How do you tell someone who is cute to stop reminding people that they are cute?
September 13, 2012 12:22 AM   Subscribe

I have a good friend who has a very annoying habit of reminding everyone around her that she is cute. In almost any context, she can bring out the "but I'm cute, so ..." phrase in to the conversation. It's very unattractive. She's relatively young (mid-20s) and maybe doesn't realize that that kind of thing can really be tacky. How can I help her?

I've noticed this tendency for a while, and then tonight when I tried to pay her a compliment she just started talking about how sexy her boobs are. I got pissed off, and she noticed, but we didn't talk about it because I couldn't express why I was so irritated.

If I didn't care about her I'd just let it go. I do care about her, obviously, but I also don't want to be a dick. So below is the letter I've drafted to try to get this point across. Not quite gently, but I hope with the love that I have for this person (who is an explicitly platonic friend of the opposite gender -- me man, she woman). We are very comfortable and relaxed around each other, and yet this kind of thing still happens, which makes me fear that it probably happens even more in contexts where she isn't as sure of herself. But it also means that I may be the best person to help her.

Proposed letter follows. Thoughts?

You are cute. You are hot. You are sexy. You are attractive. You know this. So stop saying it. There are (for me) two ways to interpret it:

1) I'm more attractive than you.

2) I'm fishing for a compliment.

The first choice is just a constant re-iteration that I should feel bad about myself for not being "cute." I know this is not your intention, as I believe you have a heart of gold. I mean that. But this is a real, plausible interpretation. In any group of people, you are singling yourself out as "the hot one" when you say this. Even if it is true -- no, especially when it is true -- it is grating and potentially insulting. Maybe not at first, true. At first it was cute when you called yourself cute. But the consistent repetition hurts.

The second choice is less hurty, but may be a bit more shallow. I know you pretty well, though, and I'm pretty sure that you aren't insecure enough to require constant ego massaging. Sure, everyone is insecure to some degree, but I know that you know you are hot. You get a lot of attention, almost all of it good, and well-deserved. After all, you are hot (see above). So, not that, I think. Another reason to fish for a compliment is to make sure that the person you are talking to is noticing you in a more-than-friends way, but we've covered that, so I know this isn't the case. That leaves me with the first choice, which makes me feel bad about myself.

And even if I am wrong, and there is a completely different reason for saying it, keep this in mind: I've been thinking about this a while, and I'm pretty smart, and I love you and believe in the goodness of your heart and soul, and these are the interpretations I've come up with. So it kinda doesn't matter where it is coming from -- a joke, a habit, whatever -- the fact is, someone who knows you pretty well is writing this.

Everyone likes to feel special, and everyone likes to feel wanted, and everyone likes to feel attractive. I'm sure it is GREAT when people agree with you when you say "I'm cute." But when is ANYONE going disagree? It's a conversation stopper. There's nowhere to go from there. Plus, it makes it so that any time someone tries to give you a compliment, they are simply agreeing with you rather than saying something meaningful.

Which brings me to tonight, and the reason I was so frustrated.

If I didn't like you, I wouldn't hang out with you, no matter what you looked like. If you don't believe that, then there is no reason for us to be friends. When I give you a compliment, it is because I'm happy that a friend of mine looks particularly good -- and for you, that's no small feat! It does NOT mean that I can see your boobs, and therefore you look good. If you wear a shirt which shows off your boobs and nothing else, I'll try not to stare ("hey! boobs!"), and I'll probably either keep my mouth shut or try to come up with something funny to say about your boobs. At this point in our friendship I feel like that's sort of fair game, but if it isn't please let me know. I've asked in the past, and you've said it's fine, but tell me FOR REAL.

More importantly, boobs are not your best feature. Your best features include your laugh, and the way you revel in making and eating awesome food, and your wit, and the way you can completely relax and enjoy a quiet evening, and your adventurousness and love of travel, and your generosity towards the people you love, and how excited you get to show people great new music, and your work ethic, and how much you live (and love) to experience and learn new things. Plus my cat loves you, and he's a great judge of character.

So, when I gave you a compliment, and you immediately said "oh, it's because of these," and then I clarified and it seemed like you didn't fucking believe me, it made me wonder if you see me as a shallow, ugly, petty person who is following you around like a puppy dog because of your cup size, but who is convenient to have as a friend for now because I happen to like to cook and watch the same shows as you.

Of course I know you don't think that, but sometimes jokes can be dangerous. I don't know how much credibility I have with you now, and I don't know if I've gone too far, and I don't know if you'll even like me anymore. I struggled with this A LOT, but I want you to be with people who love you and who deserve your love, and I worry that people will be pushed away because they feel like you are constantly reminding them that you are awesome. You are awesome! Just be you! You ARE cute and hot and smart and no one needs to be reminded!

