Rocking Around the Christmas Blather

by admin on December 20, 2011

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.

 

{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessyy December 20, 2011 at 5:55 am

The second lot of talking seemed more like thinking out loud to me…

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Aje December 20, 2011 at 6:04 am

Honestly, if she wasn´t interested (conversation or otherwise), couldn´t she have just not spoken at all and achieved the same goal?

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Susan December 20, 2011 at 6:33 am

I supposed some verbiage other than “I’m really not interested” would have felt a little less hurtful. I do not like to talk with strangers most of the time. If I were the lady OP had spoken to, rather than say that I was not interested in the conversation or the person attempting to pursue it, I would have smiled and shrugged and walked away. Maybe I would have said “Sorry, I really don’t know”.

However, this IS a stranger we are talking about, and there is really no point in being offended or upset about this unsuccessful attempt to speak to her. I hope it didn’t ruin your day!

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lkb December 20, 2011 at 7:07 am

Wow! I read the account and wonder why the whole sexual issue even came up. I tend to try to chat with people in check-out lines etc. and if the other party doesn’t play, I just shrug and move on. It’s quite likely that other person had other stuff on her mind and this was just not the time to be discussing the (IMHO) too-oft played “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”.

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MellowedOne December 20, 2011 at 7:29 am

Sorry, I’m not buying it.

True, we shouldn’t be felt to made we ‘must’ engage in chit chat with strangers at stores. It can be aggravating when we want to do nothing but shop but others want to engage us in conversation. That said, the solution is simple, and can be done without the slightest bit of offense: gradually walk away. Find another area to browse, and keep some distance from Chatty Cathy.

No need to make a cheerful person glum because we ‘set them straight’.

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Kristen December 20, 2011 at 8:21 am

Admin,
Thank you so much for this take on the situation! Too many times I feel pressured by strangers to engage in inane conversations because THEY want to, not because I want to. It can be difficult to dissuade a pushy chatter when in public and it is heartening to know that it IS a little rude to try and force conversation upon an unwilling stranger. I can at least go forward now, comfortable that as long as I am polite in shutting down the unwanted chat, I am not breaking any societal rules about conversing with strangers.

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--Lia December 20, 2011 at 8:33 am

“I’m really not interested in who sings the song,” not “I’m not interested in dating you.” Good grief what a mix-up! Have we really gotten to the point in this over-sexed society that we think there has to be a sexual element in the most minor of communications?

I’d like to ask the OP how she would respond to a letter like this:

While browsing in a store the other day, a woman tried to engage me in conversation about the music the store was playing. She was trying to remember some trivia about singers, a subject I know nothing about. Besides, I was there to shop, had a million things on my mind, and couldn’t be bothered. The first time she brought it up, I told her I didn’t know, but she didn’t get the hint. She kept at it. It’s like she couldn’t keep a thought to herself and has to share with whomever she sees. What’s the polite-spine way to tell her that I had no interest in chit-chat?

Wouldn’t we all suggest something along the lines of “I’m really not interested?”
(Wouldn’t we suggest that there’s something a tiny bit rude about continuing to try to engage strangers after the first no?)

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Harley Granny December 20, 2011 at 8:39 am

Wow Admin..kinda harsh? Trying to have a fun conversation is now “blather?”
What I see are a couple of over reactions that’s all nothing else.
Maybe the OP made the 2nd statement without really expecting a response at all and the 2nd lady took it as the OP wanting to continue the conversation. She replied that she wasn’t interested. I would have assumed she wasn’t interested in who sang the song.
It never would have crossed my mind that a pass was being made.

Goes back to the old saying that if you’re looking for rudeness you’ll find it in anything.

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The Elf December 20, 2011 at 9:06 am

What OP did something I really dislike, though I’m not so sure I’d go so far as to call it rude. I’m a rather introverted person, and after a day of working in a cubicle followed by a subway ride with people shoulder to shoulder, I need some space. I hate running errands and shopping – especially this time of year when I just hear the same 15 songs over and over and over and over and the stores are super crowded. I want to get in and get out with a minimum of people interaction so I can go home to where I can really relax. Online shopping is awesome, but I can’t use it for everything.

