image courtesy of flippflopp.nu
"You're a really good writer." My mom said to me on the phone today. I paused from the weight of that compliment and smiled into the phone.
"Thanks, mom...that means so much to me."
"It's true." She said emphatically. "I mean, you could write those fortunes in those Chinese cookies."
Tonight I was thinking about compliments. And about the fact that now that I live husband-less, I'm not exactly raking them in on a daily basis. I've turned into that girl that is so entranced when a compliment slips her way that she tries to cling on to it like a slippery anchovy. And anchovies are small, so picture that. While clinging to my anchovy compliment, I am also, at the same time, repulsed by it. It's an anchovy after all. Gross. So, when a compliment comes my way this is how I usually react:
A real live conversation with a friend today over lunch.
Sweet friend: "Melissa! I've never noticed that you have freckles on your face! They are so cute!"
Me, weirdly hopeful. My anchovy has slipped my way!: "Really? That is so nice of you to say!"
Sweet friend: "Really! I would die for freckles!"
Me, now being weird and acting like a total anchovy-fearing maniac: "Oh God. I forgot I'm not wearing make-up! Gross. Don't look at me."
I am, in short, troubled.
I'm not trying to say that we all need constant verbal validation, but I am trying to say we live in a society where compliments are looked down on and doling them out (or wanting them,) is considered gauche. The other day I complimented a friend and she turned to me with wide eyes and told me that I was the only friend she had that actually complimented her. THAT IS INSANE TO ME BECAUSE SHE HAS LONG ANGEL HAIR AND PEOPLE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT IT ALL OF THE TIME. But she's also smart. A businesswoman. (she does this: www.lightsplash.com) And she fences. I mean, c'mon people.
Compliments should take on other forms as well. I love when Brett tells me that I make a good point, or that I was right about putting stuffing into sandwiches, or the book I recommended was the best book in all of the land. These verbal affirmations are treasured. They make me feel proud and happy and softer towards everyone around me. Compliments catch on. My cashier today told he liked my choice in pasta, (and then he also hit on me, but that is beside the point,) and then I later found myself smiling creepily at the crossing guard, telling her that she was doing a great job. Not that she cared. OR MAYBE SHE DID.
I once babysat for this little girl and before my first shift the mother pulled me aside and told me that they didn't "do" compliments in their house. "We find it will encourage her to only find worth based on verbal cues. So, if anything, tell her that she is good at math."
I'm not joking.
Later that evening the little girl toddled over to me in a princess costume and fur snow boots wearing rubber kitchen gloves. She shyly twirled for me, and I exclaimed: "You look so...good at math." It killed me. I wanted to tell her she was clever, and very good at putting a look together, and unique, and yes, adorable. To me, there was nothing wrong with that affirmation. There was nothing wrong with reminding a little girl that she was beautiful inside and out.
We don't have to run around and tell each other how gorgeous we all are all of the time, but we should slip in little verbal love notes whenever we can. I miss Brett remarking about my amazing "faerie hair" when I first wake up. I miss telling him that I love the way he does a food dance whenever he is eating something he really likes. These are the little pieces of life, little moments only for me that I will carry around for the rest of my days.
And one day I hope to look at my daughter and applaud her for her individuality and amazing fashion sense. And her incredible skill at math.