• Thu, Jan 9 - 12:30 pm ET

I’m Afraid My Compliments To Straight Women Seem Like Come Ons

For as long as I can remember having attractions toward other human beings, I remember being attracted to both men and women. (Later, as I gradually understood the difference between gender and sex, this grew to a different range of attractions, but that’s a story for another day.) I have had many experiences with men and women, but a bigger chunk of the former have involved people with whom I had relationships with, while the latter has been more difficult to navigate. Why? Primarily because I am afraid to approach women.

My first crush was on a boy in kindergarten. My second was on a girl in first grade. My first kiss was with a girl. My second was with a boy and we both had braces, so it was pretty gnarly. The first flowers I ever got were from a senior girl when I was in ninth grade. The second bouquet (and third, fourth, fifth and sixth) were from my twelfth grade boyfriend who is basically the most romantic person ever and now has a female alter-ego who wears leopard print better than anybody I know.

My sexuality has never been an issue for me, but being open about it has.

I have almost always dated men. In school, I always flirted with males. In bars, I am usually approached by men or, if I’m feeling brave/stupid, the I approach them. Despite being attracted to women on just as regular basis as I am to men, it is rare, if at all, that I attempt anything romantic with a female.

At some point, I’ll delve deeper into why I have almost exclusively had relationships with guys, but for now, I just want to explain why I have been constantly over-thinking the things I say to all women–including ones I am not remotely attracted to, and especially the ones I know are straight.

Share This Post:
  • Amanda

    Thank you for this. Seriously. You have just described my life. I hope you get some tips so that I can read them, too!

  • Lindsey Conklin

    “Yes, of course people who constantly think everyone is hitting on them suck. Yes, people who believe anybody who’s attracted to their gender will be attracted to them are The Worst.” –yes, those people are so annoying, so I’d imagine the latter to be even more annoying. this post is awesome!

  • Elizabeth Alexander

    seriously who are these people who hate getting flirted with or complimented? if someone thinks your hot wouldn’t it just make your day?! Especially in a lesbian situation if you’re straight because then you get to be all narcissistic for the day and say every team wants you! This is so odd to me. I mean I don’t get hit on everywhere I go so maybe it would be different if I did, but hell a compliment is a compliment!

    I realize this doesn’t help much, but just rest easy that some women love a compliment no matter who it’s from, so try not to stress too much

  • http://ThePeppercat.com/ Candace

    That fear is not at all stupid! I wish I had advice to give, but I can only say that not everyone is as awesomely secure in their sexuality. Not to say that they’re insecure, but for many, discovering their specific brand of sexuality can take a lifetime.

    It’s not you, it’s them.

    Also I agree with Elizabeth Alexander.

  • Dr. D.

    Thank you so much for writing this article. You have very nicely articulated something I have struggled with for a very long time. I want to compliment women, but I fear they will think I am hitting on them, specially if they know I am bisexual.

    I constantly find myself in the following bind: I’ll say something nice to a straight woman who knows I am bi, she will then ask me if I am attracted to her. If I say “no”, she gets offended because of course, I MUST be attracted to her. If I say “yes”, she either: 1. gets weirded out and begins ignoring me, or 2. she tells me she’s completely straight yet begins flirting with me. (I realize I am generalizing, but it has happened SO many times).

    I too hate the complement “if I weren’t straight, I’d totally be into you”.

    I have tried bringing it up with my (straight, female) therapist, but I can even tell *she* gets uncomfortable. She is a wonderful therapist otherwise, or I would find another one. (Ironically, I’m a Psychologist myself).

    Anyway, I digress…

    • Andrea Dunlop

      What is the best way for a straight gal to be graceful in this sitch? I usually go with the “I’m straight but I’m flattered, you are lovely.” when approached directly.
      Also, who are these people going around asking all the lesbians they know if they’d do them? That just seems like an awkward convo regardless of orientation.

