Dear Miss Emily:

I met a really attractive and intelligent woman at a party a few weeks ago.  It was a public event at an art gallery. She was a high school teacher in her early thirties. We had been talking for a good half hour and really seemed to be hitting it off.  We had even made tentative plans to meet for coffee sometime.  Then, things suddenly went downhill. I commented that she had a "nice, full, hourglass figure". I thought she would take it as a compliment but instead she became deeply offended. She snapped, "Oh really....well perhaps I should do some plus size modeling!"  I went into damage-control mode and tried to clarify my comments, but I think I only exacerbated things when I used the term "healthy."  With a look of complete disgust, she slapped my face and departed.  I will never forget those agonizing moments in the immediate aftermath, as I was standing there alone rubbing my cheek, drawing some judgmental stares from onlookers. Needless to say, it was not my proudest moment, LOL.  She had the classic figure of a 50s pinup –  large bust, narrow waist, shapely hips/legs. I guess she had interpreted "hourglass" as meaning big/overweight/full figured. I just thought it meant shapely and well proportioned.  When I told a female friend about this she shook her head and said it was never a good idea to comment on a woman's figure, even if I thought it was complimentary.  What do you think about this?

--------------------Miss Emily’s advice----------------

To quote Daffy Duck, “It is to laugh.”  Wow!  You took a beating.  I think the slap went out with the Victorian period.  She overreacted, and perhaps you dodged a bullet.  That said, because weight is a touchy subject with many people, you really can’t guess at who’s going to take offense at a comment like that.  That’s one reason not to do it.  The other reason is that it’s a little too forward to make a statement like that to a virtual stranger -- and you were at an art gallery talking to a school teacher, not at a bar where loose lips don’t always sink ships. I agree, a shapely 50s pin-up figure is sexy (hoping you really mean what you say), but society sends mixed messages.  For example:  Pamela Anderson is sporting eye-popping breasts, but the rest of her is the size of  a humming bird.  In the future, get to know a woman a hell-of-a-lot better than a half-hour before you comment on how much you like her “healthy” figure.  Then, and only then can she compliment you by saying “size” really doesn’t matter.