And when someone pays you a compliment, just say thank you.
posted by peripatetic007 to Human Relations (56 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This would make for a good conversation, not for a good letter/email.
posted by estlin at 12:25 AM on September 13, 2012 [23 favorites]

I think your email was actually pretty good. I would cut out the very last line because... well because that's something that men say to women in a lot of other contexts that are highly obnoxious, and you don't need it.

I noticed some framing that appeared in your post, but not in the email itself, that I think you should steer clear of. The framing of how this behavior is "unattractive" and also how you're bringing it up to "help" her. That is kind of condescending. I think it is way, WAY better to frame this exactly as you did in the email, that very simply the behavior makes you feel bad and it is off-putting.
posted by cairdeas at 12:31 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

From what you've said, I'm kind of unclear on why she needs your help on anything, at least not "behavior correction" - you haven't explained why any of this is actually a problem for her. The down side seems mostly theoretical prediction on your part.

If it annoys you, you should just say so: don't make it out as some sort of pro bono personality coaching you're offering up out of the goodness of your heart and your sublime fraternal love and respect for her.

I would say, as a better third option, just be cool with it. Don't task yourself with correcting the behavior of your friends. Try to be even more outrageously self-congratulatory and falsely modest than her, make a game of it. Make every time you get together an episode of the Peripatetic007 & Cuteboobs Show and imagine that there's a laugh track running.
posted by XMLicious at 12:41 AM on September 13, 2012 [24 favorites]

I wouldn't put this in an email. I would discuss it with her in person. Written communication about personal matters like that can be easily misinterpreted as far as tone, intent, etc. Next time she says it, you could tell her that you know she's super cute but are curious or puzzled (good words to help reduce the possibility of a defensive reaction) why she says that a lot. Then just let her reply, see what she says, and take the conversation forward from there in whatever direction it goes. I think the stuff you said about all the attributes that make her attractive and special should definitely be included in the conversation because it sounds like she's probably insecure and will appreciate that input. Then hopefully she'll get the message that yes she's cute but she's much more than cute and you would like your friendship with her to revolve around all those other attributes.
posted by Dansaman at 12:49 AM on September 13, 2012

So, when I gave you a compliment, and you immediately said "oh, it's because of these," and then I clarified and it seemed like you didn't fucking believe me, it made me wonder if you see me as a shallow, ugly, petty person who is following you around like a puppy dog because of your cup size, but who is convenient to have as a friend for now because I happen to like to cook and watch the same shows as you.

Honey - a lot of women are socialised to behave as objects and be seen as objects and/or a collection of body parts. It's not that she sees you as shallow, ugly or petty - it's just that a great big chunk of society is geared towards objectifying women. When you're young, this can fuck with your head.

So, it's not really about you.

She is working out where she fits into the world and it is this that is making her insecure.

Tell her more often how awesome she is. Specifically tell her that you like her laugh/her wit/etc. If she dismisses it say "no, it's true". Just keep doing that - that's all you need to do.

But don't send this letter - you have no idea how much women get told how to behave by pretty much everyone. Don't be that person. Just be her friend.
posted by heyjude at 12:53 AM on September 13, 2012 [53 favorites]

Why not, instead of this long letter, just ask her about it the next time she says it? Because, despite your theories about why she does this, it could really be anything, or even just some (maybe sorta annoying) conversational tic/habit she picked up from someone. Anyway, I think that opening up a conversation about it, and maybe picking the most salient of the reasons you don't enjoy this (like that it rather devalues a sincere compliment you were trying to give) is a better approach than detailing all the possible negative interpretations people might make about her motivations (and I don't even agree that most people would even assume those things). My 2 cents!
posted by parapluie at 12:54 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you send her this email you know she's free to forward it to other people and they're going to read it, right? And without any backstoryyou you're going to come off as, at best, a busybody. At worst a guy with a crush and some kind of madonna/ whore complex. Even if you're neither of those things.

Don't put this in an email dude.
posted by fshgrl at 1:01 AM on September 13, 2012 [28 favorites]

if i received that e-mail, it would seem like a really overwhelming response and would probably really upset me. next time she says something like that, why don't you just say 'yea, you know, you are hot. and cute. but please don't always remind me. I value other things about you- your laugh, eating together, your personality.

if she says it again, you can gently let her know 'hey being reminded that you're cute is spunky of you but it irritates me a bit...because it makes me feel like you think you're better than your friends or maybe that you're artificial, but I know you better than that'

If I ever talk about how cute I am it's when I'm feeling particularly self conscious and yes maybe I am fishing for a compliment (or rather, hoping for support of a friend to lift sagging self esteem) so be gentle or don't be surprised if she reacts strongly
posted by saraindc at 1:05 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

At worst a guy with a crush and some kind of madonna/ whore complex.

