Ex­tro­vert stresses he is not a stalker

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - LIFE - AMY DICK­IN­SON ASK AMY askamy@tri­bune.com Twit­ter: @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: I’m an out­go­ing 67-year-old man. I reg­u­larly speak to strangers I meet on the street, in stores, el­e­va­tors, etc. I fre­quently walk my dog in the neigh­bour­hood.

On a re­cent jaunt, I ran into a fe­male neigh­bour 40 years my ju­nior, whom I know only ca­su­ally. Hav­ing seen her jog­ging in the past, I no­ticed that she had lost weight.

On this oc­ca­sion, I ques­tioned whether she had in­deed lost weight and when she said she had, I com­pli­mented her on how well she looked. I con­grat­u­lated her. I joked: “Not to worry, I’m not a ‘stalker’ .... ”

She did not ap­pear to be of­fended by our in­ter­ac­tion.

Af­ter re­turn­ing home, I won­dered if I had been in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

I re­cently had the same ex­pe­ri­ence with a male neigh­bour,

with no sec­ond thoughts.

Was I bet­ter off keep­ing my com­pli­ments to my­self? Does the age dif­fer­ence make this more in­ap­pro­pri­ate?

— OUT OF LINE?

Dear Out of Line: A gen­eral guide­line is that if you feel com­pelled to fol­low an in­ter­ac­tion with, “Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker,” then you’ve over­stepped.

Women are forced to move through the world dif­fer­ently than men. Women are more vul­ner­a­ble to un­wanted at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing com­ments about how fine (or ter­ri­ble) they look, sug­ges­tions that they should smile or wear their hair dif­fer­ently, as well as the spec­tre of ver­bal joust­ing or phys­i­cal con­tact if they re­spond with in­dif­fer­ence or hos­til­ity.

You should freely greet any­one you en­counter. But you should also be cir­cum­spect about mak­ing com­ments about peo­ple’s bod­ies — even if your com­ments are com­pli­men­tary. Just be­cause the woman you en­coun­tered tol­er­ated your com­ment po­litely doesn’t mean that she liked it.

On the other hand, she might have liked it very much. You can’t re­ally know, be­cause you don’t know her, which is why you should not have made a deeply per­sonal ob­ser­va­tion about her.

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