When I was young, let’s say in my twenties and early thirties, I was fly. And, truth be told, pretty hot. Lunchtime often saw me out and about in midtown Manhattan in miniskirts and high heels. It was not unusual for construction workers to make admiring comments, catcalls and an occasional suggestion that cannot be repeated here. Actually, most of the comments can’t be repeated here, either. Looking back, I realize that it felt good to be appreciated, regardless of the source.
Unless my memory has huge gaps, decades went by without any catcalls. The only appreciative comments I remember from my forties and fifties were compliments on my perfume. I got those quite regularly, from both men and women. The men often asked the name of it, so they could buy it for their wives or girlfriends. It was Issey, by Issey Miyake, by the way, and my niece is the one who hooked me on it.
Then there was one memorable encounter about six years ago, while I was still working. Once a year, I spent a few days at a local senior center that had what was called an RSVP operation. The center received a government grant in exchange for providing free help with bulk mailings for non-profit groups. The women who frequented the center did the folding, assembling and stuffing.
I checked in periodically to replenish materials and to make sure things were being done according to spec. I was usually dressed in what would best be described as casual business wear—a soft skirt and blouse or sweater. One day as I was leaving, I crossed paths with an elderly gentleman; he was probably in his eighties. He said something complimentary—I can’t recall exactly what—and I smiled and thanked him. I would have hugged him, but one has to worry about the tickers in older gents.
I was reminded of this encounter recently as I was about to pull out of a Home Depot parking lot. A man in his late fifties, or perhaps his sixties—I can’t tell ages anymore—was walking from his car to the store. He was balding. Actually, he was almost completely bald. He had a paunch, but not a sloppy one; his golf-type shirt was tucked neatly into his belted sports slacks. With spine erect, he walked purposefully through the lot. He looked confident, but not arrogant.
I was so impressed to see someone of this vintage with good posture and energy that I almost rolled down my car window to say something to him. “Looking good!” Or perhaps “I admire your posture and the way you walk so briskly.” I wasn’t sure what I should say, so instead, I just drove away. Besides, I was afraid he’d think I was hitting on him. (I’m not fly anymore, so he certainly wouldn’t have considered my attentions flattering.)
Before I even reached the street, I regretted that I didn’t pay him a compliment. He deserved it. He had earned one. I knew that fly or not, anything I would have said would have lifted the spirits of this seemingly ordinary man. I could have made his day, but instead I chickened out. That’s when I remembered the senior gent who had perked me up a few years back.
So, here’s my advice to everyone reading this. If you see someone who looks good or is doing something nice, go ahead… make his day! Let him (or her) know that you’ve noticed. “Way to rock it!” “You look mah-velous!” (a la Billy Crystal.) “You smell awesome!” “Love your shoes!” “Somebody’s been working out!” I could go on, but you get the idea.
Are you too shy to speak up to a stranger? Then give them a big smile, or just a head nod. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to lift someone’s spirits for a few hours, or even for the entire day. Try it. I promise it will make you feel good, too.
By the way, you look great today!