Apples are OK. Compliments are Better

A Compliment a Day Keeps the Old Age Blues at Bay

apples and compliments make for good health

My recipe for good health and vitality is not fresh fruit, but vanity. Yes, apples are nice, but compliments are so much better.

Yesterday I had several errands to run and a few appointments to keep. It was a busy day. So, I made an effort, did a bit more than just throw on some jeans. Truth be told, I did a lot more. I, as they used to say, gussied myself up. It paid off. I got four compliments from four different people.

One woman, a make-up artist at Bloomingdale’s no less, told me how much she liked my lipstick.

A passerby on the street complimented me on my cool jacket.

My lunch companion admired my green-lacquer necklace, and the waitress praised my shiny fire-engine-red nail polish.

I rode the BART home feeling pretty good about myself. I met my husband for dinner. He was tired and not feeling great. He offered no compliments or even much by way of conversation. It was a quick dinner, and home we went to a quiet evening of TV and sleep.

I thought about the compliments I had received that day. They were great. I sincerely appreciated them. Truth be told, I needed them the way someone in the Sahara Desert welcomes a sip of water. But they made me think. They were different than the compliments I used to get in “the old days.” Funny how we say “the old days” when what we actually mean is the days when we were young.

When I was young, compliments came from men. When I was young, compliments from men were about my bodily attributes – my hair, my eyes, etc. Sometimes the compliments were welcome, sometimes they were not.

Yesterday’s compliments all came from women and they focused on elements of my attire, my jewelry or my make-up. And, these compliments, all unexpected, were welcomed and appreciated.

Catcalls and Casinos

In “the old days,” when I was 12, just hitting puberty, men started looking at me. I hated it. The catcalls by construction workers on the streets of New York City. The leers by men in Las Vegas casinos, when I went out to dinner with my parents. The college-age guy who kissed me in the parking lot, when he helped load our purchases in the car while my mother lingered inside talking to her shop-keeper friend, and the drunk who kissed me New Year’s Eve in a Lake Tahoe casino after a midnight show.

I didn’t even like the more benign signs of sexism. The days when men opened doors for me and the days when they didn’t. The only difference being they opened doors on the days when I wore my contact lenses and they didn’t on the days I wore my eyeglasses.

Burning Bras, Lipstick and Mobsters

I went to bra-burning Barnard College in the early 1970s. The first day of freshmen orientation, I showed up with my parents (bad enough) wearing a powder-blue Belgium knit pantsuit. I was surrounded by a sea of girls, I mean women, all wearing torn blue jeans and slogan-spouting tee shirts. Each had long brown hair with center parts. I quickly ditched my parents and the powder-blue Belgium knit pantsuit and became a center-parted hair feminist.

But in 1981, I became a TV news reporter and quickly learned that I was judged just as much by the shade of my lipstick, as my news-gathering acumen. The lesson surprisingly came from my intellectual mother. I had just scored a major scoop, beating everybody in town to a story about an organized crime figure. I called my mother, expecting a great big “You go girl.” Instead, I got a Jewish mother’s lament, “You looked so tired. You should have put some lipstick on to brighten up your face.” I realized if my own smart mother couldn’t get past my countenance to the contents of the story, looks must matter.

After that, I went for a balance between astute and Elizabeth Arden. I always dressed up for work. I wanted to be known for my smarts, but I didn’t mind when people noticed I looked nice too.

Once when I was driving my ’57 T-Bird with the top down, a truck driver pulled up beside me at a red light and honked. “Great body, lady.” I harrumphed and gave him a dirty look. “Not you. The car,” he shouted as the light changed and he drove off. The feminist in me was relieved. The auto enthusiast in me was pleased. But I confess, the girly girl in me was a tiny bit let down.

Where It’s At

Now, however, I work from home. There’s no dress code. It’s casual Monday-Friday, all year-long. Sweatpants and a clean tee shirt are all that’s required to sit down to the computer and start writing.

So, that brings me to the “now.” I no longer live in chic NYC or button-down DC, or even shiny Sin City, but let-it-all-hang-out Berkeley, Ca. So, my middle-aged fashion sense has truly taken a slide to the casual side. The truth is: if my mother was alive, she was would say I’ve let myself go. The truth is she would be right.

In terms of my marriage, Handsome Hubby (HH) and I have been married 31 years. We love each other and we laugh a lot. We’re pretty much equal partners. We share chores and we don’t fight very often. As HH would say, I’ve never gone the full Rapscallion on him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like a compliment now and then. And the truth is nowadays, the compliments are a little more “then” than “now.”

Apples, Eclairs, and Compliments

So, I especially treasure yesterday’s unexpected nods of acknowledgment and offer this middle-aged update of the “apple a day keeps the doctor away” adage: A compliment a day keeps the old age blues at bay!

Yes, indeed. Apples, compliments, and the occasional chocolate éclair are good for the body and soul.

6 replies
  1. Karen DeBonis
    Karen DeBonis says:

    I have similar feelings about compliments, Karen – they can make my day. I’m at home most of the time, too, and I’ll admit that even for a trip to the grocery store, I’ll do myself up a little. But it makes me feel good about myself, regardless of if anyone notices. So it’s worth it!

  2. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    Kindness brings the best compliments. My wise Mother Katie would remind me after a great or Even minor success, “It is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice”.
    Coming across an old receipt today, I called a mechanic who worked on my Dads car 17 years ago. I saw from the receipt The charge was minimal but he loved my Dad and knew he couldn’t afford much. I called to thank him- he was gone, as is my Dad, but the nephew was so moved and talked about all the things my Dad had done for him personally. Life is good.

    • Karen Galatz
      Karen Galatz says:

      Thank you for these lovely memories. How nice you got to speak to the nephew. Here’s to the precious “clutter” we keep and the stories it calls to mind. My children and their digital lives will never have this paper trail of familial history to fondly follow. It makes me sad.


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