Don’t worry, faithful readers. I haven’t forgotten about the second half of the last post. Stay tuned.
I saw the movie Just Wright on Friday. For those unfamiliar, it’s a romantic sort-of-comedy, sort-of-drama starring Queen Latifah, Common, and Paula Patton as a physical therapist, NBA star, and gold-digger, respectively. Obviously, Queen Latifah and Common’s characters end up together at the end, but not before navigating a shapely bump in the road called Paula Patton. In this case, Patton’s character’s gold-digging strikes very close to home since she is Latifah’s character’s godsister.
Although the script never fleshes the characters out much beyond the surface, a lot of women will be able to relate to Latifah’s Leslie, who is always passed over by men for Patton’s Morgan and long ago learned to accept that men will always see her as the “friend.” Common’s Scott is no different: despite some sparks with Leslie during a chance meeting at a gas station, the minute he sees Morgan, Leslie is but an afterthought. In practically the blink of an eye, Scott proposes to Morgan, assuring his skeptical mother that Morgan is different from the girls he normally encounters. The future looks set — until Scott injures his knee during a game midway through the basketball season. Scott’s agent arranges for a top-notch physical therapist to work with Scott, but when the therapist turns out to be a sexy blonde, Morgan gets Leslie to work with Scott instead. It’s while Leslie is rehabilitating Scott that Morgan returns Scott’s ring with a note, telling an irate Leslie that she can’t be married to a has-been. It’s also during this time that Leslie and Scott begin to get closer.
Although nothing unpredictable happens in this movie, it did contain what I thought was one of the most painfully realistic moments that most women have experienced at least once in their lives: the female version of “let’s just be friends.” In the scene, Scott asks Leslie why her phone isn’t blowing up with calls and texts. He points out that in the time she’s been working for him, she hasn’t been going on dates. Leslie absorbs his observations with dignity and simply says that she’s single. I’m not sure that any woman can go through this experience without feeling slightly humiliated, especially when the person who has noticed that you’re a romantic dud is someone you’re attracted to. But Scott unknowingly makes the experience even worse, because he goes on to say (helpfully, I’m sure, in his mind) that Leslie is smart, funny, and attractive.
It’s really the fact that he says Leslie is attractive that twists the knife. Most women enjoy hearing that they are smart and funny. If a man whom a woman is attracted to tells her that she is smart and funny, she will maybe feel a little disappointment that he didn’t say more, but she generally will not feel despair. It’s when the issue of looks enters the picture that women can really be devastated.
Women instinctively know that their looks matter to men and that some men will never be attracted to them because of their appearance. Much as women hate the priority that looks have, all women want to be considered attractive by men, especially men they’re attracted to. As a result, nothing is quite so painful as being told you are physically attractive yet the man doesn’t want you. This is by far the most horrible way that a man can “let’s just be friends” a woman. A woman can get over “you’re really cool, I like you a lot, but I just don’t see us this way,” but a woman will feel her soul being crushed when a man says, “you are beautiful, but I don’t have any feelings for you.” Every woman’s next thought is, “If you think I’m beautiful but don’t want to be with me, then there must be something terribly wrong with me.” Every woman’s brain translates the man’s words as “I would fall in love with and/or have sex with every horrible, lying, ugly, stupid shrew in the world before I would fall in love with or have sex with you.” It’s not just a rejection of her as a person, it’s a rejection of her as a woman.
Obviously, in the movie, Scott comes around and sees that Leslie really is the right person for him, so all’s well that ends well. (Although I had to suspend disbelief that an NBA star would marry and, presumably, remain faithful to a woman, much less a woman of Leslie’s size. I just can’t believe that an NBA star as big as Scott would not have a nationwide harem with svelte “girlfriends” in every city.) Anyhow, my point is this: men, if you really care about a woman, don’t compliment her looks directly unless you have immediate intentions to act romantically. In other words, it’s fine to say “you look nice today” or “I like that dress on you.” It is NOT okay to say “YOU are attractive” or “YOU are beautiful.” Especially not beautiful. I highly recommend not saying “you are beautiful” to a woman unless the next words out of your mouth are “I love you. Will you marry me?”
P.S. for the Culture Police types – The movie is a very true PG. There is next to nothing objectionable in the film other than a very brief, very not-showing-anything love scene between Leslie and Scott. No language, and Leslie has a very good relationship with her married parents.