Extrovert stresses he is not a stalker
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.