Why she slapped him

I sometimes get emails from people asking for etiquette advice. This week I received a pretty interesting one. This is what “John” (name changed to protect the guilty) wrote:

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.  Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

I met a really attractive and intelligent woman at a holiday party last weekend.  It was a public event at an art gallery.  She was a high school teacher in her early thirties (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!, she 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 email 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?  To be true to the spirit of the holidays, I want to do the right thing.

This is how I responded:

Hello John,

Well it sounds like you are in quite a pickle. Commenting on a woman’s figure, even if it’s positive, is rude. It’s personal and in effect reduces a woman to a sex object. Do women want to have nice figures? Yes, but to have a strange man comment on your body says he is focused on the wrong things.

Let me see if I can make an analogy. It’s along the lines of a woman saying to a man she just met, “you look like you make a lot of money. I like that in a guy.” Did that make you squirm a little bit? What if you don’t make a lot of money, would you worry you couldn’t measure up? What if you do earn a substantial salary, you might wonder if she’s just a gold digger. Do you see where I’m going here?

I think you’ve blown it with this woman. It would be courteous to send an apology email but only if you truly do mean it and you don’t have any expectations for a reply. If she does reply nicely that would be great. If not, you did the right thing; just make sure you never comment on a woman’s figure until you are dating and know her well.

Good luck.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Do you think John was out of line commenting on this woman’s figure or did the woman overact?

There is an update to this post. Further developments in this interesting story. Read the latest news here.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Karen on December 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    It’s quite fitting that she’s a teacher since she taught him a lesson he’ll never forget 😉 I agree that it’s very bad form for a man to comment on a woman’s figure within the first half hour of meeting her. I can completely understand her frustration level when the conversation degenerated into a thinly veiled discussion of her “assets”. I think he got precisely what he deserved and I admire her assertiveness. Gotta give her some style points with the slap, nice retro touch there…hehehe. I’m curious if he sent her an apology and if she replied. Could you keep us updated?

  2. Debra Birt on December 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Hi Arden! Happy holidays!
    I just had to weigh in on this one. Although it might be disturbing to have your figure commented on by someone you’ve just met, I think she completely overreacted and was far more rude. To resort to physical violence was uncalled for and a real diva move. I think he should be glad to have found out immediately how inappropiate she can be. Who wants to deal with someone who flies off the handle like that? Beauty is as beauty does… And if I were him, I wouldn’t contact her for any reason, not even an apology. If she had stuck around to explain why the comment offended her, she would have heard an apology. But she physically assaulted him and then walked away. He owes her nothing, in my book and he would only be looking for trouble if he contacts her. I mean, doesn he really still think there is something to be gained by an apology? Does he really hope it will change things and they could ever date? Or he’s somehow a “bigger person” by being nice to her? I think the gesture would be lost on her or would open the door to someone who is mentally unbalanced.

  3. Karen on December 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I fully understand Debra’s point and I don’t want to sound like I condone violence of any sort. But unless she hauled off and smacked him with all her might, I don’t consider a slap in the face to be violence. I think she was just trying to send a strong message that his words were unacceptable. Based on what he said, it doesn’t sound like he was really hurt by the slap. It is true that if roles were reversed and he had slapped her, it might be considered an act of violence, so there is a double standard there. But there are double standards that work against women as well.

  4. Arden Clise on December 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you for your comments Karen. I agree with you that he was out of line. He did apologize to her and he shared what she wrote back. He was impressesd by how classy and thorough her response was. She essentially thanked him for the apology but said she wasn’t interested in seeing him again. Stated he offended her by “sizing her up” and that “she likes to be appreciated for who she is, and not how well she can fill out a skirt.” She hoped he learned a lesson not to do this again. And, I think he has.

  5. Jessica on December 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Arden – I think you are correct. And I’m actually glad for the clarification. I too have felt uncomfortable if a man focuses on my figure, even if it is a compliment. But had wondered of the validity as women always want compliments, right? The slapping,I would have savide it for something something more crass. Always a gutsy move. All in all, excellent response.

