I made a new friend and his name is Tyler. He’s four and a half as he emphatically added because that “half”, as all kids know, is very important. I was at the gym and had just finished running on the treadmill when I noticed Tyler sitting on the floor with an iPod, near the weights, staring at me (his mother was on the elliptical so no, he wasn’t a random child left in a gym). Under normal circumstances I would have continued my run in the opposite direction given my fear of children, but I decided to put on my big girl pants, turn up my music (for fear of him talking to me) and walk toward my mini, lady weights. However, this doesn’t deter him and I see his little mouth open to something. I take out my earphones and ask, “What did you say?” (as mentioned above, not the smoothest when it comes to children). I hear him repeat, “Whose mom are you?” After awkwardly explaining to him that I am in fact nobody’s mother (he seemed a little disappointed) we ended up having a not all bad conversation about our matching iPods, his ability to recite Dr. Seuss (a very good choice), and how much he loves his mom. When I left, the little man wrapped his little arms around my knees and gave me a hug.
My encounter with Tyler got me thinking: when do we start talking to strangers ? As kids we always hear, “Don’t talk to strangers!” However, as adults if we refuse to talk to strangers we’re deemed as anti-social or socially awkward.I consider myself a social person. I can pretty much start a conversation with anyone (even a tree as someone so kindly pointed out to me), but even I’m thrown when perfect strangers try to communicate with me even if they are normal, everyday, “how’s your day going?” conversations. I’m not sure if “Don’t talk to strangers!” is still ingrained in my head or if it’s a pretty normal reaction, but as an adult it should be okay for us to start conversations with people we don’t know without thinking of it as weird or creepy, yet somehow I find that most of us don’t. Most of us do get shifty-eyed when unfamiliar people start talking to us or somewhat uncomfortable when a random person offers a random “hi”. Is this called paranoia or normal?
Perhaps this is a conversation I need to have with my new friend Tyler.
Photo credit: http://bit.ly/eCaOd9