I was out walking yesterday, something I try to do everyday as there is a walking path in the park close to the house. Friendliness is healthy in public environments and that extends to walking. Regular walkers know each other and most say, "hello", as they cross paths. I raise my hand and say "hello" as people walk by or I walk by them. I smile too, but smiling is no longer applies in a mask.
As I was walking along, greeting my fellow walkers I passed, only some of them I knew, most replied with a wave or a verbal hello of some type. Yesterday, a short way ahead was a Woman with a Child of about ten, walking in the same direction as I was. She was short, and they were walking slower than I was. They were also in the oncoming traffic left side of the lane, so I thought they were not regular walkers.
She had long shiny hair almost down to her waist. She did not wear the dress of a young girl, so I thought she was the Mother. In about thirty seconds I caught up. A normal response if I was on a bicycle would be, "Passing on the left", to let them know I was there. When walking, it seems kind of silly and they were walking on the wrong side, to the left of me.
The woman and boy are on the left side of the walking path, the oncoming traffic lane. I am in the right side, as I pass them.
Me: "You have beautiful long hair. I know at least half the Women that see you are jealous of your hair."
As I looked at her, I think oh, oh, maybe she is a Sister and not the Mother. However, she looked to be in at least her mid twenties.
Me: "If you don't notice that yet, you will when you get older."
Her, in a biting, hostile tone: "I don't know you, and I don't think I should be talking to you."
Me, surprised: "Why not? We are over six feet apart, on a walking track with people in front and back of us."
Me: "Maybe I should be scared of you? If you do not want the compliment, you do not have to accept it. It doesn't matter to me."
On I walked, perplexed by her behavior. It should be obvious to her, I am old enough to be her Father, if not her Grandfather. The walking path was busy, and she had the young boy with her. I wondered how she grew such a chip on her shoulder that she could not be civil or accept a simple compliment?
'Thank You", would be an appropriate response. That was what I expected to hear from her. Even the boy looked surprised by her reaction.
I find people interesting. I find it normal that young people here at least, almost as a whole go out of their way to be polite to their elders, family or not. They treat people who are older than their parents with respect.
What was going on with this young woman, I did not understand. Has life been that hard on her, that a compliment is an act of aggression she needs to protect herself from?
Perhaps my first thought was correct, she had a chip on her shoulder and everyone in her life was going to know it. Going through life with a chip on your should makes for a hard life, yet some people live that way. Estranging people before they ever move past being strangers.
I also thought in some possible way, she saw that as flirting? If I were her age, perhaps, but not with the obvious age difference. When I see a jogger for the second or third lap, I raise both thumbs up and say, "Looking Good!". No Woman jogger has been offended by the comment, and they seem to receive my shout out as intended.
Maybe she was trying to show the Boy how to act around strangers? If it were a demonstration, it was a poor one. The young Woman acted with an aggression that was not called for. This aggression was out of place, and in some cases stronger aggression is a common response. If she was trying to teach a lesson to the Boy, she failed.
Finally, I thought, perhaps it was a cultural thing. Maybe in whatever her culture may be, they do not talk to Men who are strangers? If so her response was also improper. If that is her culture the Woman and the Boy were in an environment where her culture was non existent. If it was cultural, she could have said so.
I have walked in some very rough parts of big cities. I have walked alone in questionable areas while in foreign countries, where after I came back, someone at the hotel would tell me how dangerous the local area is even though it looks nice.
Never in my travels, have I ever seen anyone respond in such a manner. I am used to people pretending they did not hear my greeting. I am used to people being or pretending to be self absorbed in their cell phones, which by the way is a dangerous behavior, akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.
If I had acted aggressive with the Woman and the Boy, even though foolish, her response would be understandable. In a public park in a bedroom community, she is an enigma. No matter how I ponder, I can not come up with a reasonable answer to her appalling behavior. "Thank you", is appropriate in almost all situations. "Thank you", is an acknowledgment, "Thank you", says I see you as a human being, and "Thank you", is a conversation closer.