Stranger (with baby) on a streetcar

Bear and I were on a streetcar in San Francisco and I had not taken a shower in a while because that’s how vacation works.

This is me:

This is what my hair was doing:

This is where we were going:

It was cold, which seemed mean of California, and I was thinking aloud that the city didn’t have nearly enough tall buildings and Bear was telling me I was a building snob. This woman with a baby got on and sat next to me. I immediately started worrying that she didn’t have enough space, with her baby and her diaper bag and her various other things that you carry with you when you have a baby. We were sitting towards the front, on those seats that say “Give these up if you’re young and healthy, you jerks” on them.

She looked at me, and I said, “Do you need more space? I’m sorry.”

She said, “No, I was just thinking that your hair looks really good.”

I said, “Oh! Thanks!”

She said, “That’s why I did that double take. I love it. You have these big, beautiful eyes, and it really brings them out.”

“Oh!” I said. “Thanks!”

I pretended to go on and think about other things, but really I was thinking, “What a great city! I love all these cute little buildings!”

It’s amazing how much a compliment can do. I wrote once before about how everyone should compliment each other. And some people thought I was weird. They were right, but I thought maybe I shouldn’t be so weird about it. And now I’m thinking that I was right all along (which feels pretty gratifying) and that people should just go ahead and be weird and awkward and compliment each other.

I told this girl I liked her hair, waiting for the subway at the Columbia stop a few weeks ago. She said “thanks” and gave me a suspicious look, like maybe I was going to stalk her and then cut off all her hair in her sleep and make a wig out of it and wear it while singing softly to myself, “Somebody loves you…” But usually when I compliment someone they smile like it actually makes them happy.

It actually makes me happy.

I had been thinking that I looked pretty gross and unsexy that day. I began to wonder, subtly, towards the back of my mind, if maybe Bear’s family was thinking something along the lines of “well, their kids won’t look right, but I’m sure they’ll be smart.” Or “she doesn’t look like she lives in Manhattan, but then, she does write that blog about how much cake she eats…which explains a lot.”

And then the woman with the baby on the streetcar said that thing and there I am, thinking, “Hell yeah. I am super hot.” And Bear’s family, in my head, is thinking, “He did good, that boy. Couldn’t have done much better.”

Which goes to show how powerful words are and stuff like that. They really are powerful.

*  *  *

Un-roast: Today I love my face’s version of freckles, which are very underdeveloped, but which try to come out with the sun.




Kate on April 11th 2011 in beauty, life

22 Responses to “Stranger (with baby) on a streetcar”

  1. ~moe~ responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    It’s truly amazing what compliments can do … the real trick for most women is to accept them and believe them. I know that’s my problem, one I struggle with constantly.

  2. Barbara responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Compliments really are disarming! Especially when they come from a total stranger and totally out of the blue. I used to get teased about valuing a compliment from the guy on the bus more than one from my husband.

    And, if I may speak for Bear’s family, we are totally gaga over you! He did good, that boy. Couldn’t have done any better!

  3. Emmi responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I always want to compliment strangers but don’t want to come across as wicked creepy. 99% of the time, I chicken out. Probably because anytime a stranger speaks to me, I freak out no matter what is said. Boston mentality. I traveled through the Midwest once and everyone was so damn friendly! Very off-putting.

  4. B1 responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Accepting compliments is really difficult when we look in the mirror or self-reflect and all we can see or think about are the flaws. I know I do.

    I think maybe we should take those compliments, write them down and remind ourselves what other people see in us. I remember an email chain letter that was pretty good about a teacher who had all of her students write something about all of the other students. She then compiled them and gave each student their list and one guy carried it in his wallet all of the time.

    I think this is something that we all should think about instead of the way we always tear each other apart or even how the media does it. Maybe it’s time for us to make a change in what we are willing to accept.

    un-roast: I love how Kate’s curly hair has one wild one and shows the true nature of the woman who writes this blog that we all so dearly love to read.

  5. Mandy responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    A graphic demonstration on how day-changing a compliment can be!
    I also think that it can be a struggle, sometimes, to just accept a compliment without wondering if it would be vain of us to believe it.

    And, yes, you do have big beautiful eyes, Kate!

    Unroast: Today, I love how I look in my running pants.

  6. Kate responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    I think what’s so great about a compliment like the one I got on the streetcar is that there didn’t seem to be any ulterior motive. It’s stupid how we look for motives, as though the people in our lives can’t be trusted to find us the correct amount of attractive, but it’s easy to feel that way. But here’s this woman with a baby who has no reason to say anything nice. And yet she did. So why not believe her?

    And of course I need to work on believing Bear too, and other people who have an obvious “motive.” Because it’s more fun to believe that all of the compliments are true.

    And I think I want to take the more fun route.

  7. Deanna responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I love giving compliments. I want to give more like when I see a woman with a beautiful haircut or color, but sometimes I think she may find it odd that I mention it. I always compliment my clients noticing differences in their weight, the way they move, their confidence in doing more difficult exercises.

    The strange thing is I rarely get compliments. I would like to get more…as Kate says they can really make your day…but for some reason people just don’t compliment me much.

    Despite that, I still get pleasure in giving compliments and seeing how people respond. It’s a real joy for me.

