Civility: Comment gets a slap in the face

Part One: Did he say the wrong thing?

Dear Readers: I want to share a three-day dialogue recently conducted between Blaine, Briar and myself. I have changed their names to protect their privacy. I think that you will find these next few articles fascinating. It is about the start of a relationship that almost didn't happen because two people unknowingly failed to practice civility, the ultimate relationship skill, when they first met.

Dear Diana,

My name is Blaine and I just discovered your website today. I'm not sure if you can offer advice on my situation, which I suppose is in the realm of manners and etiquette, but I thought I'd give it a try, since I was too embarrassed to tell my friends about it. If you have the time and the interest, I describe the incident below. Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

I met a really attractive and intelligent woman at a holiday party a few weeks ago. It was a public event at an art gallery. She is a high-school teacher in her early 30s (I'm 27) and seemed very nice. She had classic curves and was wearing an outfit that flattered her figure, but was also respectable and not provocative. We had been talking for about a half hour and really seemed to develop a great rapport. We had even made tentative plans to meet for coffee sometime.

Then, things suddenly went downhill. There was a pause in the conversation and I commented that she had a "really nice, hourglass figure." I thought she would take it as a compliment, but instead, she became deeply offended. She said, "Excuse me? Why are you talking about my figure?"

I went into damage-control mode and tried to clarify my comments, but I think I only exacerbated things as she rolled her eyes and shook her head. She told me I was being "inappropriate" and that she was "very disappointed" and started to walk away. Then she came back and with a look of complete disgust, WHAP, e slapped my face and departed.

As I stood there alone rubbing my cheek, I was trying to figure out why she was so upset. It seemed like a harmless comment to me, but maybe I don't understand women as well I should. I do have her e-mail address. Do you think I should send her an apology note? Or should I interpret the slap in the face as a definitive way of saying she wants no further contact?




I will continue this dialogue in coming weeks — Diana

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, etiquette & civility specialist/image stylist, can be contacted at (626) 584-9761, e-mail: or

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