DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a teenager, my hair turned prematurely white and gray, and I dyed it for many years. In my late 30s, I decided to stop using dye and embrace the natural color.
Because the color is unusual on someone my age, and because I wear my hair in an interesting short hairstyle, I receive many compliments. I feel that responding to a compliment with a hearty "Thank you! That really made my day!" is a proper response.
However, I was told by a friend that I should offer my own compliment to the giver in return. This seems insincere, considering that the person who approached me had time to admire something and formulate an opinion, whereas I would have to do the same instantly. What do you think?
Also, the opposite comment I often receive is, "I could never go gray; I would feel too old!" Do you have a witty response?
GENTLE READER: "Don't you hope to grow old?" Say this in a pitying tone, as if you had been told the person has a fatal disease.
The response, Miss Manners is aware, will be an embarrassed, "Yes, but not yet." However, the point will have been made about the futility, not to say the idiocy, of age denial. And by the way, there is nothing as obviously aging as denying one's age.
Besides, have these people never seen portraits of 18th-century ladies and gentlemen, who powdered their hair white or wore white wigs because the effect was so flattering?
That is why you are also getting compliments, to which you are responding properly. Although one should be generous in issuing compliments, an immediate return compliment sounds forced -- the polite equivalent of "Well, you're another."