage to say so.
Even if we're in happy relationships and have no interest beyond that, we have to admit feeling a certain frisson of excitement to learn that someone else finds us attractive.
Or, simply, that someone is impressed with our youthfulness or conditioning. Like the doctor who asked me how old I was, and when I told him, said, "If you put a bag over your head, you'd look 30."
Thanks, Doc. I think.
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