In an earlier conversation with Hubs:
Me: “Does this bra make my boobs look perkier?”
Hubs: “Perkier than what?”
Me: “Perkier than before.”
Hubs: “Before what?”
Me: “This isn’t a trick question.”
Hubs: “Okay. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think you should worry about it. We’re all getting older, you know, and I think you look great no matter what your boobs look like.”
Me: “What a horrible, mean thing to say!”
Hubs: “I was trying to give you a compliment!”
Me: “Well, you suck at it.”
Hubs: “For the love of God, woman, next time give me cue cards.”
I can do that.
Dashing down to my computer, I quickly typed up Hubs’ Guide for Complimenting His Wife.
Assuming we’ve moved past the construction site approach, including the juvenile (“Nice rack, baby”) or the cheesy (“You have eyes a man could drown in”), neither of which is particularly effective on girls over 23 and who don’t work at Hooters, let’s begin with the basics.
1. Compliments should make us feel wanted, appreciated and absolutely gorgeous. Every now and then, we want to feel like you still see us the way you did when we were first in love. Before the kids, our jobs, the mortgage payments, the dogs, the bills, the laundry, our birthdays and gravity all piled up and we swapped our thongs and stilettos for yoga pants and t-shirts.
2. Be brief. Don’t ramble. A girlfriend once told me that the best compliment she ever received from her husband was a single word. She came out of the bedroom, dressed for date night and a bit self-conscious in her rarely worn strappy little black dress. He stopped, looked at her for a moment and said, “Wow.” (That night was the best sex they’d had for months. Personally, I don’t believe in coincidences.)
3. Be specific. “You’re pretty” is great, but “That dress makes your legs look a mile long” will be happily repeated to her BFF tomorrow morning over coffee, and you’ll look like a rock star.
4. Pay Attention. Assuming she at least occasionally does something that surprises or impresses you (if not, that’s another discussion entirely), mention it. “You’re so patient with your little niece. You handled it beautifully when she set your office on fire” or “You were great with my parents today.” And “thank you for not decking Uncle Buck when he pinched your ass at our wedding…twice” will go a long way towards making her feel special.
5. Surprise her. A spontaneous “I’m glad I married you” while you’re watching TV will put an instant smile on her face. In other words, don’t save it for when you want to get laid or you’re trying to end an argument.
6. Try to make the compliment about her. “Great boots” is nice, but “You look hot in those boots” is much better.
7. Tell the truth. Unless you’ve been living in a shack in the Ozark mountains your entire life, with no cable or Internet service, “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” is going to sound phony to any woman but Angelina Jolie. She knows that’s not true, and now you have a credibility issue. It’s like parents who tell their child he’s the smartest person in the world. Sooner or later, little Billy is going to find out Mommy and Daddy were lying and now he doesn’t believe a word they say. Pick something that’s actually true about her. “You have a beautiful smile” (when, in fact, she does) is a better choice.
8. Avoid backhanded compliments. These are not compliments. They’re insults that start out slowly. “You can speak French?? Wow. I never would have guessed.” Bite me, jackass. “A woman should be curvy. You look healthy.” I guarantee you we just heard, “You’re fat, but I’m not stupid enough to say that.” Hope you like sleeping on the couch. “Love your new haircut, babe. Your face doesn’t look as round.” By now she’s thinking, “OMG. So all this time, I’ve been walking around with a pumpkin head, and only now you’re telling me??” This is where “Shoot the messenger” came to be. These are passive-aggressive shots and should be limited to no more than, well…none, if you want to stay married to this woman.
9. When in doubt, tell her she looks thinner than usual. Surveys report that 43% of women said that’s their favorite compliment ever. “You look so thin” will have us singing your praises all over town.
10. A few other tried and trues that men should always have in their Things I Should Say to My Wife More Often rolodex include: “You look gorgeous.” “I love your body.” “You’re the most beautiful woman here tonight.” “I’m proud to be seen with you.” “I like the way you think.” There are others, but consider this your starter set, which should keep you going for the next few weeks.
When my son, Jake, was young, I instructed him very carefully about what to say when a woman asks about her appearance. To this day, whenever he sees me dressed up or in something new, he smiles and says, “Mom, that outfit makes you look younger and thinner.” You’re going to go far, kid.
And now, in a recent conversation with Hubs:
Me: “I’m using a new cream. How does my skin look?”
Hubs: “Oh, actually you look stunning, and I wish I could stay home and stare at you all day, repeatedly reminding myself what a lucky, lucky man I am.”
Me (with a bright smile, deliberately choosing to ignore the almost-imperceptible eye roll and snort-laugh that accompanied that statement): “Thank you, sweetie. I love you, too!”
Now, was that so hard??
— Vikki Claflin
Oregon writer Vikki Claflin writes the popular humor blog, Laugh Lines. Two recent pieces have been published in Life Well Blogged: Parenting Gag Reels — Hilarious Writes and Wrongs: Take 26.