Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Being loving and being cold

From reading my blog here, you might think that I am just the most drippingly loving, sentimental person, and I would just drape myself around you (or anyone else) and just radiate pure love if we ever met. That would be completely wrong.

First, I've never been a super huggy person. Though, with certain people, I'm glad to make an exception. I taught children's Sunday school for years, and I never really got around to hugging the kids very much. I remember an older lady who had taught children's Sunday school for, like, decades at St. Andrew's UMC. She actually did radiate love and compassion, and every child got a hug, every day, coming into her class (probably leaving, too). This would have been early elementary, the age my kids were back then. So maybe I have to wait until I'm of a certain age to soften up and mellow out? Nah. I'll still be prickly, just a prickly old lady instead of a middle-aged one.

I can be prickly if you step into my comfort zone out in public and I don't know you; if I am on the phone with you, and I don't find you are being particularly helpful when you should be, and I suspect you either don't know or don't care enough to solve my problem; and so on.

Today, I was eating my lunch at a public picnic table by one of the branch libraries in San Antonio, which happens to be right down the road from where I work. I was eating my lunch, enjoying the perfectly beautiful day, lounging in the sunshine like a kitty. Bothering no one, and no one was bothering me. ... Until ...

Along comes a perfect stranger, some guy, and plops down on the bench just across from me! There is just the one picnic table. However, this is a little too close for me to accommodate gracefully. I say doubtfully, "Hello." He replies in kind and then sorta does this weird little wave that does not endear me to him. Since he seemed to appear from out of nowhere, I asked where he came from. Then had to specify, I mean, did he drive or walk over? He walked. He has a backpack and a mug he drinks from, and wears sunglasses.

Several moments of awkward silence follow, where I attempt to eat my lunch nonchalantly. Just pretending this stranger is not two feet away from me, sharing a table. He goes on to say that he walks over to this library almost every day to use the computers there. I say something very brief along the lines of, "Oh." More silence. Then, thankfully, he gets up and goes to say hello to someone else who has just exited the library. Apparently he gets the message that his presence at MY picnic table has been less than welcome, and doesn't return. I guess I need to take a sign with me in the future: Sorry, this table is taken. Get your own table, sit in your car till I'm done, but don't try to sit down here.

So, I recall this in a lighthearted way, but part of me feels bad that I have to act so distant and cold. What horrible thing could happen if I were friendly to this person? So maybe he could try to overpower and kidnap me and do many unmentionables -- which he wouldn't attempt if I just acted cold enough? That doesn't make sense.

Somehow, I have been conditioned, as a lady who is physically attractive, that I have to be really careful not to send the wrong signals out to strange men. So instead, I make them feel really awkward and uncomfortable until they leave. That just doesn't seem like a compassionate way to act. Perhaps not even that logical. I don't even give someone a chance to act inappropriately before I throw the ice wall up. But, on the other side, this guy was strange. Yeah. So maybe it was my gut instinct telling me how to behave, and you don't want to ignore your gut feelings about any situation that crops up. We'll go with that conclusion.
Yikes! Look at that strange man standing with my son! (On the metro platform outside of D.C.)

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