The dismissive first response of “Nope, I don’t know” is exactly the sort of thing I’d say to extradite myself. I need to respond, to be polite, but I have no desire to engage in conversation (and don’t know the answer anyway). If I had wanted to continue the conversation, I would have said something more open ended like “I don’t know. Maybe Nancy Sinatra?” or “I don’t know, but isn’t this a good song?” or even something more negative but still engaging like “I don’t know, but I’m really sick of hearing this song. I wish they’d play some old fashioned carols.”

I hope I’m not encouraging OP to never engage strangers in conversation, because that sort of back-and-forth is enjoyable by most. In fact, I think the world loses a bit when people become too insular, like I have a tendency to be. A friend of mine loves this sort of thing and has started up interesting conversations with people at the most unlikely of places. He would have jumped right in with both feet and in no time you all would have been happily discussing the relative merits of 50s Christmas rock vs modern Christmas rock. But I’m not that extroverted and I just am looking for an opening to get away. OP just needs to recognize a light conversation ender before it becomes a more firm one.

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Carol December 20, 2011 at 9:10 am

I sort of disagree with the Admin. I don’t think the OP was attempting to continue the conversation. She didn’t follow up with ‘Are you sure you don’t know?’ or any other question or statement that would indicate she wanted to continue the conversation. It sounded more to me like she was just ending the conversation by explaining why she asked. She said she continued browsing, so it sounds to me like she was just saying one more thing and moving on.

Even if she WAS trying to engage the woman in conversation, the woman’s response could have been less curt, but maybe that’s just me. That said I DO agree that it’s important to pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues when engaging someone in conversation so you don’t blather to a stranger, or anyone really.

As an aside, I always enjoy those moments when I connect briefly with a stranger in a shop. I like those little reminders that other people in the world are actual people who are, as Charles Dickens wrote, ‘ really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.’

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NooraK December 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

Without knowing tone of voice, it’s hard to say whether either was out of line. I read the story as though the last thing the LW said was more speaking to herself, rather than to the other person, or maybe the other person’s “Nope, I don’t know” wasn’t clearly indicative of her disinterest in continuing the conversation. If she didn’t wish to continue the conversation, that’s fine, there’s no need to add “I’m really not interested”, since LW had already moved on to browsing again.

Now, if the dynamic was different, the other shopper’s response was clear in disinterest, or the LW’s second comment was directed toward the other shopper in a way that was pressing the conversation, it’s perfectly fine for the other person to state she is not interested. In that case, LW should not be upset over being advised of that fact.

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SS December 20, 2011 at 9:27 am

I agree with Admin that I completely read that as she was not interested in who sang the song, nor interested in continuing to be obligated to discuss the song simply because she wanted to be left alone to continue doing her own shopping. Nothing in the story made me even think of jumping to the conclusion of ‘being hit on’.

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michellep December 20, 2011 at 9:29 am

I have to respectfully disagree with admin that the OP “blathered” to the lady. She initiated a simple friendly interaction and the stranger responded. If she wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation, she could have simply walked away. There was no reason for her to be rude. I know no strangers and chitchat with everyone. When someone gives me the hint that they don’t want to talk, which that lady didn’t, I take it. The OP did nothing wrong.

Please don’t stop being friendly, OP. There are some people out there, while not necessarily outgoing, that won’t be rude.

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Xtina December 20, 2011 at 9:38 am

I guess you’d have to be there to see the exchange, since it is often a combination of word and body language that conveys intent. We don’t know in what tone the woman said she was not interested or what her non-verbal signals were, but she did respond to the OP’s first question–unless the OP missed some clear signals, I’d say the second woman was a little rude in turning her back to the OP and saying she wasn’t interested. At least she didn’t tell her to shut up or just walked away in stony silence, but at the same time, this may have not been the most polite way to respond.

I didn’t pick up a lesbian vibe in this conversation, I just thought the woman meant she wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation about the singer.

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badkitty December 20, 2011 at 10:00 am

I’m chronically uninterested in other people and their random thoughts. Honestly, if I was that second woman I wouldn’t have responded at all… but then I might have been peppered with continued attempts at uninteresting speculation on a topic that couldn’t possibly matter less. You weren’t asking if the scarves were too thick for a child, or any other actual shopping question; you were asking something that you should have been able to answer by whipping out your phone or waiting until you got home, since you clearly have internet access of some sort.