  • Julia

    I feel like I should preface this by saying that I identify as a cisgendered heterosexual female. My advice would be to just be confident and genuine with your compliments. I feel like weird compliments are one of the most fun privileges that women have. As someone who says this kind of stuff on a regular basis, however, I would say there are a few more concrete things I can think of, though:

    - If you don’t act like it’s weird, neither will she. If she does, then she’s lame; get better friends.
    - Compliments are the best. Female to female compliments carry a certain weight that can never be matched. We have the highest standards and we know what tiny “flaws” to instantly look for simply because of conditioning. You’re helping humanity. (e.g., “Dude, your boobs look awesome!” “Your waist is the perfect size for your hips.”)
    - If you’re totally at a loss, channel your inner Paris HIlton for delivery. I’m pretty sure no one has mistaken Paris for a masterful pickup artist. (e.g., “Oh my god, your hair make me want to die.” “That dress is so hot.” etc.)

    - Do it until you feel comfortable. Then keep doing it.

    • Andrea Dunlop

      I really never considered the straight privilege that is getting to tell my friends they’re hot. If I couldn’t tell a gal pal she had a killer rack that would give me the sads.

  • Sarah

    Samantha- you seem like a truly lovely lovely human being, and the type of person that I would love to have in my valued circle of friends. I’m sorry that people don’t know how to take a nice compliment! I wish people could relax a bit and wouldn’t “read-into-it” too much. Some people figure it out, some never will. Please don’t dim your personality- by not smiling as much as you’d like, or espousing nice compliments, etc; The world needs more nice lovely ladies that treat each other with respect and positivity.
    In the times that I’ve given (girl)friends compliments to which they’ve raised a questioning eyebrow I’ll shrug my shoulders and say something like “relax, it’s a fact! I’m just saying (XYZ) because it’s true!” and then go on with whatever we were saying or doing. I feel like it zaps the perceived weirdness and shows that you’re not ‘getting’ at anything or hoping for a certain response. (Then again if you ARE hoping for a certain response- give a specifically pointed compliment to let the person know you’re into them, then follow it by eye contact and wait for their response.)
    Just my .02!
    Cheers! Xo.

  • Andrea Dunlop

    Oh man, sounds like being attracted to both genders means having to deal with twice the amount of other people (potentially) dumping their bullshit baggage on you. I’m pretty friendly and outgoing so I think I’m sort of always flirting, I would hate to think how inhibited I would feel if I was worried it would be taken the wrong way. I feel like if someone overreacts to innocent non-creepy, non-invasive flirting, that has everything to do with them and nothing to do with the flirter. It’s not like you’re someone’s creepy old uncle, you’re a hot babe. Seems like most people would be flattered regardless of orientation…but what do I know?

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    Jeez, I can relate. I’m in a long-term relationship with a man, now, but I’m bi and I had pretty much all the same issues – straight girls playing games, feeling like a creep-o when I tried to flirt with a woman. I wish I had some insight into this, but I never really got the hang of it. I can commiserate, though.

  • fashion protection

    I don’t understand bi-sexuality, it seems very unusual; I am just glad you have not approached the Duck Dynasty. I do however enjoy terminology like Lipstick Lesbian; where did that come from.

    I was thinking about Ellen DeGeneres the other day. What kind of man would she swoon over? What about a gunfight between Stacy Keach and Kevin Spacey? (ats.right) It could be a TV ad. Hmmm. I just don’t know what it would sell. AH! I GOT IT! Cannabis is legal in Colorado. Whoa! This could be big. Jim Carrey could be elected the Sheriff of Ice Cream, Colorado.

    HOMEMADE MARIJUANA ICE CREAM (Dust My Butter Pecan)

    Bah! It’s just an ole dream, Doobie. (Doobie is the town mascot, a blue heeler.)

    wElkome to Ice Cream, Colorado.

    http://www.cov.com/files/Publication/8fc11e54-27e2-4da3-9323-0663dd0a5746/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/45a27275-df92-475b-9e11-11154b0c1061/Fashionably%20Late.pdf

    http://www.nndb.com/

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Did the entire 20-29 population of Colorado just comment on my post?

