I'm writing this post just in case no-one has ever told you this before: You are not obligated to talk to anyone at all, especially if they make you uncomfortable. Maybe it's just because I've always been shy or maybe it's just the way I was raised but I've rarely doubted this fact. What I'm noticing again and again though, is that a lot of girls were not taught this. I have a couple of examples.
This week my wife and I were out clothes shopping, something that happens very rarely. While we were in a store that's is aimed predominantly at young women, a lone man in his mid-fifties passed us by. I felt like something was a little off right away, he was alone and walking along smiling for one thing, but no big deal. Until we stopped to look at some jeans and I noticed he'd circled back and he approached us. I didn't know until afterwards that my wife hadn't noticed that. He started talking, mainly to my wife.
Now, I'm pretty pissed at myself. I walked away. I was so confident that she would do the same that I didn't think anything of it. I only walked around to the other side of the stand, but far enough that I regret it now.
He asked her if she's a student (she looks a few years younger than she is), she said no and he began to ramble about how he's looking for a rich woman to marry. What I didn't know until afterwards, you know when somone's talking to you and they'll kind of tap you like on the arm or something, to keep your attention? This guy did that, but tapped her stomach. If I'd stayed, I would have at least slapped his hand away. Eventually he wandered off.
We talked about it, and I asked her why she humoured him at all. My sweet, understanding, wife said that maybe he was lonely or mentally ill. I'll be honest, this is one of those instances where I really don't care. He was deliberately hanging around in a women's clothing store to chat up young women.
It reminded me of something that happened at my old retail job. Two huge guys came in and asked my co-worker for help. While she tried to tell them about products they'd asked for help with, they kept interrupting to tell her how beautiful they thought she was and to ask her out. They weren't even quiet about it, but she did her best for at least ten minutes before finally walking away. She told a couple of us while the guys were still there, and our manager threw them out. HA! Just kidding! Management were all male and even after hearing how scared and uncomfortable she felt, they left them to it. One of our male co-workers served them instead which didn't take long since all they wanted to do was harass her.
After they left and we were talking about it, I asked her why she kept trying to serve them for so long. "I didn't want to be rude." It didn't cross her mind that what they did to her was so unacceptable that she could just walk away. When they returned later, deliberately seeking her out from the moment they walked in, I told her to go in the stock room. At first she wouldn't because she didn't want anyone to think she was being lazy and not doing her work. This is insane. On a side note: I completely lost faith in our store managers that day, who cared so much more about getting money in the till that they'd allow that to happen.
Obviously, it isn't always safe/possible to 'walk away', you do have to be safe. Often, that is the best course of action. So what if some stranger thinks you're 'rude' or even 'lonely'? It's incredibly rude to harass people and maybe this is why they're alone. If this seems really obvious, that's awesome! However, if it's the first time you've heard it or thought about it, taking some time to think about whether you have some personal examples of the same kind of behaviour and how it was handled by those around you.