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Rocking Around the Christmas Blather

I was Christmas shopping on Wednesday afternoon at a large department store and a lady and I were browsing knick knacks near each other when “Rockin’, Around the Christmas Tree” came over the store radio. I started humming along then tried to remember who sang it—my mind drew a blank.

I turned to the lady and said, “Do you know who sings this? Peggy Lee?”

She replied, “Nope, I don’t know.”

I chuckled and said, “I know it’s around her era—hmmm Nancy Sinatra? No. This is going to drive me crazy!” Chuckled again, then I continued browsing.

She turned her back to me and said, “I’m really not interested.”

I was really stunned. Is it possible she thought I was hitting on her?

It was BRENDA Lee, btw.    1208-11

Readers should note that the OP in this story is female and the subject line of the email submission pertained to whether the second woman was rude out of fear of lesbianism.  Uhhh, if I were the second woman, that is about the last thing I’d think of so, no, I seriously doubt she even went there in her mind.   Unless you were actually hitting on her which changes the whole dynamics.  It is plausible the woman was a lesbian and simply had no interest in being hit on by you or anyone else.

What you did was “blather” to a stranger.  Look at it this way, you two occupied the same tennis court and you served a soft volley to her as an invitation to “play” this verbal exchange.  Instead of hitting it back to you, she caught it with her hand indicating she is willing to engage you verbally on a very limited scope but she promptly dropped the conversational ball with a very definite closure to this game. She was not interested in playing the verbal volley with you.  You ignored this and served her another ball and she had to be more direct in communicating her unwillingness to enter into a verbal back and forth with you.

We all try conversational openers with strangers.   Sometimes the other person is willing to play, sometimes they are not. It is not rude to decline to enter into a conversation with a stranger.   To expect that people must respond to our verbal “serves” or else they are rude is to manipulate people into behaving the way we want them to for our momentary pleasure.  Sometimes when I shop, I’m in a mood to chit chat with strangers but there are many other times I am in the shopping “zone” and I really do not want to be distracted.  Verbals serves are met with a small smile, an appropriate comment (“I don’t know”, “Yes, those are pretty”) and me continuing on my business.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Felis D December 22, 2011, 5:29 pm

    Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. It sounded to me like the OP was throwing out a “hypothetical” question regarding this song. (i.e., that she wasn’t necessarily expecting a helpful answer or trying to start a conversation, but she just really wanted to know the name of the song). When the stranger proved less than helpful, I thought her second remark was more a side remark to no one in particular. I don’t think she was angling for a response from the stranger, or trying to hook the stranger into a conversation. That the stranger reacted less than civilly about this would have mortified me as well.

    I don’t see anything in this situation that constitutes an etiquette breach. Just a gigantic misunderstanding…

  • Baglady December 22, 2011, 8:23 pm

    Maybe it’s my social awkwardness (I have Asperger’s), maybe it’s because I lived in The Big City
    for a few years, maybe it’s both, but being approached by a stranger trying to strike up a conversation makes me very, very nervous.

    I assume that anyone who approaches me out of the blue wants something. It could be as innocuous as directions or advice on what brand of (whatever we’re both shopping for) to buy — and in those cases I’ll give them what they want. But if they’re making small talk, I start wondering when they’re going to hit on me, ask me to hear their MLM sales pitch or try to convert me to their religion.

    I’m sure some of those strangers whose verbal sallies I’ve ignored think I’m rude. But I have no way of knowing that. And I’d like to think they aren’t expending a whole lot of thought on me. I know that if I approached a stranger who refused to engage, I’d probably assume she was like me and had been taught not to.

  • Acadianna December 23, 2011, 12:36 am

    I can certainly understand why many dislike the unsolicited conversation of strangers, but I rather enjoy when a stranger engages me in friendly chat. It gives me a feeling of “community” that I like and appreciate (one that seems to be gradually disappearing these days). This is just my personal preference, of course, and I don’t have an opinion as to whether either party was rude in this situation.

  • Mabel December 28, 2011, 9:50 pm

    I don’t mind too much if people talk to me in stores; I do it myself too. If I’m not interested in continuing the conversation, I simply smile and don’t say anything, or anything more. They usually get the hint.

  • Lorrie January 7, 2012, 2:20 am

    I sometimes want to make a comment, but before I do, I look at them and smile. If I get a “Happy smile” back, I say something. If I get a tight grimace or the awkward look and the “slide eyes aside”, I take a deep breath and keep my comment to myself. The, as soon as I get home, I GOOGLE for the answer! Ha ha, Happy New Year everyone. (PS: I am the girl who never met a stranger, can talk a leg off a donkey but finally learned not everyone wanted to talk to me) How shocking!