I met my boyfriend's roommates for the first time yesterday. They are a couple (we'll call them Bob and Alice) and their teenage daughter. We chatted, played a game together and had a nice time.
When we were introduced Bob said, "First off, you're gorgeous." His wife rolled her eyes and said something about him being a flirt. I said, "Thank you," but I was annoyed with him. I let it go because I know that he didn't mean any harm by it, but when I know him better I may lay it out for him why that pissed me off:
- I don't like to be judged for my looks. I have very little control over whether I am "gorgeous" or not. I would rather be complemented on something I can control: My choice in friends, my reading material, my abilities, even my cool t-shirt. Not my looks.
- Saying, "You're gorgeous" right off the bat implies that it is something that I really needed to hear, that I was worried that he would find me ugly, and that my self-esteem hinges on how other people judge my looks. I'd like to think that I'm not that shallow.
- It reinforces the idea that womens' value lies in our looks, rather than our contributions to society, our intellect, our accomplishments, our talents, or anything else. Would he ever greet a man with, "First off, you're incredibly handsome."? Even if he is bisexual, I sincerely doubt it.
- It automatically puts him in the position of superiority. I am there to be judged, and he has found me worthy. We're not meeting as equals. I'm on display and I have met with his approval. It doesn't matter in that case whether I like him or not, because I have earned his approbation, and my opinion doesn't really matter.
- Bob has a teenage daughter. Does he police her looks in the same way? Is she going to base her self-worth on her appearance? How much more powerful is that going to make messages in the media that tell her that her appearance is her most important asset and that she is not living up to the impossible standards of our culture?
Maybe I should just take the compliment for what it was and the way he meant it. I doubt saying something will change what he probably sees as a way to make women feel good and a way to show that he is a good guy right off the bat. But I'm still privately peeved.