Dear Dr. G.,
Hi there. I discovered your website and you seem like a good person to turn to for advice. Well my 17-year-old son came home yesterday with a rather interesting story and I'm trying to put some thoughts together on what the best course of action is for him. He was chatting up a girl he is interested in and all was going well until he decided to pay her a "compliment" by telling her that she had "awesome curves". He's very studious and normally very shy and reserved, so I don't know what possessed him to say that. She took offense and told him he was being inappropriate. He tried to repair the damage but only dug himself deeper. The conversation came to an abrupt end when she slapped his face and walked off. So instead of landing a date for the weekend, he was left there standing alone, nursing a red cheek;) My feeling is he should apologize to the young lady and explain that he was just trying to tell her she was beautiful. I'm just wondering what types of wording he should use. Do you have any thoughts on this?
A Concerned Mother
Dear Concerned Mother,
First, I would like to commend you and your son for the level of connectedness that you seem to have. I am always delighted when a teen confides in a parent particularly regarding an embarrassing event. Clearly, your son trusts that you will help him rather than insult or judge him further. Kudos to both of you. And, that comes from the very bottom of my heart.
Now let's get back to the situation at hand. Your son took a risk and approached a young woman but unfortunately just didn't get it right. It's natural at all points in our lives but particularly during the teen years that males and females will misstep when making overtures toward one another. Your son was a bit clumsy. Reassure him that we all make errors. My guess is that the young woman felt that your son was making a sexual comment to her and she certainly reacted,didn't she? There was absolutely no reason for her to react so excessively. She could have given your son feedback in a much more appropriate manner. She,too, is making some clumsy decisions.
Regarding your son's apology and honor, I suggest that he write the young woman a brief note apologizing for his comment. In this note, he should simply and clearly state that he was trying to compliment her and that he is sorry for how his remark came across. I do NOT think that your son should apologize in person. This young woman seems a bit volatile and it would be a shame if your son's in-person apology was met with yet another slap.
Your son should take a deep breath and move on from this young woman. In the future, comments about physical appearance should initially be avoided. Perhaps conversations about talents, interests,and humor are better ideas and may be less likely to be misinterpreted. Good luck to you and your son and please keep me posted.
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