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I am a moderately good looking woman. With basic makeup and hair styling, I can make myself look pretty. This is my preferred look when I go out. I often get a lot of stares, sometimes admiring and sometimes nasty, from other male colleagues and I have pretty much accepted that it, mainly because I cannot help it.

There are cases when there is a woman by their side and it makes her uncomfortable. It could be that man's wife, or a girlfriend.

Incident 1
For instance, I was at a party of a very close female friend. I had a few small interactions with her husband earlier so it was natural for him to greet me. It was a simple "Hi, how are you?" But my friend was clearly upset by this and she made a long face at me all the time. Not to mention that our interactions have gone down after this incident.

Incident 2
I was at a coffee bar with a friend. After sometime and all of sudden when I casually looked up, I saw a young woman giving me angry looks. I looked at her the second time and nothing changed. I saw someone sitting beside her, I am assuming he was her date, and that man was staring at me. I just minded my business and left the place.

Incident 3
There was another incident where I was travelling with a friend in a bus. That bus had seating system where two sets of passengers face each other and that pattern is repeated throughout the bus. There was a couple sitting in front of me, and as soon as I took my seat, the woman asked the man to exchange his seat with hers. The man was sitting opposite to me.

Problem
While this kind of attention is definitely a confidence booster, I'm not an attention seeker nor was I there to create a havoc in their love life. But, I cannot forget those stares. They make me feel guilty about something which I do not understand. Also, I am a little upset about the way my friend chose to minimize her interactions with me.

Question: How could I signify to these women that I'm not interested in responding to those stares and that they have nothing to worry about?

Many of the answers here mention that I need to ignore such stares and I completely agree with that. Only that I need to have a thick skin to start implementing it. Also, got to know many things like 'mate guarding behaviour', that I need to help my friend 'validate their relationship', that I cannot control what others think of me.

And to all those who asked and suggested that I stop wear revealing clothing, it was not a fair thing to say. One cannot hide the silhouette no matter what. And the definition of revealing clothing is not defined. For some, wearing a sleeveless dress or showing ankle cleavage could be revealing too.

Yes, I am not going to tone down my appearance.

closed as too broad by curiousdannii, 1006a, Spagirl, anongoodnurse, Rory Alsop Mar 19 '18 at 7:23

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 16
    You have three completely different situations here. Your response to a friend and to strangers will be completely different. Can you please restrict this to a single situation... perhaps the one with your friend, rather than strangers who you'll never see again? You can not control what other people think of you, particularly when it's not really your fault. – Catija Mar 14 '18 at 15:50
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    @Catija it is trivial to address both situations in the same answer. – Dan Anderson Mar 14 '18 at 15:56
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    my apologies @Replica, this community is very active and sometimes (in my opinion) way to quick to close down questions for not being perfectly presented. I think your question was very well formatted. But I'm out numbered here. If you split your question into two as Catija suggested I think they'll stay open. – Dan Anderson Mar 14 '18 at 16:02
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    @Catija No, all three are precisely the same situation. The only difference is that in the first example, Replica has a chance to talk to her friend afterwards, and help her friend deal with that jealousy. – Graham Mar 15 '18 at 12:56
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    @Catija What happens afterwards can be different, but the situation itself, at the time it happens, is precisely the same. The same behaviour, for the same reasons. If someone hits your car because they were looking at their phone, then they've hit your car because they were looking at their phone. Whether they stop to exchange details afterwards may affect how you feel about them, and talking to you may stop them doing it again - but they still hit your car because they were looking at their phone. What happens afterwards doesn't change the facts of what happened first and why. – Graham Mar 15 '18 at 14:45
68

With brief interactions with strangers, I agree with the other answers that there is little you can do. They are projecting their relationship insecurities on to you - this is not your fault, and something that needs to be worked on between them and their partner. This would apply to incidents 2 and 3, where you correctly just minded your own business.

During interactions where you are conversing with the jealous people, and it would be inappropriate or awkward to discuss the situation directly, you may be able to help by validating their relationship. After all, this is probably why they are jealous - because they are insecure and think you might be able to edge in on it.

For example,

Alice, what a great party, you and Bob have a beautiful home! I was admiring your wedding pictures earlier, you both look amazing and so happy together!

or,

I was talking to Bob earlier and he mentioned your vacation plans, it was so cute how excited he got, it's obvious you two are so in love!

