Q. I have had the same podiatrist for about 15 years, a very pleasant man of uncertain age who has worn a quite obvious hairpiece as long as I have known him. He also has been cleanshaven.
Recently this nice gentleman has had open heart surgery and had been away from his office for about four months. Upon his return, I made an appointment and to my astonishment was greeted by someone I scarcely recognized, but who was indeed the same dear man.
The voice wasn't different, but the hairpiece has been discarded, revealing a mostly bald pate surrounded by a soft, curly fringe (much more attractive than the phoney toupee), and a great tan was embellished by a moustache. The whole image was improved by new, stylish gold-rimmed spectacles.
My question is -- in such a situation, is a comment appropriate, or does one ignore the transformation? I can't imagine saying, "Oh, I see you're not wearing your toupee now," or "I never did like that hairpiece, you could tell it wasn't yours . . ."
I couldn't decide if it would be unmannerly to comment, or if the improvement should be noted by a compliment.
A. It is not at all uncommon for people to be absent from their usual circles for a few months and to return looking improved. There was a time, for instance, when it was common for young unmarried girls whose stomachs stuck out to disappear for a few months and back looking slim.
Now, one more often sees older people of both sexes returning from unspecified vacations wearing their faces or other parts of their bodies higher than before.
No true friend can ever figure out the cause of such a change for the better, except a change of scenery or rest, both of which can do wonders. It is not necessary to supply this observation, however. One should merely mention the improvement. The appropriate compliment is, 'Why, you look marvelous! I don't know what it is, but you look years younger!"
Q. Do you think it totally disgraceful to get one's newspaper and magazine from the disposal room in a large apartment building after others have read them and put them there?
A. Forageing in other people's trash is, indeed, disgraceful. However, recyling reading matter is a boon to humanity.