Has anyone ever complimented you on your teeth?
It’s more awkward than you would think.
A lady came into the office today, and I have never met her. She does her thing, we exchange pleasantries on the weather, everything is pretty straightforward. Actually, she was a bit abrupt, so her entire visit only took about 60 seconds. Then right as she was leaving, she said, “You have really nice teeth.” And then walked straight out the door. Not another word.
I know, it was just a compliment, she was being nice, I should just say thank you. And luckily, I managed to keep my manners about me and I actually did say thank you. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t being sarcastic, either. But seriously…nice teeth?
Granted, this is one of the things I’ve noticed since moving to Washington – people here love to give compliments. I’ve had teenage girls stop me in the middle of the street – I braced myself, thinking they were going to beat me up or steal my lunch money – but they wanted to compliment this paisley dress I was wearing that my mom got me for $15 at Chinatown in Vancouver.
I’m not saying I’m all that; I’m just saying people here are really friendly, and they like to give compliments whenever they can. It’s a nice virtue that I’ve tried to emulate, but apparently I’ve still got some work to do with regards to accepting compliments. Because this last one really caught me off-guard.
Then I started to wonder, maybe she was saying it like, Nice teeth, buddy. And the minestrone you had for lunch looks really good, too. Paranoid, I checked to see if I had some food stuck in my teeth. Nothing.
Then I got all self-conscious. Maybe she was being ironic. I’ve been known to have a really toothy grin. I can’t help it; I’m a happy person, so I smile generously. She was a little on the curt side, so maybe she didn’t appreciate that I was smiling so much. Maybe she was trying to drop me a hint, like, Nice teeth, Tony Robbins. It’s Monday afternoon, we’re in the middle of a recession and a depressing presidential campaign, and as if that’s not enough, it’s raining harder than usual. In Seattle. Get a grip.
I got indignant. If there was ever a time when people needed to smile, it would be now. There’s enough in the world to be sad about, the last thing people need is yet another cranky person. So I’m going to smile, dammit, and I’m going to be electric. And if I could, I would flash all 52 of my genetically perfect, braces-free, pearly white (well…off-white) teeth.
Then it occurred to me – I do, in fact, have really nice teeth.
Maybe she really was just complimenting me.
And I am a neurotic person who doesn’t know how to take an honest compliment if it was sitting in front of her covered in frosting.
So I guess it’s a good thing her visit didn’t last more than 60 seconds. Because whatever good first impression I might have made, I would have completely undone it with my little psychotic break.
On the other hand, if anyone ever compliments me on my teeth or any other random facial feature in the future, I will never get caught off-guard again. You never know. This is America. Anything can happen.