Weird Things Strangers Say To Me

Despite the fact that I'm nearly pathologically pleasant, I am very much one of those people who tries not to engage in conversation with strangers. I'm the girl on the bus, listening to her podcasts and avoiding eye contact with you. I'm the girl in the check out line, burying her head in the latest Lucky. This neurosis is based largely on the fact that when I do interact with strangers, I usually hear one of the following things:

1. "Is that your natural hair color?"
Yes, it is. But wouldn't you be a bit embarrased if I told you it wasn't? And you best not be asking me if the carpet matches the drapes!

2. "Can I have some change for the bus?"
I work in a dicey neighborhood, and the door to our building is literally four feet from the bus stop. Drunk dude, I am not giving you 80 cents. I didn't give you 80 cents yesterday, my answer remains the same today.

3. "What's your ethnic background?"
I'm always a bit mystified by this as I'm pretty sure I look exactly like every other Scandinavian Minnesotan ever. Maybe it's the reddish hair? Or my compulsive scarf wearing? Or the fact that my ambient expression is that of a sulky Russian?

4. "Girl, you got booooty!"
Awesome. And here I'd forgotten. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

5. "Smile!"
Again, ambient expression of a sulky Russian. Also? Strangers telling me to smile, shocking enough, makes me grouchy.

What strange things do strangers say to you?

Posted by Sarah Von


Vixel said...

This one didn't happen to me, but to a good friend of mine. We were gothed up to the nines for a club night in Nottingham and a slightly drunk guy took a shine to her as we were walking through town. He didn't seem to like the overall look however, asking us why we were dressed like that, etc. This culminated in us trying to hurry away (we were late for meeting people) and him calling to her "Wait, come back! Give me your phone number and we can meet up when you're more normal!".

Lara said...

@Vixel- that is hilarious! Love that he thought he still had a shot!

I'm half Serbian and get taken for Jewish all the time. I guess it's the nose but seriously, I think the probing is a bit rude.

I also dye my hair a deep blue/black and get questions about the color all the time but don't mind.

Being told to smile is the absolute worst!

LizzieK said...

Vixel I LOVE that! Nottingham people are the very best. Mad as snakes, but the best.
And I always get the ethnic thing. My answer is English, which just seems to confuse people more. Saying I grew up in Hong Kong makes them go "Oh, yeah I thought you looked Asian" as though you can become a different nationality by osmosis. Still just English people! And no, I won't smile.

Allison said...

I have found through a general polling of my friends that being told to "Smile!" is 98% a women-specific experience. & it is always a male command. None of my male friends, family members, or acquaintances had ever been told to smile as they walked down the street.

It is a small yet significant incident that speaks to the subconscious effect that lends itself to men feeling like they control our bodies & wouldn't we be oh-so-much-better if we smiled as we walked past?

Brooke said...

When people tell me to smile, I have to resist the urge to lash out at them. I think Allison's right, that it's almost always men telling us to smile. I got on a plane recently and had a guy in his mid-forties tell me it was nice to be sitting next to such a beautiful girl. Gee thanks! I don't like responding to comments like these so I didn't... and then he got uppity and asked if I heard him, then repeated himself like I was stupid. I get older men making comments about my appearance fairly often and it makes me really uncomfortable. They seem to act like they're doing me a favor!

Nicole Ioma said...

Oh gosh, I ALWAYS get #1, #4, and #5. 1 and 4 are especially awkward, and number 5 would usually come from men (like is stated above) I would serve when I worked at a restaurant, and followed with "you'll get more tips!!"
Thanks for the tip, pal, I'll be sure to smile at you all night for telling me how to do my job.

And lately middle-aged women in grocery stores and in Target have decided to talk to me about their shopping list/which type of cheese they should get/advice on a baby shower gift if the person is adopting from Africa and the husband just split? How do I look friendly and approachable to these people if I'm never smiling??

Sarah Von said...

Nicole! I love that middle-aged women talk to you! I frequently also attract mentally handicapped people or people with Downs Syndrome. What? I used to work at a group home, so maybe I interact with special needs people differently than the general public? Who.knows.

nifer said...

Too funny and so true! Why do strangers feel more than a "hello" is appropriate?

~ Jen

Noelle de Novo said...

Wow, you actually get "ethnic background?" I usually just get "what ARE you?"

And every woman's favorite order from a stranger: "Smile!"

Anonymous said...

I always get told to smile. I hate that! My mouth just naturally turns down and I refuse to walk around with a huge fake smile that hurts my face.

I also get asked where I am from because I don't have the "West Virginia" accent. They assume that I just moved here and say that I will talk like them soon. Umm, no.

Eyeliah said...

I got 'smile' so much as a teen, it was revolting - lol.

Miffie said...

I AM a teen, and I get told to 'smile!' everyday. Even when I am.

I find it annoying.

Karolina aka KJTR said...

The weirdest thing I got asked by a stranger was ,IIRC exactly 3 years ago. I was babysitting my then-1-year-old cousin (I was 16) and took her for a walk in a park. When I stopped walking for a miute to fix sth up with her stroller, an old woman who has been watching for some time came up and asked: "Do you still breastfeed her?". I was dumbfounded. I still am.

Gene said...

The easiest way to get someone to smile is to first smile yourself.

crispybenfranklin said...

I hate, "Smile!"! I always want to tell one of those guys that my mom just died or I found out I'm infertile or something to make them feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, I am not very quick on the uptake.

chels said...

"You're small" says random stranger.
"Why thank-you I'd forgotten...granted I should remember considering I cannot reach anything on the good shelves in the dairy case in the supermarket but so kind of you to remind me" Says I (well not really... but thats what I would say if i wasn't so very small & shy :) )

dan said...

Ok to start off i'm irish and native american nothin special. but some how people think im of some other ethnic back ground. im constantly being asked if im a jew or if im a mexican. no i dont smell like tacos and dont smell like money so dont ask. not tryin to be racist

Kaitlyn said...

I've get the haircolor question, when my dyed bright red hair fades...a lot. And even once when I had FOUR INCHES of ash blonde roots in strawberry blonde hair.
People are so stupid.

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