Maybe I’m the rude one, but it always bothers me when strangers assume that I care about the random thoughts that float through their brains, or their personal problems. Let this one go; she said she wasn’t interested, and I would take that to literally mean that she thought your chosen conversational topic was boring.

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Radred December 20, 2011 at 10:03 am

I think the OP was very egocentric in this scenario. It seems she believes that the other shopper wasn’t interested in chit chat and OP automatically thought the reason was because of her blather. Obviously the other shopper thought OP was hitting on her….. that is a stretch. There are a million other reasons why the shopper didn’t want to volley in the convo – social anxiety, having a bad day, or whatever.

When I am shopping I don’t like to be bothered by the other shoppers. Although, I will engage in small talk with sale associates or anyone who helps me in that capacity. Usually there is a social script I can follow and ad lib. I suffered from severe social anxiety when I was younger (so bad that I needed treatment) so I am very uncomfortable when I am at a store and other shoppers start to talk to me.

I am just surprised that the OP believed that she was the reason and assumed the other shopper feared/is lesbian. What does that say about the OP?

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Emmy December 20, 2011 at 10:13 am

I think the second woman meant she wasn’t interested in the conversation, not that she assumed the first woman was hitting on her. I do think the phrase ‘not interested’ is rather terse and I wouldn’t resort to it unless somebody really wasn’t catching the hint. The second woman wasn’t especially polite by using that phrase, but she wasn’t rude and may have just said the first thing on her mind to get out of the conversation. People need to be a little more in tune when they start a conversation with others. A quick one or two word answer is often an attempt to shut down conversation.

I have a personal example where I thought the phrase was used rudely. I was at a party with the club of my parents were a member. Most of the people in club were my parents age and several children and grandchildren were at the party. I recognized a woman my parents knew who was with her granddaughter about age 7. I said ‘hello’ to the granddaughter and she looked away. The grandmother said ‘not interested’ and walked away. I felt that was very rude and the grandmother should have said she was shy/not comfortable around strangers, ect. I couldn’t think of a reply to her comment that would not be rude so I remained silent.

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Pixie December 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

Well said. I wonder how the OP was able to twist the exchange into thinking the other person is rude AND trying to find an excuse.

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Shannon December 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

I agree with Admin, though I do think the woman was a little harsh. A better response would have been, “I honestly have no idea, now if you’ll excuse me I’d like to get back to my shopping.”

I deal with strangers talking my ear off all the time. I guess because I’m female, petite and seem friendly, people feel comfortable approaching me. So I’ve learned a well-timed, firm but polite exit saves face for everyone.

That said, one of my peeves is when someone asks me a question, I don’t have the answer, and THEY KEEP ASKING THE SAME QUESTION. A rude, crabby part of me wants to yell, “Didn’t I just say I that I didn’t know? Do you think I magically figured it out in the last thirty seconds? No? So stop asking me!” So I don’t know how I would react to a stranger needling me about a Christmas carol (especially since I dislike holiday music and tune it out whenever possible).

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Margo December 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

I agree with Admin. In these circumstances, it wouldn’t occur to me that the person speaking to me was hitting on me (regardles of their gender)
I’d just see it as them trying to engage me in a conversation. I’d probably react in a similar way to the stranger whom OP spoke to – One brief, polite, non-committal response.

If the other person doesn’t take the hint that I’m not interested in chatting then my next reply would be blunter. If I were willing / interested in having a coversation my first response would be more ‘open’ – in this instance, perhaps making some coment on the song, or the singer, or piped music in general.

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Shalamar December 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

Hoo boy. Why on earth was “She must have thought I was hitting on her!” the first thing that came to her mind?

Some folks simply don’t pick up on verbal or non-verbal “Please stop talking to me; I’m not interested” cues. There’s a bakery that I like to visit because the bread there is very cheap, but I silently groan whenever I see that the clerk on duty is Chatty Charlie, the guy who doesn’t know when to shut up. The last time I was there, he held me hostage as he yammered for ten minutes straight about the new bus corridor our city is building. Even saying “Uh huh, uh huh” as I gathered up my purchases and started edging towards the door didn’t give him a clue. I finally had to cut him off mid-sentence by saying “Well, gotta go!”, knowing that I was being rude, but having no idea what else to do.