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      We’re not all like that. In fact, I call shenanigans on this commenter, because most of us simply get too blazed to remember how a keyboard works!

    • CMJ
    • fashion protection

      Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2011 | Making Of | HD
      so cooll

  • Ally

    Ugh this post makes me so sad/frustrated because it really sums up my situation too! :( I’m bisexual too and have dated guys and have had some (drunken) experiences with women but I find I’m soooo awkward when it comes to approaching women. My best friend of the past 15 years recently ‘came out as a lesbian’ although of course, it was a process, and I’m so proud of her for finally having the bravery to do so! Meanwhile I’m sitting here wanting to put my head through a wall because I must come off so socially incompetent to women that I’m attracted to.

  • Cee

    As a gay woman, here is how compliments about what a woman, who knows I’m gay, wears have gone when they are bad:
    1. I tell a woman her item of clothing is nice or that a color or her outfit suits her
    2. She smiles, looks down at herself then this horror stricken face as she brings her eyes back to mine
    3. She looks disgusted but tries not to tighten her lips too hard and smiles a bit
    4. Walks away very fast.

    Oddly enough, things go less awkward when I have talked or flirted with a woman assuming she was a lesbian. I suppose it is because they either feel sorry for me or because they are more certain that I am not fucking them with my eyes as the women who have taken innocent compliments badly.

  • Mouche Bonneau

    Oh God, Sam, I feel the exact same way! Sometimes I go up to a random woman who I find really beautiful, and I say, “You are gorgeous. I hope you know that.” Or something like that. (I don’t say, “Man, I’d fuck you,” or something like that because I don’t want to be the bisexual version of a misogynist.) And I do it mostly because every woman deserves to hear she’s beautiful. If the girl makes a come-on back to me, well that’s awesome! But most of the time it does seem to creep women out. Thus my main beef is: why are women insulted by being called beautiful by another woman, whether it be in friendship or in attraction? It’s great to hear that someone finds you aesthetically pleasing! Why must that be considered a threat?

    I say, keep complimenting straight women. After they feel creeped out, they will, I hope, be flattered by the compliments.

  • Theonewithredhair

    Sam, I’ve been a longtime fan (though never a commenter). Your experiences are eerily similar to mine and this confirms it. SOUL SISTERS.

  • Sara

    Compliment away! Any woman worth your time will not be bothered by you saying something nice. I think you’ll find some good people out there, queer and straight, who will take your words at face value. Forget everyone else – you deserve to be around people who are comfortable with your sexuality and don’t make a bunch of assumptions around it.

  • FemelleChevalier

    I’ve been on the receiving end of, er, awkward girl issues. One time, there’s this girl who basically ignored me and talked to everyone but me. I thought she hates me and it’s a bummer—she seems like a nice girl and I wanted to befriend her. But when she got drunk, she confessed that she’s feeling awkward because she likes me. She’s didn’t know at first that I like girls, but then she became flirty when she found out—alcohol helps. Good kisser, too.

    There’s also these two girls who thought I’m in-love with them just because I’m nice. It’s frustrating, because I don’t even like them like that. I had to find out through the gossip mill—it’s embarrassing. No, they’re not hostile, it’s actually the opposite: they became too friendly and it’s weird.

    What I’m saying is, you never knew what their reaction would be unless you stop overthinking and just socialize. If you’re feeling awkward, they’ll feel awkward, too. Be causal, even if you’re attracted to them. If you think they’re pretty, tell ‘em. Girls do it all the time, straight or otherwise.

    And remember that there are some people who will get the wrong idea regardless of your actions. No matter how casual or platonic you are, they can be weird. It’s not you, it’s them. Don’t be intimidated and let your life be limited by the reaction of the few.