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      Get Smart on the Web   09/16/2016

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ccmdw45

Compliment non-awkwardness

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[name redacted]

So, question for girls out there:

How unusual is it for an older male cousin to compliment your appearance, in passing? How normal is it for the girl to consistently react with pleasure and appreciation to these potentially-awkward observations? I have a cousin to whom I've always been close. She's highly intelligent, thoughtful, kind, funny, self-disciplined, and very Type A, among other positive qualities, and I've always been quite open in my admiration of her because I believe in saying things early and often, but I've been thinking recently about our communications over the past couple of years and I wonder if there's a trend: compliments that I was actually kind of embarrassed to give were taken totally in stride and not awkward at all. Example:

Me: Your Charlie Brown pictures are great. Looks like it was a great production. BTW, you have really shapely calves, in case you didn't know.

Her: Hahaha... I wasn't expecting that last sentence. But thanks. Yeah, it's pretty fun. I wish you would be able to see it. Alas, I suppose I shall just be content with knowing you're coming for Thanksgiving.

Maybe this is not surprising at all because we have a pretty open and positive relationship in general, for example this FB exchange says nothing about physical attributes:

Me: "

" Very nicely put, B--------. I'm impressed with your adroitness.

Her: Why thank you! I had been thinking about how to phrase my comment; I'm pleased you noticed.

Still, I am a bit curious how awkward you'd normally expect things to be when your older male cousin says things that display awareness of you as a female. She takes it totally in stride.

Me: [as we're ending a conversation] Have I told you lately that you're fantastic? Not just because you're beautiful, but because you are funny, perceptive, kind, and thoughtful too. I just want you to know that people notice.

Her: Well thank YOU, Mailman [her nickname for me]! That makes my day!

Me: BTW, I think red is a really nice color for you. Your profile pic looks fantastic.

Her: Thanks! (It's especially nice because I believe someone--on that same picture--said the exact opposite. Even though I was pretty sure she was joking... Still...)

Me: Yeah, she was 100% wrong. And I'm a guy, so my opinion counts for more. I say you look stunning in red. She is probably just a BYU zealot.

Her: Haha, you pegged her. Poor woman. So far her kids are 1/1 for U of U.

She's always very positive and supportive of any girls that I'm interested in or dating, and she also had this same open-and-positive reaction when I once admitted to her that of all the girls I know, there are only two whom I love more than B--------- herself (she said she was okay with #3 position).

I've had limited contact with her recently because she's serving a mission for the Church right now (LDS) and only has basically half a day a week to write letters/emails home to family, but I think the process of writing to each other is making us even closer despite (or because of?) the limited time she has for communicating back home. Anyway, I'm just curious how usual these kinds of interactions are among normal cousins.

Thoughts?

-Max

P.S. I'm 34, she's 19. Oh, and I don't know if this is significant, but when she was describing our relationship once to a friend of hers she exaggerated the distance of the relationship even though I think she knows better if she stopped to think for a minute: "He's like our third cousin or something, but he's more like a first cousin." Actually we're second cousins.

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What do you really want to ask? 

I've read your post three times.  You seem to be stumbling around what you really want to ask.  Do you want a relationship with her? 

If both of you are single, there is no problem.  Second cousins are legal everywhere.

Nat

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<<You seem to be stumbling around what you really want to ask.  Do you want a relationship with her?>>

I didn't think I was stumbling, just asking the question which people here are likely to be able to answer. I have indeed realized that I would like a closer relationship with her, and I feel that she would be open to a closer relationship with me--the specific hypothesis I'm evaluating is  that she may have had a crush on me for years, going waaaay back, it would explain a lot of things. But without going into the math, a crucial point to consider is whether the data that I've observed are consistent with BOTH the positive and negative hypotheses vs. just the positive. If P(Nonawkward | B_Attracted_To_M) and P(Nonawkward | NeverCrossedHerMind) are both high then Nonawkward tells us nothing.

