Yes. It’s a double negative, intentionally. Now that I’m retired and not rushing head-down in a panic all the time, I have more time to observe life and in particular, to people-watch. This new preoccupation has led to an increase in my engaging strangers in quick conversation which usually takes the form of a comment as I’m passing by. Food courts seem to be particularly conducive for making new friends. Yesterday as I was enjoying my fast-food lunch at Sherway Gardens, I kept watching the young woman sitting at the next table eating lunch with her boyfriend (they were sharing food so I assumed they also share other things.). She was pretty in a plain, quiet way and had the m0st beautiful large gray-green eyes. As I picked up my tray to leave, I leaned over to her and said, “I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but you have the most drop-dead gorgeous eyes”. She lit up like a Christmas tree and I felt like I’d made her day. The lovely part is that it helped make my day too. She felt good. And I felt good.
My habit of engaging strangers in a one-sided conversation began with babies. I can never resist peeking into a stroller and complimenting the mother on how beautiful her precious little one is. I particularly love natural red hair and cannot pass an adult or child in the mall or on the street without leaning in and commenting positively on their red hair as I pass by.
The other day I was in a kitchen store being served by a beautiful, somewhat shy young lady. I began our conversation by telling her how pretty she was and what beautiful skin she had. She immediately relaxed and we then engaged in a lovely conversation about the store products. Passing along compliments to strangers is a free way of “paying it forward” when they don’t come with an ulterior motive. Retail sales personnel are the most transparent opportunists for finding at least one thing about your appearance to compliment when you enter their store. They’ve been trained to know it makes you feel better and you’re more likely to spend money in their store.
Again in a food court the other day I sat next to a couple of high school girls, one of whom was wearing a tee shirt with the Beatles’ Revolver album imprinted on the front. That’s talking my language and I couldn’t resist commenting to the girl wearing it. “I loved that album 30 years before you were even born” I said. Both girls laughed and seemed to appreciate the attention.
My motive for passing along these compliments and observations is not only because it makes the other person feel great, but I feel better too. When I tell the checkout clerk at SuperStore that I love her haircut her face lights up and I’m sure she appreciates hearing a positive remark in a day that probably has had more than its share of complaints and she’s been on her feet all day. Positive feedback is so uplifting.
Boomer Broads were a generation raised to downplay compliments in case we’re thought to be “showing off”. When someone tells us we’re looking particularly snazzy, our reply often is something like, “Oh this old top. I’ve had it forever.” Like my contemporaries, I’ve had to train myself to accept compliments graciously and appreciate the good intention. My habit of engaging in conversation with strangers seems to be on the increase. Which means I can look forward to opening up even more opportunities for feeling good. Spread a little sunshine.