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Rich: With men, it’s about substance over style

POSTED: October 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Karen is always full of advice, even that which I don't desire or necessarily need. Like the other day.

"I have a good piece of advice for you," she began in one of our daily conversations that includes vital information like how many pieces of fried chicken Dixie Dew ate at Mama's or how her kids are not practicing piano. She called me up, I answered the phone and it all began with those words.

"Yes?" I try to be reasonable. It's such an attractive trait, you know.

"From now on, don't go out with any guys who tell you that you're beautiful all the time."

Now, is that any kind of advice that a woman wants to hear? It was so ridiculous that I started laughing.

"No!" she exclaimed firmly. "I'm serious. Every guy you go out with who, from day one, tells you how beautiful you are turns out to be trouble. La-la land guys."

I stopped laughing. I felt like cold water had been dumped over my head. She was right. No guy in his right mind ever tells me that. It's only the crazy ones.

She wasn't through. "Guys who really have something to offer don't talk about your looks or their money."

Good point.

"Those who do are just trying to impress you."

Check. And it works, too. At least the part about beauty. The part about money has never made any difference to me. Now, it looks like I'm gonna have to give up the part that did make an impression.

Sobered up, I replied, "You're right. Exactly right." I do like to consider myself to be reasonable even when it means giving up compliments. That's an awfully tough thing to do, so I guess you can now call me "overly reasonable."

Even if Karen says that you can no longer call me "beautiful," I'm sure she would approve of you calling me "reasonable."

We were talking about a recent fiasco where I had dated a handsome, successful, younger guy a couple of times. Then he vanished into thin air. He had courted me with flowery words and compliments, which had been quite nice.

Then, as the story usually goes, he turned out to be a disappointment. One of those guys who doesn't keep his word, then I called him on it so he called us off.

"There was just something about him that wasn't right from the beginning," Madam Know-It-All continued. "I could just tell about that one. I had a feeling."

"You predicted I would marry him," I reminded her dryly.

"But that was before I found out how he talked about how beautiful you were all the time. That's when I got suspicious. Guys just don't do that. Even when it's true."

"Excuse me?" That last part didn't sound too good.

"Now, listen. Of course, you're beautiful." She didn't mean that. She was patronizing me. Her tone was mechanical and unfeeling. At least when he said it - even if he didn't think it was true - he said it with believable feeling. "But these guys who tell you that you're beautiful, they're always trouble."

Perhaps it's just a coincidence. To be honest, though, she's right.

I've always considered myself level-headed and not easily snowed by guys, but I guess every girl's susceptible to pretty words about pretty looks. I agreed to think it over, hung up the phone, thought it over then called her back.

"You're right. I'm going to listen to you on this one." She was suitably proud at my adult reaction.

So no more dates with guys who say I'm beautiful. Gulp. Although I'm thinking there must be some way around this. Some kind of compromise.

After all, Madam Know-It-All did not say that guys couldn't write it on a piece of paper. Now, there's a beautiful thought.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter.



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