Yeah, I was gonna say - another thing you might consider is that if what you want to convey were written in more archaic language it would be a sermon on the virtue of humility and the sin of pride. Humility is certainly a good thing and all but to advise someone else about it is verging on an attitude of moral authority over them - like you're her priest or parent or village elder rather than a relationship of peers or friends.
posted by XMLicious at 1:18 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can't tell you how much I appreciate the thoughtful responses! I think the most important part about writing the letter was to help me understand my own negative responses. At first I couldn't tell why I got upset. Writing = catharsis.

I agree with those who say NOT to send the letter, but rather to bring it up in conversation in context and see where it goes from there. Sending something like this is likely making a mountain out of a mole hill, and could have lots of unintended consequences. Plus, so many things that can be communicated with tone of voice and body language are lost when written down. I'd rather be able to bring it up in a funny/joking way rather than make her feel bad about herself -- something I'm accusing her of doing in the letter! Whoops.

I definitely don't want to come across as some holier-than-thou busybody piling on a bunch of condescending advice to someone who gets plenty from our culture already, so I'm grateful to several of you for pointing out that potential pitfall.

Thank you Hive Mind - you are at your best in these moments.
posted by peripatetic007 at 1:19 AM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Old advice: Never put anything in writing that you would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper.
posted by Cranberry at 1:24 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

How can I help her?

By being a kind and gracious friend, who compliments the attributes that you actually think are most extraordinary, and only focuses on her physical appearance when it has direct relevance to the situation. Positive reinforcement only, basically.
posted by Mizu at 1:50 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think this is well-intentioned and well-reasoned from your point of view, but it's nearly impossible to pull off without turning it into a Hannibal lecture.

I assume you've been saying nothing and it hasn't worked. So the first time she says it in an evening, you could say "Yes, we will make that a matter of record," and the second and all subsequent times, "Ding". You need to keep it light, not heavy.
posted by tel3path at 2:03 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is more about you than her. You've turned a fairly harmless annoying tic into a big, serious Thing. If I were more into pyschoanalytics I'd say you are either in love with her, or deep down you harbor hostility/lack of respect for her because of her conventional attractiveness.
posted by yarly at 2:05 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

don't send her a damned essay on why this is annoying (and yes, it totally is). next time she says it, look her in the eye and reply, "yes, you are cute. but do you know what is not cute? you constantly reminding everyone that you are." and then drop it. if she does it again, i would say, "not right now you aren't" ad infinitum till she buys herself a clue.
posted by violetk at 2:16 AM on September 13, 2012 [42 favorites]

I've had two friends who constantly mentioned how cute/sexy they were. Both made a big deal about how many guys talked to them at a party/on the street/in the park (eeek!). Both flirted constantly and seemed very outgoing and confident. Both were very, very insecure underneath it all.

I wouldn't send the letter for many of the reasons listed above and I would encourage you to either ignore it or work on a more 'softly, softly' approach such as redirecting the conversation and emphasising that your friendship with her isn't based on her physical attractiveness. More compliments about how she's an awesome person, less compliments on her looks (more 'wow, you're such a thoughtful person', 'I'm happy to see you!' and steering away from 'Phwar! You look great in that dress').
posted by brambory at 2:33 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know, even really women who know objectively that other people find them attractive can have doubts about themselves. You'd be surprised how many attractive women go around saying how awesome they are because they ARE insecure about their looks. Beauty is something other people confer on you, not something you earn, and it can mess with your head, especially if you have self-esteem problems to begin with, or were brought up to be modest and self-deprecating, like a lot of us girls were. Taking a compliment gracefully is definitely a learned skill, and she has to get past all her own baggage before she can do that.

Which is to say that yes, maybe she does need to hear that she's attractive, no matter how confident she seems, and criticizing her for not taking compliments well is unkind coming from her good friend.

Or, looking at it from another perspective, if she's ALSO smart and funny and all those other things you wrote in your letter, you might want to ask yourself if you, her good friend, tend to only give her compliments on her looks? Because maybe the focus on her looks does make her uncomfortable, so all the, "I'm cute, right?" remarks and the pointed boob discussion* are her way of trying to get you to realize that's a weird dynamic for platonic friends, and could we maybe not focus on appearance so much?

