In response to the comments on my last post:
There used to be a social expectation that gentlemen greet ladies, such as with a tip of the hat, without any encouragement from the ladies? Why? How does this show respect? Respected is the last thing I feel when a male stranger says hello. I feel insulted, as in "How dare he presume I could be sexually interested in him?"
But this discussion is beginning to show me that maybe I've been wrong in assuming that all men are sniffing around for sex at all times. Maybe these unsolicited greetings are actually polite. Some of them anyway. How do I tell the difference? A couple of times I have responded to a greeting only to have the guy start a conversation and then I really felt like running away. How do I avoid that? How do I tell the difference between a "tip of the hat" and a guy who wants time and attention?
Someone who tries to chat me up in a bookstore or bar is not what I'm complaining about here. In that case, I can easily make it clear that I'm not interested. I'm talking about two strangers passing each other on the street when all they know about each other is what they can physically see at that moment. Why does any exchange at all have to happen? Why can't we all just leave each other alone?
I'm having SUCH a hard time accepting that this isn't all about sex. What does that say about me? That I'm an egomaniac who believes the whole world is attracted to me? That I'm so full of myself I can't imagine a casual greeting that's unmotivated by sexual desire?
I appreciate Mary reminding us that some men count on women not wanting to be rude. I've had men sit too close to me on the train and I've felt that conflict between, "I've got to get away from this guy. But if I move, he might be insulted, like I think I'm too good to sit next to him." As stupid and absurd as it sounds, that's exactly how women get taken advantage of or assaulted. I once had a guy masturbating next to me on the el, and I actually debated in my head for a minute, "Is he really doing that? I should move. Wait, maybe he's not and I'm imagining it. I should stay. No, he's really jacking off. I gotta go. No, wait. Um, okay, I'm moving." Women are so trained to not offend others we can really end up in bad situations.
That's why I'd rather err on the rude side. I'd rather assume the worst of people rather than then best because it's safer. Can anyone argue against that? Can anyone convince me that it's actually safer and in my best interest to answer strange men on the street when they greet me (instead of pretending I didn't hear them which is what I do now)?
(Tom, is it really possible they're just tipping the hat? I have such a hard time believing that!)