"You have a great body."
How did he react?
At first: Not at all. There was an awkward silence, Then he asked me questions about this project. Finally he said, "Well, thanks..."
How did I feel?
Today I took it too far. This was bound to happen at some point. Honestly I am surprised I have been going on for 8 months, complimenting ~1200 people without rubbing someone the wrong way- until finally, a few hours back, I accomplished it.
At yoga I was practicing in front of a guy. Towards the end of the class he got rid of his shirt and went into handstand. From the corner of my eye I saw him rise up- and his whole body floating in the air. On the risk of sounding like a female sexist: He had the perfect statue. Obviously this is completely subjective. Someone else might perk their eyebrows up and say, "Seriously!?". But to me every inch of his appearance looked stunning, so stunning in fact that I was intimidated and quickly averted my eyes. It was my being shy about finding people attractive that made me look away. But there was a second voice there, too: It said "Don't check out people's bodies during Yoga. Yoga's not about looks."
After class I reflected on that voice. I decided to disagree with it. There was a quote I thought of:
"It often worries people that they are being narcissistic if they appreciate their physical appearance. Narcissists are not people who love themselves; they are people who cannot currently connect with others. There is nothing narcissistic about self-celebration. Celebrating and displaying your looks doesn’t make you a narcissist, it makes you an artist.
We need to celebrate our own physical looks and each other’s physical looks. Doing so does not make appearance any more or less important than the inner aspects of ourselves. Our physical bodies are an organic art piece." (Teal Swan).
Why shouldn't I be allowed to enjoy someone else's appearance? Even, or maybe especially, during Yoga? Yes, Yoga is going inwards, focusing on yourself. Meditating. But if I practice in a room packed with other people their presence is a fact and so are their bodies. There are feet, hands, sweat, butts, legs, eyes, sighs everywhere. And that's beautiful. It's art. It can be sexy, too. Obviously making someone uncomfortable by continually staring at them is not the purpose of a Yoga class. There should be a safe space provided and created by everyone. But celebrating and enjoying the physicality is a part of it. Next to looking inwards, finding stillness and all the other gems there are. I love that.
I preached the voice in my head all that and left the studio. Outside I spotted the guy with the outstanding stature. And went for the experiment: I walked up to him, said, "Hey there! I am doing a project in which I compliment a person a day. Today you are my candidate." "Uh-huh!", he answered, "Let's hear it!" "I saw you while you were practicing handstand and I have to say: You have an amazing body."
His expression froze. He remained silent. Suddenly the passing cars were louder than ever. A few seconds later he asked, "So this project of yours, since when have you been doing it?" We started chatting about the project, he asked all kinds of questions. A minute later he threw in, "Well-.. thanks.".
There it was, a thank you. At the same time it wasn't really: His whole body said, "I am uncomfortable", or at least "I am irritated." and to me his thank you sounded more like something he had to say then like something he felt. Honestly: I think I weirded him out from top to bottom. I am absolutely sure he thought I was hitting on him hard. I tried to continue our conversation (we were walking in the same direction) but it got more and more awkward. We did not connect.
This was the first time I was happy once the moment was over and I got to say goodbye.
I dig that this happened! I've been thinking about it a lot. During the encounter I wasn't sure whether he was gay and that made the whole "Is she hitting on me?" situation even more complicated for him, whether he thought I was this female sexist, if he just was not used to hearing something like that from a woman because the way our society works. Or maybe the Yoga situation was part of it? Or his being from Vermont, having a different background and being in Berlin? Or...
My conclusion: Next time I see an amazing male body I might just try it again- if I still have the guts- and see if the reaction is similar.