So I was at the Apple store asking a question about my iPad when the 20-something young man helping me said, “I really like the way you have highlighted your hair.” I stared at him, dumbfounded. “Really,” he said, “the way the blond blends in with the gray is very attractive.” And I thought to myself, “Is this some new sales technique they are teaching? If so, it’s working. I’ll take an iMac, a MacBook Air, an iPad and three iPhones”.
(I didn’t really buy all that, but it makes sense as a sales strategy. According to boomer expert Mary Furlong, boomer women are Chief Purchasing Officers, driving 85 per cent of consumer purchases).
As I left the store, smiling, I thought how pleasant it was to receive a compliment from a young man. After a certain age, it seems, women don’t expect to receive compliments about their appearance, especially from young men.
I remember a French film I saw in my teens, in which a little boy asks his father if he smiles at all the women in Paris or just the pretty ones. “If the woman is beautiful and I smile at her,” the father explains, “it gives me pleasure, and if the woman is not beautiful and I smile at her, it gives her pleasure… so yes, I smile at all of them.” I remember this quote because it describes so well how the person giving a compliment gets pleasure, not just the recipient.
I’ve often complimented women in their 70s, 80s and 90s on some aspect of their appearance. “You have beautiful eyes, you have lovely skin, what a beautiful sweater…” It could be to someone I know, or a complete stranger. The reaction is always the same. First, they are surprised, and then they smile, feeling good about not who they were, but who they are now. And like the father in the story, it gives me pleasure as well.
It makes me happy to recognize that 80 and 90 year old eyes can be beautiful, and happier still to realize that such a simple thing, something so easy to give — a compliment — has made someone feel good. Acts of kindness, I have come to realize, don’t have to be large or require real effort. And it’s Ok if they make you feel good too.
In the meantime, there is still something wrong with my iPad. I may need to go back to the Apple store.