  8. Pip responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    what a cute story!! I have to admit i do suffer from classic city mentality (London) and chicken out of complimenting people all the time for fear of looking weird (your hair-compliment anecdote actually made me laugh out loud!)- still, when i get them i don’t think it’s weird and it brightens up my whole day.

    thanks for the reminder on how valuable it can be to overcome my shyness and be nice to others x

  9. Anna responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    love this story! it’s very day brightening. i tend to be fairly liberal with the compliments i give my friends, but i too am very shy to say things to strangers. i should definitely try it more.

  10. Angie responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I love the power of a good compliment. I actually practice the art of complimenting. It can make someone’s day so much more pleasant. For example, instead of saying something like, “Cute pants!” I try to aim for something more like “Wow! You have great personal style!”

    And that just brings a smile to both our faces. :)
    Wonderful post!

  11. Sooz responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    I am so glad that lady gave you such a nice compliment. You do such a great job with your blog and deserve as much uplifting goodness as you can handle.

  12. Brittany responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Yes! My hair naturally does that in a certain spot every day. I have always called it my “quail da-da.” Like a quail crest, but a “da-da.” Stress on the second syllable.

  13. Katherine responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    I’m still marveling at what came out of a compliment that I gave someone a few months ago when I went to Mercury Lounge to see a friend’s band play. In the ladies’ room, there were a bunch of us waiting silently in line and I noticed this girl’s kickass amazing haircut, so I said, “That hairstyle looks great on you!” She said thanks, and looked pleased; said it was nice to not have much hassle. I told her I wanted to cut mine short like that, too, but my mom always kept my hair super short when I was a kid and I *hated* that so much, that even now, at age 30, I don’t want to part with my long, wavy hair (except I DO kind of want to part with it). The girl said I should cut it because it’s an easy hairstyle to keep up and I have a nice face shape for it (which made ME feel great!).

    Then another girl smiled and said her mom kept her hair short when she was young, too, which is why she has long hair. This led to a whole other conversation which somehow led to us talking about Ireland, and two other girls discovered they were both born in the same region of Ireland and then another girl came out of the stall with toilet paper on her shoe, so we pointed it out but then she couldn’t get it off, which made us all laugh (at the TP, not at her) and try to help her get it off the shoe, and I found myself thinking that I hated how there’s this stereotype of women being catty and jealous with each other, when the truth is we can be really supportive and have fun together — even as strangers — in the women’s room.

    All this from complimenting one girl’s hair.

    I have a feeling men don’t get to experience this in their restroom.

  14. Liz Nord responded on 11 Apr 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    I have a hard time when I hear a compliment (whether it’s given to me or someone else) that seems rehearsed, flip, fake, or mechanical. Like the… “I should say this so I will” type of thing or the “I want this person to think I’m nice so I’ll compliment them” type of crap or the mocking “compliment”. It almost feels dirty.

    On the other hand, an authentic compliment (like the one you received, Kate) is such an amazing experience. The person giving the genuine compliment feels good and the person on the receiving end feels fabulous as well. It’s an exchange of positive energy that changes both people’s day or week or month forever. I love that!

    P.S. I’m liking your hoops!

  15. Kate responded on 12 Apr 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone :)
    I have no idea why my hair thinks that’s a good idea.

  16. Kate responded on 12 Apr 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I LOVE that story!

  17. Danielle Meitiv responded on 12 Apr 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    I love spontaneous compliments. I only give them occasionally because sometimes people do act weird, but I love getting them. It’s just so nice when someone wants a complete stranger to feel good.

    The other day a woman in my yoga class complimented me on my hair at the very moment that i was looking in the mirror thinking “what the hell am I supposed to do with this hair?!?” Made my day

  18. MWN responded on 15 Apr 2011 at 12:52 am #

    It’s tough, because on the one hand, I think compliments are really important and make people feel good and keep the world turning. But on the other hand, I think it’s more harmful in the long run to continually praise people for their appearance.

    Which is why I sometimes try to make the compliment not based on something physical. For example: “You look radiant. You really glow. You look so happy!”

  19. Jamillah responded on 16 Apr 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Ah! I love this post!!! I was just telling someone else that I think compliments from strangers are the best thing ever. I always try to say something if I’m admiring a stranger’s ring or nails or necklace. I know when people do this to me it really brightens my day and I hope I’ve brightened the day of many lovely strangers.

    RE: MWN’s comments, I can see what you’re saying. But speaking to someone’s appearance still is a compliment on a choice they’ve made while it’s still surface. Although your radiant compliment is great! I’m stealing that.

  20. WendyB responded on 17 Apr 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    I love getting random compliments…and giving them!

  21. Madison responded on 19 Apr 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    I love this! It’s so good to exercise giving compliments, & much harder sometimes to receive them (I love doing both).
    Great post, & yes, SF has such volatile weather, one minute it’s freezing and windy the next day the sun is shining & it’s 60 degrees, but I love it! -xo

  22. Rebecca responded on 27 Apr 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Boy, ain’t that the truth!

    One good compliment can keep me buoyed for hours–
    and your hair is adorable in that shot–
    silly tweaker and all.

    She’s right about it making your eyes look HUGE, ya know.