So yeah, I'm curious how normal our relationship is. If I wanted to know something specific like "how would she feel if I initiated courtship rituals?" I would have to ask her and not you lovely folks. If you're looking for a specific position statement from me it is this: I have realized that yes, I would absolutely marry this girl if she wanted it too. She's my favorite cousin, I get along with her really well and love her family; we have compatible moral values; we would have really, really smart kids; I sure adore her and I'm always really happy when I'm doing something that makes her happy, so it would be really easy to be married to her since so much of marriage is service and making each other happy (filling the "Love Bank"). But that isn't the question on which I've come seeking advice today. I just want data, and I guess I also kind of just like talking about her.

Edit: yes, we are both single, but she's on a mission right now so I can't exactly visit her or call her, just write letters and be supportive. It's kind of as if she's not single right now, and won't be until around this time next year when she comes home.

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Alright, I'll take the bait.

Flirtations among cousins is normal.  Is there any data to back that up?  None that I am aware of.

Now to the questions you proposed:

Is it normal to over-analyze conversations with another person?  Somewhat.  (OK, you didn't ask that particular question, but in light of your first post, I deemed it a necessary one to address). 

Is it normal to have so many potentially awkward conversations?  Sure.  If you're a teenager.

Is it normal for an older male cousin to compliment me?  That depends.  Is he a creepy older cousin?  Is he married?  Is he single and being flirtatious?  So many factors play into this scenario

Like Nat, I'm not sure what you want. 

If she had a crush on you for "years, going waaaay back", then she was a child with a silly little crush on her much older cousin. Were you a 30 year old man complimenting a 15 year old girl on her appearance and being otherwise flirtatious?  The age difference between you is not so much an issue now, but if this has been going on for "years, going waaaay back", then you will find some resistance from me in rubber stamping the pursuit of this relationship.

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The quoted conversations are all recent, and not actually (consciously) intended as flirtatious. RE: "Waaaay back", I definitely wasn't flirting with her, and even if she did have a crush on me back then she was just a teenager so it wouldn't have been anything serious--but if so it would explain some things things that have always puzzled me like why she is super-interested in my dating life, was really bummed out when I moved to Seattle, gets super excited at the idea of pranking me, and would get really upset when I lost interest in girls. ("My DAD married a human!" she yelled at me once. You'd have to be there to get the context.) Are there other explanations? Sure, it could just be normal psychological attachment behavior for red/blue personalities with introverted/excluder tendencies.

If y'all want to have a moonstruck conversation about feelings and romance and soulmates, maybe I'm asking in the wrong forum. I asked a simple factual question, was expecting a simple answer along the lines of "Sure, my older brothers and their friends would compliment me all the time and it felt great" or "'Beautiful' or 'great smile' is fine occasionally, but anything pointed or frequent is inappropriate for someone you're not romantically involved with." I didn't expect poking and prodding from people who were looking for a "real question" underlying the real question.

But, thank you for the data. Apparently you consider this "flirtation," and that tells me some of what I wanted to know.

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is her response to you normal? sure! she's 19! so whether she'd be open to a romantic relationship or not, she's at an age where she enjoys the attention of men. cousins are safe. she may see you as just that.... a safe person to learn the art of flirtatious manipulations with. of course, she may see you as more, but like you said, that would be something only she could answer.

but let me explain something about the psyche of a teenage girl. they are learning that they have a lot of power over men through their appearance, their actions, their words... they're learning that the fine art of subtlety goes a very long way. they're also trying to figure out exactly where their value lays, and this is critical that you understand something here.... they are bombarded with messages that sexiness and appearance is the summation of their worth, and in a few years, she's going to feel chewed up and used by the world. worse, ten years from now when she's approaching her 30s, (and later her 40s), she's going to see herself as washed up and worthless. if you give a darn about her, you need to start complementing her more on her intelligence and wit than on her shapely calves. right now she's eating up the compliments on her physical appearance, and that's going to get her motor running, so to speak. compliments like that can be a very powerful aphrodisiac... and that's exactly why her self-worth is going to plummet down the drain a few years down the road.

serendipity expressed that she'd have reservations if this flirtation had been going back to her early teens. to me, that's not an issue since she's now an adult, and since you never pursued anything romantic with her when she was still a child. i'm more about trying to get you to understand the way the mind of a 19 year old works and how her own choices, fueled by her need to feel as sexy as the latest victoria's secret model, can cause her enormous pain later. you are in a unique position to be able to help her realize her true worth as a human being... because mutual or not, you make her feel sexy and attractive, but she's also going to respect your opinion as a family member who is not just interested in only one thing. how you compliment her is going to be very important to her emotional growth.