I don't know if either of those reasons is why she does what she does. Maybe she doesn't know why she does it, either. I get why it bothers you, because I've been in those kinds of conversations myself, and I can tell you she's probably kicking herself even without you pointing it out to her in your letter.

Honestly, from your letter it does sound like maybe you might want to be more than just friends, though. I think you are wise not to send it.

*I swear I did not realize how badly I worded that until I reread what I wrote just now! HiLARious.
posted by misha at 2:44 AM on September 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I grew up in a household where my mom always would tell me how beautiful I was, and would always dress me up like a Barbie doll. Without even realizing it, when I got older, I started to tell everyone how cute and pretty I was to justify some of my comments or actions. Finally, one day a guy friend approached me and kindly said, "You're an adult now, you don't need to remind everyone that you're cute or beautiful. Everyone already knows it." It a was flattering statement, but at the same time the message was clear, so I stopped.
posted by nikkorizz at 2:55 AM on September 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

If I friend kept saying that to me, I'd laugh casually and say "I'm so cute? What are you, five years old?"

I used to have a friend that constantly reminded us how sexy and hot and edgy she was. Hands down one of the most insecure people I have met in my life and it was painfully obvious to everyone but her.
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:23 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ding training. Gently.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:12 AM on September 13, 2012

Really? I agree, this is more about you than her. Spend some time examining why this bothers you.

You have no standing in terms of wanting her to change who she is or how she communicates. Live with it or determine it bothers you too much to remain friends.
posted by HuronBob at 4:13 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I like the idea of bringing it up in person, but gently and briefly. "You've been saying that a lot lately. Why?" and maybe follow up with "how do you think it feels to a woman who is less attractive when you say that?" or "I hope you realize your best qualities have nothing to do with looks."
posted by bunderful at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

When you know someone is just desperately fishing for a compliment, go ahead and give it to them. "I'm so cute! Hee-hee!" would merit, "Absolutely adorable." Try to say it without spite or malice, and try not to sound like Eeyore.

You'll know you've succeeded when you hear, "I have it on good authority that I'm absolutely adorable." It's one step in the right direction. Just play the game and go on with your life. It costs you nothing.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:41 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm curious how long you've known this person, because sometimes people just get stuck on some weird thing like this for a little bit, then it stops. Like, for example, the two months that I said "right on" every other sentence.
posted by smirkyfodder at 4:41 AM on September 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

This whole email reads like you are bitter that she's not sleeping with you and you want to punish her for it by criticizing behavior that you used to find attractive when you thought you had a chance with her. Guys do this a lot; once they realize you won't fuck them it's all criticism and snarky comments about things they used to be cool with. God forbid you act like anything but a nun, if you're not sleeping with them you'd better wear unflattering sweaters and talk about Derrida or they're hurt and offended. It is fucked to suddenly expect someone to change because she won't sleep with you, it ruins friendships. If I got even a whiff of the attitude contained in that email I'd be done with you as a friend. Forever.

For your sake and hers, you need to take a giant, giant step back; stop thinking about this girl, her boobs, her self-esteem, and what you don't like about her; and maybe get some different friends until you can chill about this, possibly permanently.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:59 AM on September 13, 2012 [32 favorites]

If you said any of this to me, I would be unable to resist saying "Don't hate me 'cuz I'm beautiful."

But really I would avoid this whole topic. This is so emotionally fraught that even if it seems to go well she may always remember you as that person who criticized her personality. If you must do something about it, use a Least Reinforcing response (aka Shamu her) or try to train an incompatible behavior. TL;DR: Ignore things you don't want, encourage things you do want, and just relax and walk away if it's something you really can't tolerate.
posted by anaelith at 5:02 AM on September 13, 2012

Agreeing with everyone: don't send that long letter, especially since it's just as easily said in ten seconds. "I've noticed you have a habit of mentioning how cute you are, and it can get a little repetitive. Of course you're cute, so let that speak for itself!"

Do tread lightly. We don't know the history of your friendship, but if there is or was any sort of attraction on your part, that could easily complicate things. It's also possible she's not used to being platonic friends with a guy who isn't trying to hook up with her, and it's a little strange to her, so she's throwing out bait. (Don't accuse her of this. In fact, don't assume anything about her intentions. Just address what she's doing, with no elaboration or interpretation.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:13 AM on September 13, 2012

...I've been thinking about this a while, and I'm pretty smart, and I love you and believe in the goodness of your heart and soul, and these are the interpretations I've come up with.