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stillinva December 20, 2011 at 10:41 am

maybe the other shopper just really, really, hates “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”? or she’s so sick of hearing Christmas music in stores that she’s tuned it out?

Admin, the way you expressed it, with the tennis court analogy, was perfect.

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vanessaga December 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

I can agree that the OP didn’t take the hint but I still feel the other woman was rude. I am not a “chatter” but I meet them often and usually a smile and a “mmm” is enough to keep them happy while I go about my business. I don’t see why she couldn’t have been pleasant while still giving her the brush-off.

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Jennifer December 20, 2011 at 11:01 am

I agree – I don’t think it was “I’m not interested in you” it was “I’m not interested in talking about this with you.”

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Emmers December 20, 2011 at 11:15 am

Yes, it may have been the OP doing a bit of blather. But I disagree with Admin in that the second woman WAS really being rude.

It was quite clear that the OP’s second comment (“It’s going to drive me crazy!”) was the end of the conversation and was merely ending their encounter on a light note. I did not see the OP trying to take this conversation further at all but rather was offering an amused ‘farewell’ response before continuing on her way. We do not generally say “Thank you, goodbye” to strangers in situations like these and people often opt for similar responses instead of a formal farewell.

She did not press this woman further, or do anything of the sort to indicate interest in ‘blathering’ onward, or that such a rude reaction as ;
She turned her back to me and said, “I’m really not interested.”
was necessary.

If the OP had continued to blather despite the woman’s clear disinterest in speaking, then I would be more inclined to agree that her rudeness was justified.

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spartiechic December 20, 2011 at 11:23 am

I agree, Admin. I got the same thought from reading about her exchange. The other woman just was not interested in the topic or having a conversation with this total stranger. As a social worker, I’ve practiced listening so much that I fall into active listening even with strangers in line. I think this is why I get to hear complete strangers tell me all about their latest marital problem or a friend with a mental illness. I just stand there in line (usually thinking about my next errand to run) and the next thing I know, I’m giving resources to someone I just met. Never give advice, just resources. When I was in grad school, I found out how common this is with people in the helping professions (psychology, social work, etc).

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twik December 20, 2011 at 11:24 am

I think the form of her response was a little rude, but her intent – not to discuss 50s music with a stranger – is perfectly acceptable. We can try to talk to strangers, but we must remember there are perfectly good reasons why strangers may not be in the mood to respond.

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Calliope December 20, 2011 at 11:36 am

I have a story from a different perspective. Several years ago, I suffered a miscarriage. I was devastated and stayed in my home for over a week before feeling strong enough to head to the grocery store for some essentials. While I was in line at the register, another customer attempted to make small talk with me. I’m not fond of chatting with strangers in general, but this time, in my state of grief, I was certainly in no mood to indulge a stranger in a conversation about the groceries I was buying. I responded to the stranger’s conversational volley with a tight smile and nod, but he didn’t get the hint. He followed up with another question, which I also brushed off. The man became insulted and told me I was rude. He also said, “I was raised to respond when people speak to me.” Well, I had responded; just not in the way he wanted me to. This encounter pushed me over the edge in my emotional state and left me in tears.

I don’t like making others feel uncomfortable, and giving another person the brush-off is difficult for me. It took me years to learn how to do it, and during those years, I endured many long, uncomfortable, one-sided conversations with strangers in coffee shops and on public transportation. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I’m under no obligation to make small talk with people I don’t know.

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Jared Bascomb December 20, 2011 at 11:40 am

Last week some guy at the gym (a stranger to me) started chatting to me about some ridiculous topic (how our city could get out of debt by taking over the cable TV franchise). It was a weird topic to begin with, but he did this while I was doing some fairly intense weight-lifting!

And even though I’m a guy, I didn’t think he was hitting on me; he just didn’t know basic gym etiquette: you don’t talk to someone while they’re in the middle of a set.

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Lola December 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

If anyone was rude, it was the OP. Just starting up a conversation with a stranger without so much as an “excuse me”?

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PsychoKitten December 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

I’ve been in those situations, and when I’m not in the mood to chat I usually smile and make a polite appropriate comment, and go on with my business. That’s usually enough to let the person know I don’t really want to engage in a conversation.

The “I’m really not interested” was really cold and off-putting. I suppose that was her intention, but it probably wasn’t necessary.