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oh, and the SIMPLE answer to your question is yes. it's normal.

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LadyC, that's exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping to get. Thank you!

For what it's worth, I agree about physical compliments and try to minimize them. "Shapely calves" is NOT a normal fragment of our conversation, it was quite a random observation as a reaction to pictures she posted of a play she was in. Not representative of our usual conversation discourse, and quoted in this thread partly because it was so unusual. I also try to keep compliments on her intelligence moderate, because everyone notices that about her and she doesn't need any more pressure there--I try to recognize and appreciate her brains without making her feel like my affection for her is conditional on always being at the top of the class. (Edit: notice that I purposefully did not include "whip-smart" in "funny, perceptive, kind, and thoughtful too" in OP. I only mention it occasionally.) Hopefully she gets the right message--I think so, anyway.

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well, this discussion has reminded me of a couple of compliments from my younger days, and if you don't mind, i'm going to share them with you. i was in my early 20s... and i was a cocktail waitress at a pool hall. i learned really quick that the way to make the biggest tips is to act the part of the dumb blonde with big tits... not that i had those, LOL, but attitude is everything, right? anyway, one night at PWP (parents without partners), i was given a compliment by a very attractive guy. the conversation was about random things, and out of the blue, he said "by the way, you have very nice legs". he said it in such a matter of fact way, and (at least at that point in our fledgling relationship) he didn't give any other indication that he would be interested in pursuing me in a physical or romantic way. but to this day, that one little compliment is one that i credit with having a huge impact on me... because even though it was a physical compliment, and even though we later did become... something... (and we're still friends today), it was one of those things that seemed more like a comment he could have been making about a race horse. an appreciation of something without it being anything more than that. an appreciation. nothing sexual, nothing romantic. for the first time, a guy had complimented my body without making me feel like i had USDA Prime stamped on my thigh.

the second was just the opposite. one of my long term regular bar flies gave me a ride home from work one evening. i'd known him for years, but never outside the context of me serving him drinks and acting flirtatious. anyway, that evening he came into my home with me and we just sat and talked about all sorts of things. there was never any kind of romantic spark at all, it wasn't like that... it was just talking like two adults having a conversation about world events and politics and such. and when he was leaving, he said something that surprised me, but pleased me greatly... he said "ya know, you really aren't a dumb blonde at all!" LOL, i loved that! here again was someone who was not interested in me sexually, complimenting me. this time the compliment wasn't about my body (i'd gotten plenty of those from him and his barfly buddies over the years) but about my intellect.

those are the moments that a young woman never forgets.

give her lots of those kinds of moments, whether this ever progresses further or not.

it does make me think of one other compliment... i'd dated a guy for more than two years before he left me for someone else. our relationship, at least to him, had always been mostly about sex. i KNEW i had him there. i was like an addiction to him, although he never complimented me in any other way. but a few months after we'd broken up, he paid me a visit. i have no idea why he came over, but we stayed outside in the driveway in public view. before he left, he told me i was one of the most intelligent women he'd ever known. that was about 18 years ago. i've never seen or talked to him since that day.

guess that ranks right up there in terms of influence over my life. those kinds of compliments do a woman good.

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Wow, those are neat stories. Thanks for sharing. :)

By the way, it's really useful to hear the woman's side of these stories because what you are describing is exactly the kinds of experiences I want her to have, not just with me but with everybody. (I only have control over myself unfortunately, so I can't make 'everybody' do it.) And I want to make sure our interactions reinforce those kinds of feelings and self-perceptions and not undermine them. I may not end up expressing romantic interest in her after all... I'll digest the data and try to decide what would benefit her, and the other girls in my life, the most--which may mean staying platonic. In the highest sense of the term.

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you seem like one of the good guys to me.

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Thanks. Coming from a lady who is so obviously thoughtful and intelligent, that means a lot.

(I am dead serious about that, your personal qualities come through quite clearly in your writing.)

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