First, I agree with everyone else who says your request to knock off the "I'm so cutes" would be best in conversation - particularly one where you don't go into all of the things you've said here if you can help it, as that seems either like a) overkill or b) more about you than the situation, as others have suggested (even though I would find it just as grating as you if a friend of mine were constantly complementing themselves about some particular thing). Something where you tell her she's an awesome person but that you'd love it if she could please dial back the frequent cuteness reminders around you ought to get you at least 90% of the way there.

That being said, this is probably not a thing, but just in case: reading the line above in your letter I wanted to suggest you do a quick check of your own language and behavior to make sure you're not guilty of constantly reminding people that you're a pretty smart guy ... again, I'm assuming this is just a one-off case, but it reads a little odd in a letter about why someone needs to stop with all the self-congratulations - and if it does happen a lot it might even be feeding in to your friend's behavior in a sort of retaliatory way ...
posted by DingoMutt at 5:19 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you aren't sure whether or not it's really ok to be talking with her about her breasts, I can almost guarantee that talking with her about this isn't going to go swimmingly. I agree with TYRR -- you seem way too caught up in this and the boundaries aren't where they should be.

People have irritating tics and habits, and mostly, in platonic friendship situations, it isn't ok to be correcting or changing people, though there are certainly exceptions. What she is doing is bothering you, but it's overall working for her -- she is getting something out of it. Chill out and don't bring it up unless it becomes crazy egregious or you guys become such close friends that you can have a touchy conversation like this with no worry of offense or miscommunication.
posted by Forktine at 5:21 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't like the email, because it's more about you than her. Or rather, too much about you.

You can read one of the books about having difficult conversations and use some of the templates therein.
posted by kellybird at 5:21 AM on September 13, 2012

Are you absolutely sure she doesn't have a crush on you? This is very crushy behavior, and the amount of "look, you're very pretty and I definitely like you" framing in your email implies that, on some level, you're aware of it.

The Young Rope Rider also has a point - even if you're sure she's not into you, lecturing her about this will make you come off as some kind of bitter lech.

It also comes off as a bit mansplainey. She's in her mid 20's. She can handle "what other people think of her" just fine. If she were fourteen, I could see pulling her aside. But really?

I've had female friends with this problem, and my solution -- as a woman -- has been to just generally try to inject a little bit of non-superficial positive reinforcement into my social circle. Rather than always going to the "you look so nice today" compliment, I'll say, "you crack me up!" or "I can't believe you're training for a marathon!" or some other personality or accomplishment based compliment. I want my girlfriends to know that I value them for being awesome people, not just for being gorgeous (though they all are, of course).
posted by Sara C. at 5:33 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

This sounds like clumsy flirting behavior. (Maybe she likes you, maybe she just likes to flirt.)

If not, she's just insecure, and getting someone to feel secure about themselves is a) very hard, b) a long-term project, and c) probably has to be done with actions, not words. If you're not very close friends, don't even attempt it.

Maybe some very gentle ribbing might make her more aware, but I think you probably should just ignore it when she does it. If it annoys you too much, then remember you are under no obligation to be friends with her.
posted by spaltavian at 5:59 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just re-read that letter. I'm a very well-endowed lady and I would be seriously creeped out by the intense focus on my breasts. Please don't send it.

Plus, calling them "boobs" sounds pretty juvenile if you're trying to be serious.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:27 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

The fact you're writing her this letter to correct her behavior is creepy and ridiculous. If you find her annoying, don't hang out with her.
posted by discopolo at 6:39 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

We can still say "mansplaining" around here, right?

The indentations from my keyboard on my forehead hurt, man. Don't send that letter or email or whatever. If she says something like this again, then maybe say something. Don't tell your friends how to live and act. Men telling women how to be women is what we call mansplaining, and it's not cool. It's significantly more not cool than whatever flirty stupid things your friend says.

I agree that compliment fishers are annoying, but don't send that letter.

It's okay to tell your friend (of either gender) what to do if they're engaging in dangerous behavior, but this is the sort of thing you should let go.

The fact you're writing her this letter to correct her behavior is creepy and ridiculous.

This. Times a million.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:43 AM on September 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

You may not be able to help her. "Cute" is the kind of thing said to small children, so I am guessing she was probably brainwashed at a really young age, which tends to be a very intractable thing. This was apparently a message I got as a toddler, around age three, in a "everything you do, including farting and behavior that in anyone else would be viewed as being an obnoxious asshole, is So Cute!!!" kind of way.

Going down in flames for many months during public withdrawal from medication in my thirties was my first baffling hint that other people no longer think I am Cute when I burp, fart, swear, and point out The Obvious ("the emperor has no clothes!"). I am 47. I am still working on coming to terms with this. (There should be a charity devoted to educating parents that this is a very damaging thing to do to a kid.)

