A quick recap of how I forced myself to say something nice, despite feeling really weird about it:
A few evenings ago, I ran up to Whole Foods for just a handful of things. I was anxious to get in and out. The sun was already edging past the horizon, threatening to mute the most beautiful light I had ever seen. This was not good. I was determined to go for a nice long jog against the backdrop of a watercolor sky; by my estimation, I had maybe 15 minutes to hit the pavement.
Hugging some bread and a jar of almond butter, I picked a spot in the shortest line I could find. Of course, upon my arrival, this also became the slowest line.
I craned my neck to suss out the source of the hold up. It seemed to be a senior member of the Price Police, haggling with the young cashier over what might have been a ten-cent difference in expectations.
I watched out the window as the sky began to morph, ushering in an inky purple to slowly diffuse over top my canvass. Priceless art selling for a dime, apparently.
Anxious to initiate damage control, I mentally drew out an alternate route — if I cut some of the cul-de-sacs, I might still get in a decent run, I reasoned.
But the line seemed only to move slower. More haggling, paired with missing coupons and an indignant insistence to pay by check — by check! — and I realized I might have to scrap my plans.
By the time I had taken the “next-in-line” position, I was visibly irritated. I am quite certain I was wearing an unfortunate face.
Watching the cashier move food into bags, I tried to concentrate on the notion of progress — I was hoping the forward movement of it all would settle my nerves. Seeing things “getting done” is somehow deeply satisfying to me.
So I watched, and as I did, I couldn’t help but notice more than just the harried hands that rushed to grab and scan and ring and pack. I began to notice the face.
And it was hard to not see how pretty it was.
The most striking cheekbones plumped up against creamy milk-chocolate skin. Flawless skin, really. The kind of skin I have in mind as I slather on the latest “it” cream and hope for some sort of miracle.
As I put my groceries on the counter, I felt that tug at my chest that told me I ought to say something to her. I should tell her what beautiful skin she had. And why not? How often do people ever really say what’s on their mind, especially when it’s something this good? Not too often, I would guess. And, I happen to know that there is something extra special about a compliment gifted to one woman by another — it has a way of settling into the very fiber of your being because you can actually dare to believe it. It changes you. In a good way.
I quickly cobbled together the right words in the right order, so when her eyes met mine, I could offer up my sentiment seamlessly. Things like this need to be executed just so — awkward and stilted turns “kind ” into “creepy” rather quickly.
But every time I felt I had the moment locked, a tug — this one in my stomach — told me I ought to hold off.
Oh, I don’t want to make her feel weird, I thought.
Maybe there’s a language barrier, and my words will just hang there all garbled and confused and completely unabsorbed.
And that guy in line behind me is really encroaching on my space. His hovering is just making it all rushed and ruined. Damn you, annoying, hovering guy.
It’s funny how something so small can turn into something so unnecessarily big. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just say it?
Okay, just say it, I thought as she punched at the keyboard to ring my total.
Say it now — 1, 2, 3…now!
Okay, here we go, as I swiped my credit card. Say it….now. And….now!
At this point, I was feeling really lame. Completely ridiculous. And, a little exhausted, actually.
Alright, whatever, this is so dumb. I’m doing it for real. Right now:
“I couldn’t help but notice you have the most beautiful skin,” I said as I signed my receipt. “You’re so pretty.”
Casually glancing up as I snapped the rubber pen back into place, I watched as her face completely transformed. Beautiful skin further illuminated by that “change” I mentioned earlier.
Putting her hand to her heart, her chest caved slightly, as if absorbing my words like some kind of unexpected blow. She took in a deep breath that caught a little in the middle — you know, from that particular kind of gratitude you can actually feel squeeze at your throat. You know the kind I mean.
“Oh my God, thank you so much,” she laughed. “You have no idea how nice that is to hear. You just made my whole night.”
I smiled and grabbed my bag.
I could still hear her “oh-my-God-ing” as I passed through the exit.
The sky was now too murky to attempt a jog. But the air smelled really, really clean.
I sensed my heart racing a little faster, and I swear I could feel the endorphin rush of that runner’s high I had been craving all day.
And it didn’t take 45 minutes of pounding the pavement, negotiating my way up punishing inclines and around cars parked too far from the curb.
It just took ten seconds of being brave enough to say something nice.