  6. Arden Clise on December 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Hi Debra,
    Thank you for your comment. Perhaps the slap was a bit much, but I think as women we are often sexualized by men even in seemingly complimentary comments and we usually smile and laugh. But inside, speaking for myself, it eats away at me. Makes me feel less than because I have been sexualized. I agree with the teacher that it’s not appropriate to comment on a woman’s body when you don’t know her.

  7. Lauren on December 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Arden,

    I think we can all agree that he made a really bad judgment call by verbalizing what he was thinking.

    Regardless of whether he made a bad judgment call or not, I do think that slapping him was completely out of line. Whether he was offensive or not, I think her response was inappropriate. If I slapped someone every time I was personally offended, I’d be slapping clients, customers, family, friends…I mean really, slapping someone for complimenting your figure? That’s over the top.

    Thanks for listening!

  8. Michelle Goerdel on December 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I have to agree with Lauren on this. If I slapped everyone who personally offended me I’d have a sore hand by the end of the day. I just can’t condone the double standard of saying its okay for a woman to slap a man in public but it would never be condoned for a man to slap a woman.

  9. Carole on December 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Great discussion.

    If John was interested in seeing this woman for the possibility of getting into a serious relationship, then his comment was out of line. If he was looking for a one-night stand…well, he got his answer. I thought John’s comment showed a lack of maturity and experience in serious relationships with women that extend beyond sex. Whichever way he meant the compliment, and however tactfully or furtively he phrased it, it still came out the same: “kowbunga, what nice knockers, babe!”. Some women are complimented by this and others are not. If John is only disappointed that he didn’t score, then he should continue to make such remarks. If he is thinking seriously about finding a lifelong partner, he needs to consider a change in approach.

    As far as whether or not she over-reacted, I think only she can answer that question. She obviously came back for the slap, so it wasn’t exactly a knee-jerk…she thought about it for a moment. My guess is that, as a well-endowed woman who is serious and goes out of her way to dress “not provocatively” and therfore indicate the type of relationship she is after, then she is probably sick and tired of getting hit on and whether in a moment possibilty fueled by alcohol or a conscious decision to let him know just how strongly she felt, simply did what she felt she had to do. Would I do it? As the French say, “Ca depends” (it depends). Basically I thought it showed courage on her part and I wouldn’t fault her for it. A man can slap a woman or punch another guy, if appropriate. I don’t see a double standard.

  10. Karen on December 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Carole, I agree with everything you said except for the following:

    “A man can slap a woman or punch another guy, if appropriate. I don’t see a double standard.”

    I think there is definitely a double standard. If a man slaps a woman in a public setting, it would be viewed as s violent, abusive act and there is a good chance that someone would call security. In the reverse scenario, there might be a few raised eyebrows but that’s about it, and in fact, many might take the woman’s side and assume the man did something to deserve it.

  11. John on December 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    This is John, the original poster, i.e. the offender 😉 I just wanted to say that I appreciate all of the great feedback. This has been a valuable learning experience for me.

    To clarify some things, I guess I just felt we had a good comfort level and she seemed laid back and comfortable in her own skin, and I thought she would be receptive to the compliment. I didn’t intend to be sleazy, though I guess it came off that way, but I did want to be a little flirtatious. I guess it can be tricky to strike a balance.

    Yes, she was “well endowed” as another poster remarked, so maybe to her “nice hourglass figure” got translated as “nice rack”. It all happened so quickly and my first thought was she was just hyper-sensitive about her body, maybe weight conscious, etc., but when she came back to slap me I realized it had to be something more serious. Btw, I think there are legitimate views here on both sides of the “slap” issue. FWIW, at worst it stung a little and was embarrassing, but that was about it. On the plus side, if she hadn’t come back to slap me, I would have just thought she was a little neurotic about her looks, and I would probably not have contacted Arden, and then contacted the woman, to find out why she was so upset. So in that sense, the slap was a good wake-up call, and it caused me to look deeper. But again, I respect both points of view on that. I did leave the party shortly thereafter out of respect for her since I thought she might feel uncomfortable with me around. Plus, my opportunities to meet other women after that episode were essentially nil 😉

  12. Arden Clise on December 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Lots of great comments. I have to agree that slapping is never appropriate whether you’re a woman or a man. But, it’s interesting to note that the slap is what got John’s attention. As he says above, he would not have asked me for advice or emailed the woman who slapped him had she not slappped him.