Telling her might be a good thing. But I am guessing you will get the deer in the headlights look. My sons are helping me get over this. One effective approach has been to remind me of the downside of being Cute (like being molested as a toddler and raped as a twelve year old). I still have difficulty with the idea that my "cute" face + personality combo isn't some magic shield of goodness with no downside (and never mind that I know what I look like these days and it isn't that "cute" anymore).

So I think you might get better results by planning to opportunistically point out negative effects of her "cuteness" when you notice them. This will take patience and require a certain neutrality of tone, but it has been the most effective thing done for me. Going down in flames, while informative in some sense, really wasn't that helpful in motivating me to change (for, no doubt, complicated reasons). Being "mean" about this may just alienate her rather than get her to change. But getting her to see this more objectively might be genuinely helpful to her.
posted by Michele in California at 7:51 AM on September 13, 2012

Yeah, the letter is way too much.

When someone does something like this around me, I usually say, "thanks for keeping me in the loop."
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

The reason why your friend's going with this line of conversation's pretty ambiguous from where I'm standing, but that puts me in the same situation as both you and her. Firstly, as everyone has said in various different ways, in the context of one platonic friendship, your letter would be making a mountain out of a crumb of dirt that fell off a molehill.

But I doubt your friend is talking about how cute she is to everyone. So there's a reason it's to you. I'm going to guess there's an element of flirting and romantic attraction involved, so have a think about that. It doesn't mean that you have to date each other or anything, just keep an eye out for what feelings you're feeling and what feelings she's indicating.

The most important reason it's manifesting like this, though? In my opinion it's because she's aware that she's close to the top of the leaderboard on this whole 'being cute' thing that women tend to get scored on, and it's a bit confusing for her because it doesn't really seem to make much difference. It's meant to be this great thing which means you have the world at your feet, and as it turns out all that happens is that
  1. quite a lot of people treat you normally
  2. & quite a lot of people give you a little more attention than otherwise, but not so you notice.
  3. Then there's the remainder of people:
  4. people who suddenly think you're too pretty for them to talk to,
  5. people who think that because you're pretty that means you're occupying that body with the sole purpose of attracting them,
  6. and people who think that you're occupying that body solely as a rebuke to their own (normally pretty attractive) body.
So you do need to find a way to say "yes, you're attractive, but let's move on", because there's no scale on which you can compare "cute nose" with "voracious intellectual curiosity", so the point you need to make is along the lines of "yeah, you're great at tennis, but we're playing frisbee here, so let's talk about how you're great at that".

Also, you might want to see the answers given here to someone in a similar situation to your friend.
posted by ambrosen at 8:27 AM on September 13, 2012

"[situation], but I'm cute, so [action]."

"I know what you mean. I'm a very handsome man, so I can [action], too."


"[situation], but I'm cute, so [action]."

"Yeah, I'm a very handsome man, which lets me [action] in that [situation] too."


"Look at how amazing my breasts are, I look sexy and fantastic [and on and on way past the point of reasonableness]"

"That reminds me, you should see how sexy and fantastic my ass looks. I mean, really, look at it, just look at it. Sexy and fantastic."


Always with a smile, always as a joke, and you're going to get one of these reactions:

1. "What are you talking about, you're not attractive", thus revealing that she's vain and rude, and so you get to respond directly: "Listen to yourself. You talk all the time about how attractive you are, which is obnoxious, by the way, but when I compliment myself, you insult me. You need to get over yourself, and at the very least, you owe me an apology."

2. "Hah, fair enough", thus revealing that she's just recognized her own obnoxiousness, and is copping to it. There's hope!

3. She takes it at face value, and perhaps even compliments you, in which case, hey, at least you're getting some compliments in return for putting up with her behavior.
posted by davejay at 8:40 AM on September 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

"You ARE cute! But you know what? Telling everybody that you are cute all the time makes you NOT CUTE."
posted by No Shmoobles at 8:40 AM on September 13, 2012

If you were insulted because she took your sincere compliment and made it gross, you can say so, but you kind of need to do it at the time. Just like, "Whoa, why are you accusing me of that?" If you're offended, BE offended.

This also suggests, without a lecture, that maybe it's not the coolest thing ever when people only value you for lumps of flesh.

There may come a moment where "but character matters more" after one of her cute assertions might send the same message. But it really isn't your place to tell her how to be, all you can do is try to correct her assumptions about you personally.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2012

I don't need someone to tell me "You're not attractive to me when you do X," unless it's my boyfriend and X is farting on his face or something. If some friend took it upon themselves to tell me at great length, or really even at all, that a certain behavior or phrase of mine made me unattractive to them, I would consider them obnoxious, presumptuous, rude, cruel and possibly even a little psycho. Your and her mileage may vary, but I think commenting on this may end up backfiring for your friendship and causing her a great deal of insecurity for years to come.
posted by crackingdes at 8:50 AM on September 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

a friend of mine looks particularly good -- and for you, that's no small feat!

