Was My Son Too Forward in Approaching a Woman Older than Him? Details Below.

Updated on May 18, 2019
V.M. asks from Reston, VA
18 answers

I wanted to get your perspective on something. My son was telling me a story the other day regarding an incident with a woman he had just met. He was at an art gallery opening and struck up a conversation with a woman who was there by herself. He's just out of college and is 24 and the woman was a high school art teacher in her mid-30's, so there was a substantial age gap. He said that they seemed to develop a nice rapport, maybe even a bit flirty, and were chatting for close to a half hour. He felt he had a good comfort level with her and wanted to compliment her on her appearance so he told her she had a "really, nice, hourglass figure" and from there everything quickly went downhill. She was taken aback and said something like, "Excuse me, you hardly know me, why are you commenting on my body?" He went into damage control mode but only made matters worse when he tried to convince her that "hourglass figure" was a compliment rather than just apologizing for offending her. She finally said "you really don't get it do you?" and then landed a stinging slap across his cheek and walked off. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that one ;-) I did tell him that he should stick to more neutral areas when commenting on a woman's appearance, so the clothes or shoes they're wearing should be fine, maybe the hair too, but never the body. I wonder if his age had something to do with it and perhaps she would be more receptive to the comment if it came from a man in her age group, and maybe she saw him as some college guy who wanted to score with an older woman? It's hard to know all the dynamics, but I just wanted to get your perspective.

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all of the wonderful feedback! It's hard for me to say this, since my son is a good kid, but he is a little full of himself when it comes to women. I think he bit off more than he could chew in this case and got some old school comeuppance. That might not be the worst thing for him at this stage. Btw, I do love this gal's chutzpah 😀 Parenting takes you down some very strange paths indeed....never imagined I would admire the woman who slapped my son. lol! To his credit, at least he conducted himself like a gentleman in the aftermath by simply "turning the other cheek" and exiting the art gallery, realizing his presence there would make her uncomfortable. I would have been supremely disappointed with him if he retaliated in any form or fashion.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

If some stranger walked up to me and made a comment, positive or negative, on the shape of my body, I would put him in his place.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

completely inappropriate. what was he thinking?

how about if he not comment on her body at all?

this isn't age. this is assholiness.

ew. ew. ew.

ETA, yes, he really fell all the way in when instead of apologizing sincerely he decided to mansplain her.

as for WW's 'i'm not PC', that attitude is exactly the problem. we don't stop reducing women to sex objects simply by making men equal sex objects.


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answers from Norfolk on

Time and place.
In a bar where people are there to meet people and possibly flirt the figure comment might go over differently.
You kind of expect goofy pick up lines both giving and receiving.

At a gallery opening I don't think the art teacher was there to BE an exhibit.
Art is her profession - while she's not teaching at a gallery she's not expecting pick up lines from some 20-something on the prowl.
Assuming that a 20 min friendly chat was flirty was a wrong assumption.
When she responded in a way that was a clear rejection all he needed to do was apologize and go talk to other people.

I'm not sure why you are messaging me with more info.
So your son emailed her an apology and she accepted it?

It's weird that he has her email after a 20 min conversation.
It's weird that a son in his mid 20's is sharing this info with you.
And it's weird you want a give a blow by blow description of it to everyone online.
And if this is at all real he should NOT have anymore contact with this older woman.
If it's not real - you really need a job over the summer while school is out to keep you from trolling a parenting site.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

So he's learning. No, it's NOT okay to talk about her figure, but it's also not okay to talk about her hair or her clothing. Physical stuff is off limits. So I think you're absolutely wrong to tell him to "stick to more neutral areas when commenting on a woman's appearance" - there was ZERO justification for discussing that with someone he wasn't friends with or dating. Zero.

There are all kinds of commercials on TV now to help men understand that you don't do this stuff in the workplace or other "professional" situations, which is what your son was in. He was fine talking about art. When he veered off topic, he got in trouble."Damage control" should have been "I'm terribly sorry, I was out of line" and not an attempt to minimize her hurt or insulted feeling by "mansplaining" that it was really a compliment and it's somehow her shortcoming that she didn't understand that.

Maybe he thought something was "flirty" and it wasn't? Just because someone laughs at his jokes doesn't mean she's coming on to him, you know? He needs to be taught that. I wouldn't blame it on age - what he said was not appropriate if she was his age, or 35, or 55 or 85. so no, it would not have been appropriate from a man in her age group. His assumption that all women want to be liked for their looks is the problem.

This is a good way to help him understand that he cannot talk this way with any women - otherwise he's going to have a very tough time in business and social circles. Save it for women he's actually dating, period.

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answers from Atlanta on

Good learning moment for him... B's response said what I'm thinking. I disagree with Wild Woman about it being a matter of 'PC'-ness; it's a matter of the context and that they had just met. Commenting about someone's body when you are familiar with them is one thing (still dicey!), but someone you just met? No, just no. Even worse, he then dug in further by defending his remark... Yeah, just apologizing for a misunderstanding or giving offense is the way to go. If he wanted to spend more time with her because he enjoyed the conversation, he should have just said that he thought she seemed like an interesting person and could they exchange numbers.

