Talking to Strangers

Every now and then, I wish I was a boy. Sitting at a small table off to the side of the ready bar at Starbucks the other day, I noticed a couple of guys at the table right in front of it. I never sit at either of these tables because there's too much going on. Everyone is looming around waiting for a drink or walking through to get to the bathrooms. But it was crowded and I was forced to plant myself there.

As I stared into my screen, trying to turn lemons to lemonade on a particular project, I got distracted by one of the guy-on-guy interactions at the next table. It was all over fashion. Well... guy fashion. Not metro or hipster fashion. Actual GUY style. A thirty-something guy was wearing a Mets jacket. That was all the older Mets fan at the table needed to spark up a conversation. They started talking about the team and ended up talking about their favorite places to eat in their old neighborhoods. Total bonding time. I was kind of wistful watching that exchange and wondered why women don't have those kind of conversations.

So I tweeted it out.

Many women responded that they do, in fact, have random conversations like that. But more women admitted to not wanting to engage with strangers. I talked about the times I tried chatting up other ladies that I didn't know only to be met with paranoid looks. Like I was trying to come on to them or steal their purse. I wasn't trying to be their new bestie. It's always something innocuous like a comment about a handbag that might turn into a conversation about finding it at Ross.

A few people tweeted back that women tend to share in the bathrooms. That's true. There's something about those Meetins in the Ladies Room. When we were young, I loved chatting to other girls in the Ladies Room about our bad dates or the weird guys that were rubbing up to us. We might compliment each other on our lipstick color or hair, then head back out with a smile because of that brief interaction.

But outside of the bathroom, not a whole lot of chatting.

I wondered if it had anything to do with being raised to beware of strangers, but we were never taught that we might also be seen as strangers. When I get crazy eyes from new strangers, I always feel like I should explain that I'm not dangerous, I'm just very social and I really just want to chat, and hey, we may even have something in common! At the very least, we had a small moment with another human, which is far more interesting than finding the patterns in the detailing on the walls.

Or maybe we just want to keep to ourselves and don't want to engage because we have too much on our minds. I mean, we're women. Our minds are on any number of things at one time. The project that's due, the call that has to be returned, shopping lists, a friend's birthday around the corner, kid activities, squeezing in a workout, and OH MY GOD WHY is that chick talking to me about my handbag???

Then I thought back to the times I've driven through southern states. Y'all are REALLY chatty with strangers there! I loved it. I remember my kids even remarked about how friendly people were. They were used to seeing me shot down at my chat attempts and noticed that random people were actually responding.

*NOTE: The rule for my kids is that they MAY talk to strangers ONLY when they are with mom or dad. I'm trying to raise kids that are aware of the dangers in this world while still not completely freaked out about polite conversation.

Besides chatting over children at the park or school, we women don't really seem to talk to strangers. Why is that? I mean, strangers are really only friends we haven't yet met. And you never know... that stranger may just have needed that little bit of friendliness, even for a moment of bonding over a handbag and a great deal.

Or would you just like to keep to your iPhone and avoid eye contact with the crazy lady at the end of the coffee bar?