Basically, say something supportive about their relationship. If you were looking to cause problems, you would be interested in pushing them apart, not talking about how great they are together. This should help her build a sense of security (yes, he does like me, even she can see it!) and see you as less of a "threat".

I'd also suggest minimizing one-on-one time with the husband out of respect for her, so there is no opportunity for accusations of inappropriate behavior. And when talking to both, try to keep your attention balanced if not skewed towards her.

If applicable, you can also say something to show you are not interested. For example, if you are seeing someone, talk about them. Or say Bob is really into football and you aren't, make a lighthearted comment about how you don't know how she puts up with it, since you could never be with a guy who has to watch the game every Sunday!

One caution: best to avoid statements like

You're lucky to have a guy like Bob!

This has the potential to sound like you are interested in him specifically, which would cause the opposite effect of intended.

195

How could I signify to these women that I'm not interested in responding to those stares and that they have nothing to worry about?

You can't. They don't worry about you, they worry about their significant other. You are not part of their relationship. They choose to externalize their problems rather than dealing with each other, but they could be just as mad at the next bikini photo ad or anything.

  • …expect that pictures are intuitively a much worse projection space because they lack agency and can't be held responsible. An actual person seems like a much better target. (I'm aware that picture were taken and selected and placed there by some people's more or less conscious decisions. Unfortunately that's not how people feel and react in such situations.) – David Foerster Mar 16 '18 at 3:58
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    @David Foerster: I think you missed my point - its not about which is a better projection space, but about causality. Imagine the picture posting that same question here ... wait but pictures can´t ... now you get my point. – user6109 Mar 16 '18 at 9:26
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    This is basically the answer I'd write, except that I'd make it explicit what they're worrying about: Infidelity. But they don't want to yell at their SO for looking at someone, because that'd be insane, so instead they direct their anger at the random pretty person who literally had no idea they were being looked at. The "husband looking" step can also be entirely skipped, depending on the wife; some people just jump straight to the assumption that their SO will be unfaithful. In general, though, it has absolutely nothing to do with OP, except that OP is a convenient target. – Nic Hartley Mar 16 '18 at 21:34
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    @Nic It’s not necessarily about infidelity—it can just as easily be about fear of losing the relationship altogether (“She’s so much prettier than me; what if he leaves me because he realises he can do better?”). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 18 '18 at 12:31
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It's quite simple, what you're seeing is mate guarding behavior. Let's do some science!

All the women tested rated the thin, provocatively dressed women as the sexiest. Participants were also twice as likely to avoid introducing the model to their partners compared to the conservatively dressed model, who was rated as the least threatening.

...and some more science!...

Because ovulating (i.e., high-fertility) women are both more attractive to men and also more attracted to (desirable) men, ovulating women may be perceived to pose heightened threats to other women’s romantic relationships. Across 4 experiments, partnered women were exposed to photographs of other women taken during either their ovulatory or nonovulatory menstrual-cycle phases, and consistently reported intentions to socially avoid ovulating (but not nonovulating) women-but only when their own partners were highly desirable. Exposure to ovulating women also increased women’s sexual desires for their (highly desirable) partners. These findings suggest that women can be sensitive to subtle cues of other women’s fertility and respond (e.g., via social exclusion, enhanced sexual attention to own mate) in ways that may facilitate their mate retention goals while not thwarting their affiliative goals.

and considering...

Thus, it is a significant challenge for women when other women attempt to poach their partners. For instance, over 50% of women admit to attempting to poach another woman’s partner, and over 80% of men admit to having been the object of another woman’s poaching—with about half of men admitting to “going along” with the poaching attempt (e.g., Schmitt et al., 2004; Schmitt & Buss, 2001). Women have good reason, then, to mate guard.

...yeah, can't blame them ;)

It could be that she's single and envious of your looks, although this isn't present in your examples.

From the qotes above, you'll get the death stare if: she thinks you're a threat AND she's attached to her man. It's quite logical, and flattering for you... and for him, when you think about it.

Now, your questions:

I am a little upset about the way my friend chose to minimize her interactions with me.

That one is answered by the quoted article, she's avoiding you in order to keep you away from her hubby.

How could I signify to these women that I'm not interested in responding to those stares and that they have nothing to worry about?