    John learned a valuable lesson, that commenting on a woman’s body when you just meet is not a good idea, it sexualizes her and is simply bad manners.

    As Jessica stated, she realized by reading the post that she is justified in feeling uncomfortable at having her body commented on by men even if it’s a compliment. We have a right to be outraged at being treated as sex objects. Ms. teacher was obviously fed up with this treatment.

  13. Karen on December 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm


    That’s a great point. He said she was in her early thirties. Maybe she’s had to deal with those sorts of comments for a long time and this was the last straw and she finally lost her cool. Especially after things started out so well with their conversation, plans for coffee, etc…from her standpoint, but it must have been extremely frustrating and disappointing.

  14. Carole on December 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Karen, I agree that there is a double standard. What I said was “I don’t see a double standard.”

    In other words, while the double standard exists, I personally view things another way.

    While I agree that it is not generally appropriate to slap someone, in some cases it will necessarily and most succinctly get someone’s attention, as it seemd to in this case.

    Ca depends.

  15. Karen on December 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Ah, I gotcha Carole, now it’s makes more sense. Btw, he actually sounds like a very reasonable guy, so who knows, maybe she did over-react. But, at the end of the day, he seems grateful for having learned a valuable lesson in talking to women.

    I found his final comment rather humorous. I suppose such a scene would not be beneficial for his prospects of meeting other women there…hehehe

  16. Karen S on January 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Many good points have been made and I agree – the remark was inappropriate on John’s part. I do however commend him for seeking Arden’s advice and getting better informed about how to handle himself in the presence of a woman he’s interested in. Many guys would not have the humility to question whether they were out of place and would use a experience like this to fuel misunderstanding or just lose their confidence with women.

  17. Karen S on January 6, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Arden, you make quite a good advice columnist 🙂

  18. Ericka on January 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    “I do however commend him for seeking Arden’s advice and getting better informed about how to handle himself in the presence of a woman he’s interested in. Many guys would not have the humility to question whether they were out of place and would use a experience like this to fuel misunderstanding or just lose their confidence with women.”

    Karen S., you summarized that so well. I’m actually the woman who “John” offended that night. The fact that he sought advice and showed the humility you mentioned was very impressive to me. If he were truly a womanizing jerk, he would not have responded that way. I knew at that point, that he had to be man of integrity who just made a misstep. This story should be encouraging to other men out there….even if things go horribly wrong at first when you meet a woman, it’s often salvageable if you show genuine concern.

  19. Ericka on January 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Oops, I’m sorry. I should have waited for Arden to update this story. My note above will make more sense at that point.

  20. Arden Clise on January 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks for the nudge Ericka.

    Hey everyone, there is an update to this story. I think you’ll enjoy reading it. Here’s the link: https://cliseetiquette.com/2011/01/06/slapped-part-2-happy/

    Karen, thank you for your your comment. Yes,nicely put. Thanks also for the compliment. You think the Oprah Winfrey Network needs an etiquette advice show? 😉

  21. Carole on January 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I’m getting this image: a roomful of people talking too loud, spilling things on other each other, even rolling on the floor and fistfighting. In other words, general mayhem!

    Along comes Arden, Etiquette Consultant.

    The room is transformed. Considerate souls are now engaged in interesting conversation and toast one another, lightly clinking their glasses and saying “thank you”.

    Arden smiles upon the room, flips her cape over her shoulder, and looks for another room to save.

  22. Arden Clise on January 9, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Ha, if only Carole!

  23. stephanien1980 on January 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Arden. My son is sixteen and just started dating girls. Do you think I should have him read this story? I thought it might be instructional for him regarding the do’s and don’t’s when talking to females.