About your question on the age part, I doubt she would have felt comfortable with a remark like that coming from a man of any age whom she had just met at a show, but him being younger might have freed her up to react directly. She might have hesitated (especially with the slap) if he had been 20 years older than her. That doesn't mean that she would have felt comfortable with the remark, just that the power dynamic would have made her less likely to react directly. In any case, I think your son has been offered a golden opportunity to learn a better way to interact with women, and it only cost him a little dignity :).

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The comment was creepy, no matter how old she was. His comment was bad enough, but as you said, not apologizing was the bigger problem. Your son would benefit from looking for a workshop or at least reading on "toxic masculinity", to learn some better ways to communicate with women he is attracted to. His education has been lacking so far.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I feel bad for your son because he meant well, but this is a very good learning lesson for him. Basically he was telling her he was checking out her body and he made her very uncomfortable. It's like when you walk by construction workers and they yell nice tits! It's just not cool. Next time he should say, hey, you're really cool...or something like that complimenting HER as a person and saying he likes her. I know you get it! :)

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answers from Denver on

I think it's all about keeping the conversation to an appropriate topic. When in a business meeting with a boss, proper grammar and vocabulary matter. When in a museum or art gallery or at a wedding, the conversation should be about the event or common interests.

Perhaps your son offered this woman a sincere compliment, but it wasn't the right place to comment about her looks, and it certainly wasn't enough time (less than half an hour) to bring up physical attraction.

I don't think age had anything to do with it. A random male that she had just met told her she had an "hourglass" figure that was appealing, at an event that was about art, not looks (like an event where models were going to be modeling a new clothing line, for example).

Maybe the biggest problem I see in your post is that your son felt he had a good comfort level with her, in an art gallery with lots of other people, after 20 minutes. A good comfort level takes time to develop, and 20 minutes at a social gathering isn't anywhere near enough. Perhaps he can evaluate what comfort actually is, and how to develop it gradually.

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answers from Portland on

Funny question.

I can't picture anyone talking for a half hour at an art exhibit. Weren't they looking at the art? And he's commenting on her figure and she slaps him? Who does this?

Just seems odd altogether - not like any art gallery opening/show I've ever been to.

I don't think you need to comment on appearances - men or women - at all in a situation like that.

I don't think it's the age or age gap.

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answers from Aguadilla on

Sorry your son had this experience but indeed, that was not the right compliment for a women he had just met moments ago. Of course she felt he had crossed the line and some other form of compliment would of been more of a gentleman, like lovely color eyes, nice smile, etc. Not the figure, that is something that is said after a couple of dates. Age difference is never a problem, words are, especially during first impressions. I'm sure he learned his lesson and will be mindful of his words next time. 24 is still young these days and he is used to talking to young women his age at bars where the language, purpose and attitude is different.

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answers from Washington DC on

V. - welcome to mamapedia!!

Personally? People are wwwaaayyy too easily offended these days. Truly.

Should he have said it differently? Maybe. He could have said she looked very nice. Or something like that. Who knows - that might have offended her too.

All he can do is learn from this and if he finds a W. attractive? Maybe wait until they have known each other longer. I don't know. I'm NOT PC and never have been so when I think someone is handsome or pretty? I tell them.

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answers from Miami on

I hope you didn’t give him the impression that what he did “wasn’t so bad.” If you did, then the lesson will be lost on him.

And it SHOULD be a lesson. What he did was inappropriate. I am wondering if he left some of what he said out to you since she slapped him.

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answers from New York on

I think the problem is "hourglass figure". That's a roundabout way of commenting on her lady parts. It's just a slightly more "polite" (or, more "old fashioned") way of saying "your curves are sexy", "I love the junk in your trunk", "was your daddy a baker because you have nice buns", or other similar crass/slang phrases.

Stick to "you are beautiful!", "you seem like a very interesting woman" and then "can I get your contact information to maybe take you out for a drink sometime".

ETA: I totally agree with B. But I also think that there are ways to possibly connect, "networking" which could lead to more, getting her business card even, that would not be bad.

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answers from Philadelphia on

IMO, slapping him was an over the top reaction to what he meant as a compliment. If that’s all that happened, she is nuts and he should be thankful he dodged that bullet.

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answers from San Francisco on

Tell your son not to compliment a woman on her figure until they're dating. That seems like a pretty irrelevant comment to say to a woman you've been talking to for only half an hour. It says: I'm not really interested in anything you're saying, I'm just checking out your hot body.

I'm thinking that comment should be saved for maybe a third or fourth actual date?

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answers from Phoenix on

Live and learn. Some guys really just don't know the right thing to say...I'm sure he meant well, but sometimes you have to learn through the school of hard knocks. I guess he won't say that again!

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answers from Denver on

To me this is a bizarre story. First, I'm amazed your 24 year-old son shared it with you. I'd've thought such a story would be too embarrassing to repeat out loud especially for a freshly minted college grad. Second, I'm amazed that a stranger, a school teacher no less, slapped another stranger in a public place over conversation that would have easily been handled with words or by walking away. Maybe something is missing? All the facts are not on the table?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

That lady is a psycho slapping him. The worst your son did was missreading the situation. Had she been interested in him, his complements could’ve led to meeting up for a date later. I personally would not have been offended. I don’t think his comment was wrong, it was meant to be a complement and I’m glad your son didn’t get involved with such a lunatic.

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