You can't really, as the stares are not meant to be "responded to", rather they are meant to keep you away. If you don't want stares, the only solution would be to not to be perceived as a potential threat to her relationship, ie either to appear less attractive and less sexy, or to show up with your significant other. But since you sound proud of your looks, I'm not sure you'd want to do the former, and the latter isn't always convenient.

Anyway, please don't change anything, as you did a great service to all the couples in your examples. After all, the study quoted above mentions that you "increased the other women’s sexual desires for their partners"... as in reminding someone they shouldn't take their significant other for granted...

  • 4
    So the solution is to time social events with ops ovulation cycle? Kidding. But 80% of men report having been the object while only 50% of women have tried? That's either some very active women or some very active male imagination leading to those results. – DonQuiKong Mar 15 '18 at 15:14
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    Sorry, if this an inappropriate question... But how can a person (man or woman) know whether or not a woman is ovulating without special training and/or equipment? – Franz Drollig Mar 15 '18 at 17:27
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    @DonQuiKong the male number is probably overrreported, and the female number is probably underreported. Also, there may be some overlap (a single particularly active female attempting to poach multiple partners, and/or a single particularly active man having received -- or at least perceived -- several poaching attempts). – Doktor J Mar 15 '18 at 17:30
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    @FranzDrollig there are various physical cues that we may not consciously notice -- pheremones are obviously a powerful example, but also more subtle things like skin tone, amount of perspiration (which may tie to pheremones), and even posture that, combined, provide somewhat reliable visual cues to our subconscious brains. – Doktor J Mar 15 '18 at 17:32
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    @DoktorJ Interestingly, the effect may be even more pronounced than the study found, since pheromones presumably aren't terribly effective through a photograph. I've also seen reports on studies that showed women tend to dress differently during ovulation, so that could also be part of it. – reirab Mar 15 '18 at 19:54
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I'm not sure that there is really anything you can do. From your description of the event, it doesn't seem like you are doing anything inappropriate at all. If you truly wanted to change your own behavior, which I do not recommend, then you may have to tone down your appearance.

You can't let your existence, which causes jealousy or insecurity in others, to cause you to make life changes just because other people can't seem to mind their own personal relationships.

5

Answer:

you ask:

How could I signify to these women that I'm not interested in responding to those stares and that they have nothing to worry about?

Option 1) In the situation where you A) don't know the people giving the stares and B) don't need to interact with them. You can smile politely at the woman and ignore the man.

Option 2) In a situation where you need to interact with a couple giving you these stares you can make sure to look at / talk too the each person equally. And if possible stand closer to the Woman than the man. (I'm assuming heterosexual couples as that is what your post describes.)

Other actions that may help 1) Avoid, any touch as this would escalate the other persons bad feelings.

Other actions that may help 2) Also, if you wear revealing clothing you could consider wearing clothes that are less revealing.

Personal Advice.

Remember that you can't control other people. From your post it doesn't sound like your doing anything wrong. It does sound like these other women have an insecurity that they need to address. And that these men have a bad habit of staring when they shouldn't, since it makes their partners feel less desirable. In the cases you have listed there is nothing you can do to help these people with their problems.

When you start to feel guilty about the angry looks you receive. Try repeating to yourself, in your mind:

I've done nothing wrong. I've done nothing at all really. These folks have problems that they are going to have to work out on their own.

And then think about work or play or something to distract you. There is no need to feel guilt for their behavior.

  • 1
    A note to option 1: Smiling politely at the woman and ignoring the man may not have the desired effect. You may intend it as a polite smile, but if the woman is the type to stare daggers at another woman for being good-looking around her partner, there’s a good chance she would also take a smile in her own direction as a sign of condescension or arrogance: “See how easy it is for me to make your partner desire me? I don’t even have to pay him any attention. And poor little you can’t do anything about it!”. That probably wouldn’t really help the situation any. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 18 '18 at 12:37
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Another suggestion would be to use non-verbal communication to express that you have no interest in that person.

If they are a friend's significant other, not your friends, you will come off as just polite and that should be enough for these situations. If it's a complete stranger, it will clearly state for both the man and the woman that you are not interested in whatever it is they are trying to convey (interest or anger).

1) Put on a stern expression

This doesn't mean you have to look angry, but smile less and show a respectful distance, avoiding leaning into the person.