This sounds like "I know how hard it is for you to look nice - you must have put a lot of time into getting ready."

nthing most of what's above, but this phrasing struck me as something you didn't intend to say.
posted by catlet at 8:53 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know I'm kind of adding on, but I really felt like your (potential) response was much more obnoxious than her behavior (and comes across quite a bit more than friendly, too), so I'm really glad that you took the comments about the tone and delivery to heart.

That being said, I have a good friend who did that "but I'm cute!" mess quite often, and at some point I just said, "that's not cute." Just kind of deadpan, not snappish or anything, and she looked a little startled. The next time she said it, I just gave her a look. Honestly, that was the end of that.

Although to be fair, I did understand the context of why she was saying it, and it doesn't sound like you do, so that may not be the most sensitive response to someone who is deeply insecure, for example.
posted by sm1tten at 9:03 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Next time she says, "It's because I'm so cute!" why can't you just say, "No, it's because you really ARE just a damned good knitter of hats," or "Well, even if you were toothless and splotchy, you'd still have an awesome sense of humor." If you really care about her as much as you want this letter to intimate (which it doesn't, by the way -- it comes off as really self-absorbed), don't you want to reinforce the good, positive, self-esteem-building things and tone down the focus on physical attractiveness? Because, for a letter about how unimportant physical attractiveness is to your relationship, this sure is focused on exactly that.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:10 AM on September 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

As has been said above, the letter is on some creepy shit.

But it also means that I may be the best person to help her.

The problem here is that you give no indication that this behavior is creating any negative consequences outside of your periodic annoyance, but you're talking about the behavior as though it's objectively bad and obviously something she should want to stop doing.

You may be reading a lot into a weird habit she has. These things happen. Don't talk about helping her like she's in a bad situation or something. If she starts losing friends over this (not including you), then maybe (and only if she asks you for your opinion), bring up that she does this thing. But if it's just you then it's just you.

As far as how to handle it: What you say to her is what you say to anyone you're friends with who's being weird about taking a compliment, regardless of the form the weirdness takes:

"Yo, take a damn compliment."

And then leave it at that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:28 AM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

TL;DR: ignore it into extinction.

I'm glad you don't actually think it's a good idea to send the letter. And while I agree that ding "training" is kind of a gross way to put it, I do think that the simplest and most effective way to deal with it is to succinctly express displeasure and ignore. In other words, when she does it, just (quietly, not making a big deal of it, not making it about you)* say "Ugh" and turn away. Just an immediate expression of your distaste for the behavior will get it out of your system without making it a PROBLEM TO SOLVE. And insures the behavior doesn't get reinforced by turning into a conversation about her/her looks.

*I have a personality such that I can pull off mild distaste like this (and often do!) with humor and without seeming insulting or like a huge, condescending asshole (AFAIK!). YMMV.
posted by EL-O-ESS at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2012

I haven't read all the responses, but you're a guy. She's a woman. You had better be lifelong, bestest friends before you say anything about this. Otherwise, it's seriously creepy. Young women get enough crap about how they're not living up to the expectations of men in their lives. Don't add to it.

However, if you're annoyed and it's in the moment, you can say "yes, we all know you're cute. No need to make the rest of us feel bad" or something similarly flippant and light.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:18 AM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Eh, I knew someone who used to say she was cold every two or three minutes. It was annoying, because it was an insignificant remark that nonetheless repeatedly demanded my attention. After a while I said something like "thanks for keeping me in the loop".

I knew a guy who did something like what your friend was doing, and it was a form of hurtful teasing. If I'd reacted he would have triumphantly accused me of the crime of Having Feelings, and not accepting that he was Taken and I Couldn't Have Him. I didn't play, so he took his ball and went home.

If this were just an annoying habit I doubt you would feel tempted to write a letter. One of you may have an agenda. Either way, I agree that mansplaining your way out of this would not be a good thing.
posted by tel3path at 11:41 AM on September 13, 2012

Do you need to fix other friends, or just her?

Don't send the letter. She might pass it around.

Writing it was a good idea, though, because that's a good way to organize thoughts and feelings. This is the sort of thing a person can usefully do in his personal journal. Later on down the road you can look back and compare your ideas with what you decided to do.