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Cat December 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

It took me several minutes yesterday to get away from a Wal-Mart greeter who insisted upon reading the chemical makeup of the hand sanitizer that is offered for customers who want to clean the handle of the shopping cart before using it. She felt the store was using a cheaper brand which consisted of pure alcohol.My shopping companion had beat a hasty retreat and I had to run to catch up with her.

Since I have never read the label giving the contents of hand sanitizer, I was not in a position to offer an educated opinion on the subject. I would have been quite happy with the standard, “Welcome to Wal-Mart!”

Sometimes it is fun to talk to strangers. Sometimes not. In the OP’s situation I would have made up an answer, ie: “It’s Peggy Lee!” and walked away. Hopefully she would not have followed me calling, “No, it’s not!”

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Raven December 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I think the way the woman brushed off OP “I’m really not interested” was a bit over the top, but OP may not be as charming as she thinks she is. Thanks to blogging, twitter, facebook, and a host of other social networking media, people seem to think that others want to know every little thought that pops into their head. Not everyone cares – harsh? Maybe. But also true. The other woman might have been mentally busy (it is that time of year), OP may have had tuna breath, or perhaps the other woman simply does not like to talk to strangers. For OP to take it personally (AND throw in some good, old-fashioned gay panic) puts it in an ego place instead of an etiquette place. Not everyone likes small talk with randoms!

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Mike B. December 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I think you’re allowed ONE unsolicited remark with most strangers. If the initial response is not encouraging and you persist, you’re being rude. People take pleasure in periods of solitude, and interruptions like that are definitely an imposition.

A guy came up to me and my date in a quiet club last night and chatted for a couple of agonizing minutes during which we tried to gently convey disinterest; I admire people who are forthright enough to tell pushy strangers to leave them alone. (The guy turned out to be trying, very awkwardly, to sell us drugs. Classy establishment.)

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Cami December 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Well, OP — I guess you learned that you need to keep you lip zipped and never ever dare to engage in small talk with strangers because that’s manipulative and you should have been flogged with a wet noodle for daring to talk during the holidays. Get thee to a nunnery and do some penance for your horrible sin of friendliness.

Sometimes, I wonder why we have become so isolated and lacking in compassion, social skills and basic knowledge of civility. Then I read accounts of how trying to have a small conversation about Christmas music in a store during the holiday seasons is emotional manipulation and I know the answer. You can’t win for losing these days.

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Green123 December 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Clearly neither Admin nor any of the posters here have ever visited the north of England, then. There, *everyone* speaks to you and strikes up chats at the drop of a hat. They’ll even call you ‘love’ or ‘darling’ or ‘ducky’ if you’re lucky. They’re not hitting on you, they’re not ‘blathering’ or trying to disturb your day, and it’s certainly NOT considered rude – it’s called ‘being friendly’. If you don’t want to engage, a disinterested ‘hmm’ usually does the trick…

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Meegs December 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm

What a sad thread. Now making brief idle chit-chat with a fellow human being is rude but rebuffing someone in a harsh and unkind way is perfectly acceptable “because you don’t have to interact with anyone if you don’t want to”? Wow. No wonder this society is in the state its in.

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The Elf December 20, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Michellep, you don’t think walking away without acknowledging OP wouldn’t have been rude? I was raised that you should always acknowledge someone speaking to you (unless, of course, there’s a really good reason not to like that they are raving lunatics).

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Gracie C. December 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm

To those suggesting that the woman didn’t have to say anything, she could have just moved away – why should she? She is clearly looking at the items in front of her. Why should she have to move on, when she’s not done shopping, because the OP doesn’t take a hint? And for those saying she was just talking aloud – well, that’s annoying, too. I don’t want to listen to someone having a conversation with themselves any more than I want to be engaged when I’m not in the mood to be engaged.

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Angela December 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

A couple of thoughts: There are some parts of the country where you might reasonably think a friendly woman was hitting on you, even if you were female.
Maybe the second person was in a bad mood or preoccupied. I live in a part of the country where asking a stranger such a question is completely within the norm. IMHO a “hmmm” or “good luck with finding it out” gets the lack of interest across without dampening anyone’s exuberant spirits.

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NotCinderell December 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I’m a chatter. I suppose this makes me a disgustingly rude person, but it certainly didn’t bother my husband on the day that I met him by striking up a conversation with him on a bus.

