Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Dangers of Picking Up a Stray (Person)

If you were to ask my twin about my bad habits, I'm sure she would produce a long list with sources and proper references. I can't even guess what a lot of them are, since so many of our own bad habits do not seem bad in our own perspective--just to everyone else. However, one bad habit I am confident she would name is my tendency to, as she calls it, pick up strays.

I'm not talking about pets, although that would be awesome and maybe I should look into a new habit...

Anyway, before I find myself with a pack of dogs...back to my point. When Twin tells me not to pick up any strays, she's referring to the person equivalent. Just like cats and dogs wandering around the neighborhood often return back to the houses where people pet them or leave out food and water, some people return to the places they find friendship or attention--or even what just appears that way.

I'm a social person. I like to talk and I like to listen to people and if some of those people are new to me, then that's great. I regularly find myself having conversations with the people next to me in line at the grocery store, the people at the next table in the bar, my airplane seatmate...anybody. Unfortunately, this habit also makes you susceptible to strays. Strays are the people who return again and again, hoping you'll eventually just adopt them and bring them into your house--or your social circle. Sometimes they end up thinking you're really close friends but really you just talk to them because they're nice enough, they go to the gym when you do, and you run into each other regularly. It's fine until they start to ask you if you want to see a movie or something. When that happens, you know you've picked up a stray and you have to decide what to do. And maybe you're going to go ahead and be real friends, not just waiting in line at Starbucks every morning friends. Maybe you won't. It's a personal choice. But just know that strays are really, really hard to get rid of.

I'm not bothered by essentially being a cat lady for people. It's led me some interesting places. I've lost track of the number of times people have told me about losing someone they love or fighting with their siblings or quitting their job or other really personal things. I've talked to people on their way to weddings, funerals, and hospital waiting rooms. And sometimes they want to talk a lot after that or sometimes they go their own way and I never see them again. But no matter the outcome, I've come to realize that sometimes you just have to share the burden of your story. That might mean turning to someone you trust. Other times, you tell a stranger--someone next to them on an airplane or behind them in line at the grocery store. If I can give that to someone...I'm definitely ok with that. 

It should be noted that my attitude towards strays DOES NOT extend to men trying to date me. Those kind of strays aren't confiding in you or trying to be friends. They're the ones who sprinkle a sort of awkward conversation with very awkward questions designed to find out your age, marital status, the kind of men you go for, and sometimes--fingers crossed!--your sexual preferences. (Yes that has really happened to me. With strangers. Awesome.) These men are not very smooth about getting to know you and don't read your cues very well, so they don't seem to care whether or not you're actually interested. Which is why you ask if the book in their hand is worth reading and they ask if your boyfriend likes books too. ...What? They say they were at work and you ask what they do and the reply is something about pleasuring women. (YES THOSE PEOPLE EXIST.) These men are pretty much going to ask for your phone number at the first opening, despite your bewildered expressions and uncomfortable attempts to change the topic. But you were nice to this stray and they were encouraged. So the longer that conversation lasts, the greater the chance of that guy asking for your number. Decide right now--do you want this guy calling you? If yes, proceed. If you're like me and no no no don't call me I don't believe in phones, then you need an escape plan. Now. You have to get out before he can ask and really it's better to avoid him for the immediate future. (Until one of you leaves the bar or the flight lands, for example.) From personal experience, it is less awkward to get out before he can ask than to tell him no, you can't call me sometime. I mean, if he's a douche then don't worry. But if he's just kind of clueless and you think he's really not picking up on your disinterest and you want to be kind to him...just get out. (STRAYS LOOK SO SAD WHEN THEY CAN'T COME INSIDE YOUR HOUSE, OK?)

Ok, I can hear complaints coming. 

I recognize that it's hard to put yourself out there when you're attracted to someone. And I applaud honesty. But I have a big problem with continuing to try when the other person rejects you or does not return your sentiments. If you're talking to someone and keep trying to ask what he's doing on the weekend, and he keeps changing the subject--he does not want you in his weekend plans. He doesn't even want to tell you that. I'm just saying you should respect the unspoken boundaries that are being set by your conversational partner, you know? But that's getting into a huge topic, so we'll save that for another day...

The thing about strays is that I have a really hard time identifying them until surprise! they keep coming back. And by then...

What I'm saying is you need someone like Twin who has your back, because she pretty much hates strangers and also sees the strays coming and tries to warn me. (You can guess how often I listen, but she tries.

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