  24. ArdenClise on January 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Hi Stephanie, it somewhat depends on your son. If he is mature for his age and you would feel comfortable talking about the article with him then I think it could be helpful. But if talking about a woman’s figure would make him uncomfortable you might want to wait a bit. I hope that helps.

    Thank you for visiting.

  25. stephanien1980 on January 19, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    @ArdenClise Thanks 🙂 You make a great point and I will have to think on it a bit
    more. I guess I’m just fearful that one night after a date he’ll come
    home with a red hand print on his cheek, lol, and I’ll feel like I
    could have done/said something to prevent that from happening 😉

  26. stephanien1980 on January 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    @ArdenClise Just wanted to fill you in. He read the story and thought it provided a great lesson on how to talk to girls. Perhaps it quite timely too. He showed me a picture on facebook of the girl he’s taking to the movies. Very pretty girl, and well, she’s quite buxom as well, so he would be well advised to not comment on her figure as she probably gets a lot of unwelcome attention. Btw, is there something in the water?! lol Seems like girls are more developed these days but maybe it’s just my imagination.

  27. Valerie Parker on January 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Oh goodness. I’m sure the young man meant well. We women can be extremely sensitive and have a tendency to over-react. I’m certainly not alone in that regard. I once slapped a guy I had just broken up with because he was not the least bit upset that I broke up with him. How crazy is that?! The story doesnt end there. He actually sent me an apology card and flowers. I often wonder if that young man truly understood what he was apologizing for. lol! We ladies can certainly be a handful 😉

  28. ArdenClise on January 17, 2013 at 11:40 am

    @Valerie Parker
     Hi Valerie, what a funny story. Yes, we women can be complicated creatures. I don’t advocate slapping anyone. But I do think it’s important to let someone, man or woman know when they have crossed a personal line and are being inappropriate.
    Thanks for visiting.

  29. Valerie Parker on January 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    @ArdenClise Agreed Arden 🙂 The incident I described happened back in college when I was much more high strung emotionally. Out of curiosity, I googled that young man and discovered he’s now a college professor of engineering. I wonder if his academic pursuits were as challenging as understanding women His email address was listed. I’m tempted to send him a brief note to say hi 🙂

  30. ArdenClise on January 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    @Valerie Parker
     Hmmm, I think that might be a little intrusive even though you can access his email address. I’d suggest not contacting him.

  31. Valerie Parker on January 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    @ArdenClise Good advice. I could only imagine how he might react when he saw my name in his inbox 😉

  32. Allen on July 14, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Oh wow, does this make me take a look in the mirror. I used to be 1 of those guys, and pretty cocky about it. I knew guys in HS and college who’d gotten slapped by cute females for 1 reason or another. I’d always laughed, because it hadn’t happened to me. One day, pretty cute brunette sophomore girl in college, I pretty much did the same thing this guy did. I remember having a smug look. She gasped, “Ugh?”, out hung her right hand, and I was so smug I actually was going to try to block her hand. Couldn’t, too fast for me, all I could do was look at her with my jaw dropped. Got my face turned to the side, red cheek. That was the last time I ever did that.

  33. Arden on August 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Allen, sometimes the best lessons are the hardest learned. Glad you did learn and no longer make the same mistake. Good for you.

  34. Chris on April 1, 2019 at 12:34 am

    My God. Imagine if the roles were reversed.

    Woman: I like the shape of your a**.

    Man slaps her because he’s offended by being reduced to a sex object.

    What a joke you women are.

    She slapped him for what he “said”.

    The fault lays with her, as soon as she slapped him, her “victimhood” ended.

    Remember this ladies…equality comes with rights, and lefts.

  35. Jeff Brennan on December 31, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    Great story. The link to part 2 is a 404 (Sorry! That page doesn’t seem to exist.)

  36. Arden on January 1, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Jeff, thank you for letting me know. It’s now working. Try this link: https://cliseetiquette.com/slapped-part-2-happy/

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