Are You Talking To Me?
What do you say when someone compliments you?
These girls use to come more often. During the last few months of working there, I noticed they came less frequently. I always wondered why. One of them, a glamorous and classy high maintenance type—you know, with the Chanel bag, gel manicure, and hair always done perfectly—came more often than the other. She was a regular. They both were but Ms. Chanel, who styled her silky light brown hair in cohesive waves, was more of a regular than the other.
I noticed she was never in a big group. Whenever she had lunch with people, she was either by herself or with one other person. I’ve never seen her with another female either except the one with the short black bob who accompanied her that day. She was also a high-maintenance type but not in a snobby way; they were both always super sweet and I liked them. Come to think of it, they probably worked nearby in the Financial District. That would explain why they were always dressed so professionally: pencil skirt past the knees, ruffled see-through chiffon blouse, pointy red bottom pumps, and smelling of expensive perfume.
I wouldn’t say I was jealous. But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little embarrassed at the thought of them smelling a combination of soy sauce, sweat, sushi, beer, and cheap perfume as I walked by. They intimidated me a little; probably because women like them were supposed to be vicious.
I have great reflexes. I am very good at not spilling stuff at work. When I am focused—especially on a really busy night—I kill it. However on this not-so-busy afternoon (it was slow), as I approached the two women with their glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, I suddenly was afraid of tripping and drenching their pretty little outfits in white wine. Do not dare drop this tray, I say to myself as I balance two wine glasses on it.
They’re having a conversation—they’re really happy to see each other. I’ve seen them before but I guess they haven’t hung out in a while. They both look great. They look the same as the last time I saw them a few months ago. From what I’m overhearing, I think one of them just got recently engaged.
At this point, I’m about three feet or so away, walking towards them. I know they know what's about to happen—I can feel it, I can sense it. These women are great actors. Even though they know that I’ll be invading their personal space very soon, they pay no mind and continue to talk to each other like they didn’t just see me walking towards them from the corner of their eye. No one make any sudden movements. They know the drill by now. And then comes the moment of truth: will I or will I not spill it?
So there I am, standing less than a foot from where they are sitting. I’m not walking towards them anymore, I have arrived. What is on the tray is for sure for them. I know it and they know it. Ms. Chanel, with her glistening wavy hair, looks at me and smiles. If I remember correctly, she was wearing bright red lipstick. She thanks me—I told you she was sweet—and the other woman with the black bob follows suit. She does the same exact thing and then they continue with their conversation. Don't worry, I smiled back. I may have my awkward moments but I don't leave people hanging. I probably said something like, “You are so welcome” or “No problem!” but I can’t remember.
Both glasses of wine make a perfect landing onto the black granite counter (they were sitting at the bar) and a sense of relief washes over me. However, it doesn't last very long.
Ms. Chanel bag says, “I like your hair.”
“Thank you,” I say, smiling as I look into her eyes. Without a word, she smiles back. After a brief moment, I walk away.
As I write this, my face can’t help but turn hot red. I mean it. If you were here right now, you’d be able to detect a temperature change on my skin; it isn’t just the Texas heat. Why? Why am I turning red? Because as I walk away from them, they start laughing. I look back and they are dying of laughter. I think they know that I looked back. I’m pretty sure red lipstick lady saw me look back from the corner of her eye because she’s sitting at a vantage point to the register, situated at her 3 o'clock. Why did I look back? I wish I hadn’t because it made me feel even more like an awkward turtle.
It took me a couple of minutes to realize why they may have been laughing. I didn’t do my hair that day. As a matter of fact, I wasn't styling my hair at all then. When she told me she liked my hair, I remember being confused because it wasn’t anything special. Don’t get me wrong—I love my hair. It’s thick and naturally wavy without me needing to do much of anything to it, except maybe put it in a bun while it’s damp and let it air dry. It can get frizzy or look really dry on the bad days, but I just didn't care enough to put much effort into styling it (perhaps I should've). The question is—was my hair having one of its bad days?
I run to the restroom just to double-check everything. I check my bum and there are no unexpected red stains on my jeans. Good. I lift my arm to give my pits a quick sniff and I think I smell quite good, considering the conditions. My hair looks pretty normal. It’s not the best but it’s not the worst. I look fine. That’s when it dawned on me.
She wasn’t talking to me. She was complimenting her friend’s new hairdo. It was sleek and well cut and if I remembered correctly, months ago when I last saw them at the bar together, her hair had been about two to three inches longer! I am absolutely mortified. I tell myself in the mirror that it’s an honest mistake. Besides, people compliment my wild hair all the time. However, telling myself it wasn't a big deal didn't work too well because I was cringing for the rest of the afternoon. I still had to wait on them. Luckily I’m a decent actress; I pretend I have no idea what’s going on and that if I did, I just didn’t care. For the couple of hours that they were there, I lived a lie. Because the embarrassment—the horrified feeling—hadn’t gone away, I just pretended it wasn't there. It still hasn’t gone away! I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.
This was one of those “Who do you think you are?” moments. I put practically no effort into my hair yet I think I’m getting complimented on it? Awkward. You bet I was cringing that whole day and the next. I am cringing now. Learn from me. If someone compliments you, make sure it’s directed to you first!
The kicker in this story is I could've died from humiliation that day for no reason. What if she did compliment me? What if she liked how my hair looked that day, despite the fact that I thought there was nothing special about it? What if they were laughing about something else? I just don't know and it kind of kills me (chances are she really meant to compliment her friend, though). The world may never know for sure. Oh well.