2) Close off your body

Crossing your arms and standing tall might be enough, you can still gesticulate if speaking to someone, but try to keep one arm crossed in front of your body.

I would add, though, that you should reassess just how much responsibility you are taking on your shoulders to handle those entire situations. Doing this too much might make you uncomfortable and tired.

It's up to you to decide if it's worth it and when.

3

I do not think you can do much. In this situation, the men and the women are mostly responsible for this : either the men stare at you with insistence (which becomes quite obvious after a while), or the women are very defensive/jealous/paranoiac.

In both cases, you are just unintentionally triggering this whole mechanism, just as any pretty woman would do. You are not the issue, these men and women just create an issue between them and you are a simple trigger. This issue is between them, you are not part of the equation.

Therefore, I do not think you should intervene nor try to interact as it would probably escalate the issue to a point where you would put yourself into the equation without any benefit.

Concerning your friend, I think you should talk to her and clarify the fact that you have no interest in her husband whatsoever and that she has nothing to fear from your as you are her friend.

3

My guess here is that the reason for this type of reaction is probably something you're already well aware of: You're perceived as competition, and their response is that they don't want to be in a competitive environment; they feel threatened. Something like that, anyway. It's probably because they assess that you are making an effort. It's not only that you are attractive, but rather that you seem to be making an effort to be more attractive that arouses suspicion. I'm not saying that their assessments are accurate. Certainly, it would be a bummer to be on the receiving end of them. You just want to dress how you want and it makes you feel good to do so. It doesn't involve anyone else.

I would class their responses/judgments under "unconscious behavior." On the conscious level, maybe it's all very clear that you're not vying for attention or affection, you're not trying to be competitive with regard to how attractive you are versus how attractive others believe that you should be.

I guess they see that you are making an effort, and some part of them gets suspicious about that. Maybe for no other reason than they see that as raising the baseline for attractiveness in the immediate environment and they don't want to have to go to extra efforts just to meet the average.

Again, I would say that this falls into the category of unconscious behavior, and it is probably unintended. If you questioned them about it, they might very likely not have any idea what you're feeling, because they had been thinking/feeling no such thing. Maybe one of the reasons why having overt conversations about some topics can really help clear the air: They aren't known to be issues but they can be felt at some level.

I was just having a conversation about this with a female friend of mine. Imagine she heads to the pharmacy late at night wearing just a t-shirt and no bra. She just needs to pick up a few things. She passes someone in the aisle who gives her a dirty look. Again, it's some sort of cultural judgment meme about "inviting attention" or something.

You can't determine how people will receive you. But the resolution here could be something to do with body language where you exude what you want to receive. The more self-possessed a person is, the less undue attention they tend to get. It's not saying you aren't self-possessed, but rather that some scenarios might call for really feeling into and asserting that side of your psyche. You aren't always able to tell people what your intentions are. Body language can have the conversation for you.

And, yeah, when possible, it can be helpful to gently say things that convey you are not looking for companionship at the moment. To convey that it is beauty for beauty's sake, and such like.

2

Lady here who has experienced similar.

As Dan A said you can't change other's behaviors - if these women feel threatened by you, or if they're just having a bad day and giving off hostile vibes you can't change that.

To put this into perspective, it takes psychologists - who are trained professionals - a lot of time to help people with insecurities. It also takes a lot of chocolate to make a bad day into a good one. Therefore if you spend 5 mins to 5 hours in someone's presence in a social setting, how can you even begin to address their deep seated issues or intuitively make their day better? Answer: you can't.

Having said that, if I'm in a situation where I can talk to the woman (e.g. a party) I usually take the time to compliment them or ask them about their interests. It humanises me and reduces the hostility. But if the person is on the bus or is already a friend, you can't do much.

I'd say, choose your values and choose how that will shape the type of person you want to be, and be it. Don't change who you are, or how you move through the world just because someone else feels insecure about you. So if a man at a party greets you, and being polite is something you value - just greet them back. If his partner death-stares you, well they just have different values - namely controlling who their partner interacts with.

It is painful/[your feeling here] when people are hostile because of some internal process of their own, it's also sad if you have to drift away from friends because they have different values. But I say better to sit with that pain/[your feeling here] than spend your life letting others dictate how you should act.

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