Wedding Woes

I don't understand this person's problem...

Dear Prudence,
I’m a thirtysomething woman who works in a bustling downtown area of a major city. On a recent lunch break, I took a short walk down a busy thoroughfare and I accidentally bumped into a man walking beside me. I apologized and kept walking. As I paused at the next stoplight, this man (who looked to be in his 60s) asked me where I was headed. I said, “Work,” smiled politely, and hoped to end our conversation there. But he persisted, asking me where I worked (A store? A restaurant? No, and no.). He seemed perfectly nice, and spoke slowly; I think English was not his first language. He asked if I spoke Spanish, I smiled and said, “No, I took French in high school,” and then looked into the distance to encourage an end to our conversation. I was uncomfortable, and I am sure it was visually apparent. The light turned green, and I walked away quickly.

On the one hand, I can’t help but feel I was terribly rude when this fellow was only attempting to engage with me in harmless chatter. I’m a fairly introverted individual, and I honestly detest making small talk with strangers—be it a fellow on the street or a teller at my local bank. On the other hand, I believe that often men make demands on strange women’s attentions and ask invasive questions. What do you think? Should I have been kinder to this gentleman, who in the bright light of day, on the busiest boulevard in my city, posed me no risk?

—Zipped Lips

Re: I don't understand this person's problem...

  • People chat on street corners. You don't have to engage with them, or feel bad about not engaging. ir youre not interested in small talk, try headphones. 
    DrillSergeantCatOurWildKingdom
  • I get the nerves - she just bumped into him and now it feels like he is following her. Likely unrelated, but not impossible.

    Ignore and let it go.
    OurWildKingdom
  • Joney Joney member
    100 Love Its 10 Comments Name Dropper
    If he does this often he's probably used to introverts speed walking in the opposite direction.
    OurWildKingdom
  • Honestly, I feel like this is why people are so disconnected from others these days.

    Like, this person can't stand at a stoplight (that's, what, 30 seconds?) and make small talk with a stranger? She admits she felt safe, the problem was feeling weird talking to a stranger. I'm not saying she needs to "smile more" (neither did this dude), but I don't see any reason you can't exchange pleasantries for 30 seconds and be on your way. 
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    short+sassyOurWildKingdom
  • atomicblondeatomicblonde The Shire member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary First Answer
    I hate small talk, so this would have made me uncomfortable simply because it's small talk, but I wouldn't have written to Prudie.


    "And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me..."
    --Philip Pullman

    DrillSergeantCatMissKittyDangerlevioosa
  • I have sat next to overly chatty people like the man in the letter on the T (back when I commuted on the T) or on some of my flights for work. Nine times out of 10 they are completely harmless - just either overly friendly or sometimes lacking in social skills.

    Is it off-putting? Sometimes - but mostly because I'm not used to strangers being overly friendly. Is it annoying? Sometimes. But I just smile, make polite small talk back and then put my headphones on or become engrossed in my kindle and the small talk stops. Not once have I ever felt the need to write a letter to an advice columnist over it. 
    climbingwifeOurWildKingdomcharlotte989875
  • @sparklepants41 and @climbingwife, omg, yes.  Where I grew up in So. CA, it is also like that.  That was one of my bigger, unexpected culture shocks moving to NOLA.  My neighbors want to talk to chit chat for at least a few minutes, if we both happen to be outside at the same time.  Which is usually when I'm going out to my car because I am busy going somewhere, lol.  Strangers initiate friendly conversations all the time.

    And it's not even that I don't like people or am uncomfortable around strangers, I just prefer to stay in my bubble and focus on getting my stuff done.  I've adjusted but, even after living here for 15+ years, I'm still not very used to it and don't care for it.  But it's also not that big of a deal.

    My H, the Chatty Cathy I referenced in my above post lol, is usually really good at picking up on social cues.  But I'll still remind him if we're going back to So. CA that people aren't used to friendly banter with strangers.

    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • *Barbie**Barbie* member
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper


    Reading this makes me happy I'm from New York. 


    Yeah, it sounds like this woman has a very "east coast" mentality - i describe Philly in the same way. 

    In Pittsburgh, it's a lot more common for people to be friendly towards strangers, make small talk, hold a door, smile, whatever. When we lived in Philly, it was a completely different atmosphere - you didn't talk, smile, make eye contact, etc. with strangers. Living in Houston, it's a much more friendly environment - not sure if it's the "southern hospitality" - but it wouldn't be weird here for a stranger to smile and make small talk while waiting to cross the street, or riding in an elevator. 

    I get the comment about men making inappropriate comments/passes at women/telling them to smile or harassing them in public - but it sounds like she wasn't creeped out by the guy, just annoyed that he was talking to her. I don't blame her for giving vague answers, but i also don't see the big deal in making small talk with a stranger for 30 seconds. 
    short+sassyOurWildKingdomcharlotte989875
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers


    @sparklepants41 and @climbingwife, omg, yes.  Where I grew up in So. CA, it is also like that.  That was one of my bigger, unexpected culture shocks moving to NOLA.  My neighbors want to talk to chit chat for at least a few minutes, if we both happen to be outside at the same time.  Which is usually when I'm going out to my car because I am busy going somewhere, lol.  Strangers initiate friendly conversations all the time.

    And it's not even that I don't like people or am uncomfortable around strangers, I just prefer to stay in my bubble and focus on getting my stuff done.  I've adjusted but, even after living here for 15+ years, I'm still not very used to it and don't care for it.  But it's also not that big of a deal.

    My H, the Chatty Cathy I referenced in my above post lol, is usually really good at picking up on social cues.  But I'll still remind him if we're going back to So. CA that people aren't used to friendly banter with strangers.



    It's funny. I notice it when I travel - how much people in other parts of the country chit chat with each other. It's just not something that happens here. But when I do encounter it, I'll oblige and just silently pray that it ends soon. I try to be as curt as possible. But good lord, I can't imagine ever being so bothered by a situation like this to write in to an advice columnist. Madness! 

    My H is also a chit chatter though, even though he grew up here too. He loves to chat with people, and it drives me insane. 
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    short+sassy
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    I hate small talk so I would have hated this exchange too. But I wouldn't have written Prudie about it. I suck it up when strangers start to talk to me (like an adult). I also can tell when conversation is "small talk" versus the actual harassment women do encounter on a daily basis. There's a big difference in tone, insinuation, etc. 


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    OurWildKingdomDrillSergeantCat
  • divarhddivarhd member
    10 Comments Name Dropper 5 Love Its
    I think she was right to be uneasy.  This is a classic example of how woman get assaulted.  We're raised to be polite and be nice and predators know it....maybe he was just trying to engage in small talk, maybe he was hitting on her, but maybe not.  As soon as he asked where she works that's the red flag.
    Met: 5/4/16
    Dating: 6/21/16
    Engaged: 3/20/17
    Wedding: 3/24/18
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