Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | July 10, 2010

Just saying hi…

Being from the caribbean I’m used to a certain mannerism. When I walk by someone I greet them with the appropriate saying for the time of day. Over the years I’ve noticed minimal responses on the street especially from women.

As I greet the lady with “Good Afternoon Sister” she barely looks at me and keeps walking. I’m not offended by her lack of response but I wonder if we are at the point in our society where women can’t respond in fear of a bombardment of unwanted attention.

Some days I sit and people watch. One afternoon this group of ladies walked by and a group of guys with misguided intentions said hello in their ‘special’ way. When the ladies did not respond, they were called names I would not use around my sons. Do women see me as another guy with misguided intentions?

I sit down and talk with various women about how they feel when a guy says hi in passing. Most women said depending on the time of day, they don’t make eye contact. They told me that with the amount of attacks, women have to be careful when to say hello. Some men get the wrong idea. I wonder when I say hello to a random woman on the street do I make her feel uncomfortable?

I know women can feel when a brother means well but some sisters can’t be too careful. As I walk the streets at night, if I notice a woman walking in front of me for a long distance I try to speed past her so it doesn’t seem like I’m following her.

Riding the trains at night I notice many situations where women are blatantly disrespected and/or hassled to carry on a conversation with a sober or drunk fool. One evening there were a few people waiting on the train. I sat down on the side of the tracks that would eventually take me to my destination. I heard this older gentleman talking to a younger sister. My head phones were on but I noticed she did not want the attention this guy was giving. For a moment I thought I should say something but I decided not to because I have female friends who prefer to handle their business. The guy continued. The sister turned her back to him repeatedly using verbal and body language clearly in disapproval to his advances. He started to get irritated. His voice got louder and he began to call her a tease. At that point, I turned to her and started talking. “Hey, how did you enjoy the concert tonight? I really appreciate you coming out.” Then I turned to the brother and asked him how he was doing. We began talking about life and he eventually got on the next train. When he left, the sister said thank you then boarded her train home. I pretended to know her so this potential predator would leave her alone. It is unfortunate how our society in the 21st Century still mistreats our Queens.

As I take my daily walks I will continue to speak to people but try to be more aware of how “Just saying hi” can be taken as more.

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Responses

  1. you are not too far off in how you are feeling. check this out from psychology today:
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200007/mixed-signals

  2. I too am from the Caribbean (well 31 out of 45 years) and have always replied to the friendly greetings and the not so welcome ones too, and by that I mean the “pssssssst’s” that I would get if walking by a construction site or bus-stop. It always shocks me to not hear a greeting when first seeing someone or when walking in to a room, but I realize that it is a product of my upbringing. My decision to acknowledge even the inappropriate comments or cat-calls had a disarming effect on those who sent their unwelcome messages my way. If they “pssssst’ed” me, I did it right back with a harsh cut-eye in return. I never really make eye-contact but both my words and my body language made it clear I was not to be messed with. I think sometimes men like the one you met on the train are just curious, and probably aware that most women won’t give them the time of day – so perhaps it’s more a challenge than anything more harmful. I don’t live in a big city like NY and and am cautious when there, but I still greet strangers and talk to them on the bus or train and it catches them off guard. I often think that a “have a nice day” will diffuse an unwelcome comment better than a cold shoulder and brush off. That being said, I better read that Psychology Today article now.


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