Who doesn't like a heartfelt compliment? You know that fantastic feeling-like-a-million-bucks moment when you're walking down the street in your flashy coat you finally got to wear after buying it on an off season discount last summer and a complete stranger goes "Nice coat!" ... Yeaah!! Feels good.
I'll never forget the first time someone complimented my dreads. Like most newbies, my locs looked awful. I frequently covered them up with a scarf in the style of a thick headband just so I could walk out the door. And then, out of nowhere, the cashier at the gas station said to me -- I remember it word for word -- "How did you get your hair to dread so fast?" I kid you not, I collapsed on the candy counter and said "Thank you!!!" like she had offered me a sip of water in the desert.
Slowly, as my locs began to mature, the compliments increased. People with silver hair couldn't wait to tell me how much they liked my look because they used to be hippies, you know. Teenage misfits too cool to speak to anyone would set aside two very special words for me: "Sweet hair." Many would gush or ask questions, but the most common compliment to this day was the simple "I like your dreads."
At first all the attention made me blush and say thank you to the sidewalk. Sometimes it still does. But as time went on, I got used to and even slightly annoyed with the ubiquitous "I like your dreads." A lot of times, this said more about the other person than me. They tended to look very proud of themselves, perhaps because they aren't used to complimenting strangers. Or some of them would linger and want to start a conversation with me, which I'm afraid isn't easy to do. Many yell it out of their car windows and are gone before I can respond.
One day, I went to a hip little pasta shack in a beach town that had vegan mac 'n cheese on the menu. Yummm! I would tell you where it was but I could easily make just as good of a dish at home for half the cost so we'll leave that little detail out. Anyway, the owner himself was dreaded and as I walked in he beamed and said, "Wow! You got a new 'do!"
I smiled and said "Yeah!" but there was a bit of an echo in the pasta joint. I turned to see that his apparently very dear friend standing behind me got a new cut and color, and accepted the compliment intended for her. Woops.
I'm still looking for the middle path between thanking the sidewalk and accepting compliments intended for others. Like my dreads, I'm a work in progress. In the meantime, I'm going to try to say nice things to strangers, and loved ones for that matter, more often.