I think that the respondent in this story made a much bigger deal out of this situation than it needed to be. Simply smiling and saying, “have a nice day” and WALKING AWAY would not have been rude or confrontational. By being so confrontational about it, she made the whole situation very uncomfortable. If OP had gone on for five minutes about the song, and not allowed the other shopper to excuse herself from the conversation (i.e. followed her from display to display) then this response would have been appropriate. As it was, it was very rude.

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AS December 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

It would never cross my mind either that the old lady thought you were trying to hit on her!

I am not sure how the conversation was taking place, hence I cannot say if you were chatting with her, or just talking to yourself. But if you were trying to have a conversation with her, I can empathize with her direct comment that she is not interested in knowing who wrote the song. I don’t think it was rude; it was a direct comment that she does not wish to participate in the conversation. That is all. In all seriousness, it irks me too when random strangers try to start a conversation with me about things I have no idea about and don’t care to know (like who wrote a Christmas carol; which baseball player played badly/well this season, etc.). I might enjoy a song, but I don’t care to know who wrote it or sang it.

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AS December 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

PS… I’d like to add that if the lady had a rude tone, that could be constructed as her being rude. But if not, she wasn’t rude.

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Miss Alex December 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I agree with admin. The woman’s response was a little harsh in my opinion, but OP committed the original rudeness by not taking the hint in the first place.

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Ally L December 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I disagree with those commenters who say it is more polite and nicer to the OP for the woman to have just drifted away from the comversation after replying “I don’t know.” Wow, way to put the onus of being polite on the poor stranger! Why should the lady have to *leave* the display she was shopping just because someone was chattering at her too much? It would be simpler, and easier, to respond as she did, with the “I don’t know,” and then the follow up to more inane blather “I’m really not interested.”

If I was the one who preferred shopping in silence, why should I have to leave the area to spare Chatty Cathy’s feelings? What about my own preference to go about my business without being bothered? As a retail manager, I have learned to deal with people’s signals; some want to chat while I help them shop, others want to be left alone, and everyone should respect those boundaries.

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Shannon December 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I don’t think it’s rude to be a “chatter,” and admin never implied as such. What is rude is when the object of your chatter is wearing a flashing neon sign saying, “I’m not feeling social right now,” and the chatter persists in a one-sided conversation.

Plus, as I stated earlier, it’s annoying when you say you don’t have an answer to a question, and the person just asks the same question again. Do they think the answer magically pops into people’s heads?

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siobhan December 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I agree with michellep.
By just not responding a second time , or by moving further away, the problem could be resolved.
I sometimes will have a brief exchange like that, and can tell immediately, by body language, expression, etc., that the person does NOT want to chit-chat.
If it happens to ME when I’m not in the mood, I’m reserved but POLITE and try to disengage.

What I hate, is when you pass someone on a sidewalk, (in a smallish city, where everyone at least looks familiar), is no response to a polite hi, hello, or good morning. That’s just rude, and leaves me with a sad feeling for a while. Thin-skinned, yes! But I try to never make someone feel WORSE after I’ve interacted.

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Meow December 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm

The second part sounds like something I would say as a ‘thinking out loud’ part. I think a non commital shrug on the second lady’s part would have gotten the message across without sounding so harsh.

Even though I don’t ever start conversations with strangers I think it’s a sad day when we’re told not to ‘blather’ to strangers. What next? A friendly smile is a no-no? We’re already so disconnected from each other we may as well continue with our heads down and elbows out.

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Yvaine December 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I wonder if the woman thought the OP was trying to solicit her not for sex but for sales. MLM companies often encourage their salespeople to chat up strangers in stores to sell them the product. (Google “warm chatter.”) I’ve had it happen to me; a random stranger approached me in a store to tell me my eyes were pretty and ask me how I liked my job, and yup, it was a pitch. If she’d had bad experiences with that and jumped to inaccurate conclusions, it would make sense of the “not interested” wording.

In general, I’d say that the OP was not rude to make an offhand comment, and the other woman was not rude to not want to chit-chat but was rude in her wording. And that none of it had to do with lesbianism at all.

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SJ December 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Maybe the woman was a little short, but I would have been annoyed, too, if a stranger pursued conversation with me that I wasn’t interested in.

Doubt she thought you were coming onto her.

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