The anatomy of a compliment

Expressing that we like something is often well meant. But it can also be an unspoken claim to be the judge of the thing we complimented. This claim is all the more poignant because it is unspoken – hence the controversy.

There was a fuss about Boris Becker announcing during a game at Wimbledon that the fiancé of a Marton Fucsovics is beautiful. Women were upset about the objectification. Men were upset for feeling attacked and not understanding why. The fiancé in question was pleased. The comment made during a live broadcast had increased her value, although whether she is the agent or the commodity whose value just increased is up for interpretation. But what is wrong with a compliment?

When I was young, I noticed a weird discrepancy between what men said they liked in a woman versus whom they actually liked. Every man is prone to pontificate at one point about natural beauty, for instance. Yet, these very same men often drool at the most made-up and artificial women, often explicitly ugly ones with mean faces and a bad attitude.

With time I have come to see the real point.

People rarely know what they want. These men, for instance, honestly think they want beauty and never think about it more deeply. But what they want even more than beauty is feeling bigger. They want the women’s submission. And women who prep for hours or put themselves through surgeries to please aesthetically are the pinnacle of submissiveness. They don’t necessarily understand why, just like the men who like them don’t understand why they fall for made-up plastic bunnies instead of “real beauty”.

Indeed, these women will forcefully argue that they do this for themselves, and not for men. The tired cliché of women doing it to compete with each other is there to fudge to most inexplicable discrepancies between what they supposedly want and what they do (like bankrupting themselves for beauty when they supposedly don’t even do it to secure rich men).

They often honestly think they don’t do it for men, just like we all yap about not caring what people think from time to time. Usually when we really, really, painfully do. And the younger you are, the worse your chances to see through the game – especially when you are good at the game.

Our idea of beauty is one thing. It is mostly aesthetic pedophilia, equating the signs of youth with beauty. Attraction is a different matter. It includes psychological factors – and I don’t mean inner beauty and other such nonsense. I mean psychological needs, like the need to feel bigger than the female. And nothing makes an insecure man feel more than a woman than a woman who works hard to please him.

No matter how much a woman yaps about doing it for herself, there is a difference between wanting to avoid disapproval and wanting to gain approval. And wanting to gain approval is not “for herself” either. It is to gain certain things that beauty can gain for her – through pleasing a man. And we are back to “doing this for the men”.

We normally understand female submission as something tangible, like doing what he wants. But psychologically, the game starts much earlier and is more layered. One can be fundamentally submissive to the whole world while genuinely thinking that she is a boss. She can be arrogant and refuse to do what he says, and still self-submitting to his judgment. But by making an effort to look attractive, a woman irreversibly puts any onlooker in the seat of judgment. Then she is upset when the wrong one compliments.

And that is before we look at what she does for the sake of looking good (for the onlookers). She denies herself food to be as small as possible, often at the expense of functionality. If women could somehow breathe less and be smaller from it, they would probably do that as well (while militantly yapping that they are doing this for themselves). Some women go as far as spending more than they make on surgeries, have plastic sewn under their chest skin, have their faces sewn up, have pieces of plastic glued to their fingernails and to their eyelids – while aggressively arguing that they are doing this for themselves.

Of course men love to have these women around, whether they manage to end up looking good or not. Yap as much as they like, but if they do those things to themselves for the sake of the onlooker – the onlooker is their judge.

They wear footwear that literally gives them pain and orthopedic injuries, they paint their faces as if their own were unacceptable, spend hours of their lives on beauty management every day and spend more than they earn on handbags like an idiot. Spend all their lives and bankrupt themselves “for themselves” is as stupid as it sounds. Especially when they still have nowhere to live, don’t own a home, a car or investments.

And they don’t spend that same amount of time, money and effort on trying to find out what they would want if it wasn’t beauty. For themselves. They never think about that. A beauty regimen fills up all available time and energy. Even when they are not waxing, they are carrying the mental load of when to wax next to look optimal for when someone sees it. Someone, who would judge them for their body hair. It begs for the question what they would do with all the life that is now tied up in trying to gain approval. “For themselves”.

They are slaves and deny it. Of course the men love it. On the deepest, most subliminal level these women submitted themselves to the men, to their judgment – and it doesn’t even matter if they ended up looking good. Only that they made themselves suffer. It doesn’t matter if they defiantly claim to be equal and refuse to take command. The submission has been completed long before that.

The point when this self-submission painfully hits their consciousness is when they get a compliment. Especially when it is a compliment from someone they did not target with their efforts to look good (“for themselves”). When a homeless drunk or a disgusting creep announces judgment. That is not what they wanted, but it really shouldn’t matter if they really did it for themselves. It wouldn’t matter if his words didn’t also mean that he regards himself as the judge – self-evidently. And that is what feels insulting. You’re welcome. (Just try it. Of all the snappy comebacks you can make, telling men that no one cares about their opinion is the one that upsets them.)

Just imagine it in reverse, if women kept telling men things like “nice, expensive car, well done”. It would make them the judges and they would place themselves above men with that simple compliment. It is an unspoken claim to be the one who is to be pleased – and if you accept that compliment, you also accept the unspoken claim. It feels queasy – because it is.

The same ulterior game is playing out when dudes inform women that they are prettier when they smile. It is not that someone’s facial features look better that way – the point of a smile is the emotional and psychological satisfaction of the onlooker. The world’s most beautiful face would fill these men with dread if it expresses indifference. It would confirm that they don’t matter. A smile, on the other hand, is all about them. They honestly feel better when they see an accommodating smile, or better still, enthusiastic awe on the face of females that furnish their lives. For these men, women’s smile is all about them, so they instruct these women to arrange their faces in the service of the onlooker, not according to their own moods. Who cares what a woman feels? A woman is supposed to feel whatever feeling serves men best. Work on herself.

Not that this is a conscious thing form men. Sure, some do it because they know it will provoke helpless anger – and that puts them in control. But many of them genuinely see a smile more attractive. And worse, they genuinely think they are being helpful by helping those women to please them better. Now that is a sense of entitlement. That they feel the judge of a woman so self-evidently.

That is why men compulsively give compliments when they feel insecure. Just one more way of claiming superiority – and they don’t even know it. Of course they are upset when feminists call them to out on it. They didn’t see what they were doing. (And neither did the feminists, to be fair.)

The reason the idea of male stripping upsets so many men is exactly that – women may be paying for the experience, but somehow it doesn’t make them the losers of the transaction. Psychologically, being the judge of that booty puts you above the owner of that booty. Men wouldn’t go near a strip club if it wasn’t true. You lose more than your clothes when you strip – and gain more than the money you spend when you watch it. You gain a sense of superiority.

So when women get upset for receiving compliments, they are up to something. But expressing that we like something is still often a perfectly innocent act of being nice. Or at least we think so. Maybe if there wasn’t an underlying power struggle, we wouldn’t all be so suspicious and so quick to retort.

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