I once tried to give my best friend some advice about his girlfriend, and ended up getting punched in the mouth for my trouble. Our friendship survived both the punch in the mouth and the girlfriend. I didn't write out my thoughts beforehand, you see, so that I could get a better idea how they fit into the real world. I was right about her, but I got punched in the mouth, is what I'm saying. I sometimes wonder how it would have work out if I had been wrong.
posted by mule98J at 12:34 PM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I kind of like the letter. How long have you been friends? If a long time, I might send it (minus the last line). If you can revise it to make it a little less sharp, that might help too.

I have a feeling she does do this for self-esteem reasons, and so two good ways to solve that are to 1) tell her some genuinely good things about her self that aren't appearance related (as you've done), or 2) use "that's not cute" (next time she starts in). The second one is a little mean but will probably get her to realize she's being kind of needy. The first one, I like better-- it gives her what she wants (validation, but not in a shallow way, a look inside someone's head) in a way that will probably last. If you make the letter more kind and less about her "annoying" traits then it might be a good memory. Having touchstones like "oh, people like my enthusiasm about music" or "I'm a good cook" are really useful when you have self-esteem issues and try to solve them through appearance.

But yeah, you should be good friends before you try this. If she doesn't really trust you now this may go very awry.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2012

I agree with the above that fixing her behavior isn't your job or place but there is one part of your post I do think it is reasonable to address.

It sounds to me like you got your feelings hurt and felt unheard when you tried to compliment her and she breezed right over it and started to make excuses/reasons for why you would say something about her appearance. It never feels good when people seem to be assuming how we think or feel about something, especially when we feel they are misunderstanding us.

That to me is the kind of communication/ intimacy problem you can talk to a friend about. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to say to her that when you complimented her you felt unheard when she started to state her assumed reasons for your comment. Tell her you would appreciate if she would acknowledge you for your comment and then if she had questions or ideas about why you said that she could ask you and that you would be happy to tell her.

If you want to stay friends and perhaps even deepen the friendship I would suggest addressing this point in some way or another.
posted by the pink tree at 2:39 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I can see how this would be annoying. That said, considering how many women are more likely to say things about "how fat" they are, or how they "aren't pretty like Angelina Jolie" or "not whatever enough," frankly, I'm totally down with someone owning the hell out of their hotness. She's young, so at some point, it'll be good for her to start owning her smarts or rad origami skills, but shit. Women are socialized to put themselves down all the time, and she boosts herself up. Way to go! As someone with a spectacular rack, I'm down with that.

Also - this proposed email indicates that this is all about you and your issues. Not her. Why is that?
posted by vivid postcard at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

[Reminder: please be helpful and productive with your advice. If you are just dropping in to insult the poster, this is absolutely not what Ask Metafilter is for. Also, if you'd like to offer further help or suggestions, do note that the OP has responded with an update.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:28 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two questions:

tonight when I tried to pay her a compliment

1) What kind of compliment did you pay her just then? You say she's always focused on her own cuteness, but your one example didn't take place in a vacuum. Women occupy an intensely scrutinized social space that men generally don't have to worry/think about. If all of society is stressing the importance of her looks, and even you occasionally focus on her appearance as well, I don't think it's quite fair of you to get too upset if she tries to direct the attention to her perceived "strengths"-- she's not the source of this type of attitude so much as she's just reacting to being a target. Even the compliments about her non-physical assets may put her on her heels a bit, so...

2) Could you try easing off the compliments entirely? I don't know you, of course, but how often do you pay physical compliments to your "explicitly platonic" male friends? You could direct your positive comments to the experiences you two share together-- how wonderful the meal/trip/concert was, not how great she looks and behaves. Why would you need to offer your personal assessment of her perceived positive points at all? Enjoy your time with her, but if she goes fishing for compliments, make it your policy to not bite.
posted by tyro urge at 4:24 PM on September 17, 2012

Are you attracted to her? It's an awfully long email.

I would just wait til the next time she says it, and when she does, tell her that it bothers you and why in a simple (say, 2 to 3 sentences) manner. I would hold off on speculating about her motivations. Better to ask her in an open-ended way why she does it then paint in all the little details in her frame of mind. On some level, it's probably that she's insecure. If you broach the topic in the right way, you could end up having an open conversation with her and becoming closer by understanding her and being sincere with each other.

There's quite a bit in there about you reading the situation as her thinking you're unattractive. I would definitely refrain from telling her that you assume that's what she's thinking, but I would encourage you to try to unpackage this for yourself and get over it if possible. Also, you should ask her out if you find her attractive. It sounds like she may like you, in her awkward way.
posted by mermily at 4:53 PM on January 24, 2013

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