Leading someone on out of convenience is #notacompliment

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two stick figures on a background of different shades of pink with the words “#notacompliment” in the center in black kate thiessen

How to talk to boys who really want to date you, but (insert self-serving excuse here)

As a young woman, I have come to learn that some men have an odd idea about what most women deem a compliment versus what is just plain offensive.

I have far too often said, “excuse me?” or “what exactly do you mean by that?” These phrases often catch men off guard, as they honestly thought what they were saying would flatter me. We can compare this to the playground in elementary school when the girls were told that the boys who assaulted them just “had a crush on them” – I promise, that is not a healthy way to gain female attention.

Growing up, I quickly became the girl who was “hot enough” to sneak around with or sleep with, but never worth a date or relationship because (from what I believed at the time) I was too different, too opinionated, or too strong willed for guys to want to date me. In my recent experiences, I have realized that my personality and passion is not the problem – the guys who treated me like an object are the problem.

When I left high school I had this fantasy that boys like that would be left in high school, and I would meet men who respected me, my passions, my voice, my body, and wanted to be with me for me. Unfortunately, I have been met with very similar experiences in my adult life thus far.

I was seeing this guy for a while and when we had the dreaded, “so…what are we?” conversation he said, “I really like you and want to be with you, but you won’t be meeting my family for a long, long time.” Of course, I asked why and when I did, I was met with the response that I am too much of a socialist, that his family wouldn’t get along with me, and that it would be risky because they might not like me. I was visibly hurt by this, yet instead of addressing the issue, he told me that he would introduce me one day with the disclaimer that I would have to bite my tongue, but that he really did want to be with me.

Is that supposed to make me feel wanted, special, valued, or complimented? That was the conversation where he was telling me that he did indeed want to date me. It didn’t seem like it, and I can assure you that I never dated this person. Let me translate that conversation through the lens of my feelings: You are hot enough for me to want to keep you around for a while, but your opinions, passions, voice, intelligence – literally everything that makes you you – aren’t what I want in a long-term partner.

I can promise you that I am not the only woman who feels minimized by men in this way. It is an old joke (that isn’t funny) that when a woman is expressing a frustration to her partner, they just call her pretty or “give her a compliment” and she will “stop bitching” and the conversation can be over.

The answer is no, the conversation isn’t over. I am not going to stop expressing my needs or feeling because you said I “look so cute today.” To those who are having their voices minimized by toxic masculinity: I hear you, I see you, and I respect you. Don’t settle for someone who does not respect you for YOU.

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