You might know the one – the one where people tell you things, or if you’re on the other side, the one you look at and you think, “I know, I can tell them things and it’ll all be cool”.
I have had some fascinating conversations and experiences because of the face I carry with me (no, not in my pocket, that’d be gross). Recently I’ve been practicing the “leave me alone, I’m busy” look so I am approached less often, but when I was younger I would have all sorts of people approach me to tell me things.
I was 15 and sitting the CES (employment) office, trying to get some part-time work. I was minding my own business in the waiting room when one of the employees walked past me, stopped, asked if I was ok, and then launched into a personal story that I was embarrassed to hear. I can’t remember much about it now, other than it involved tights, but it was strange, and not the first or last time I had random things confided in me.
I once asked a partner why he thought people told me things. He said that he thought it was because I looked non-judgmental, approachable, and kind. I judge, of course, as everyone else does, but apparently back then I didn’t look like I would. When I asked his girlfriend why I was never approached in bars (which wasn’t entirely a bad thing), she told me that I always look like I’m really busy, and shouldn’t be interrupted.
I think I’ve been focusing on the “leave me alone” look for a while – I treasure being left alone. Also, being fat and older now means I’m almost invisible, which is good too.
Over 10 years ago now I was in Crown for a function dinner (part of a conference I was at), and as I had arrived early I sat in a random bar and started reading my book (I had my work bag with me). A woman sat down on the table I was on and introduced herself. She asked me if I would join her in playing a trick on her friends by pretending to be her girlfriend. I didn’t have anything to do for the next 45 minutes or so, so joined her in walking over to the table of friends. We sat down, she introduced me, and the conversation continued, though a bit awkwardly. Eventually this woman, whose name I have completely forgotten, told her friends that her name was in fact [insert male name I’ve forgotten too] here and that I was not actually her girlfriend. This was about the same time I had to leave to go to the dinner, and I never did find out what happened to her.
I have/had that face that meant that this woman felt that she could trust me to joke about with her friends, in whichever way she wanted to do so.
I’ve had my share of strange people on public transport who want to tell me their life story, or inquire if my sisters are unmarried once they discover that I’m married and most of the time I don’t mind (well except for the guys who think that hitting on my sisters is a good idea). There really are times when I just want to be left alone to read my book, think my thoughts or plan the eventually take over of the world.
I don’t mind engaging with general strangers provided I can opt out if necessary, generally that’s where problems arise, social contracts don’t often let you opt out. There is a certain appeal to the idea of being a little old lady who talks to strangers though.