I’m a planner. Not a super-detailed, everything must be exactly right sort of planner, but inside my head I plan my activities for the day, my financial goals, lists of my favorite things, and most importantly, I plan responses to fake conversations.
Now, now, before you judge, don’t tell me you’ve never imagined entire fictional conversations. Whether it was a fake conversation with an imaginary friend (yep, had those), or what you’d say to a celebrity should they suddenly pop into your life (…yeah), or a conversation you planned on having with an actual live person (had those too), or a conversation you needed to have ready *just in case* anyone ever asked you ________, don’t lie. You’ve done it.
Psychologically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself. It’s how we make abstract things concrete in our brains; we coach ourselves through the complex and arduous and it helps us to hold more information at a time. Imagination is good, and the more specific your imaginations are (and you can’t get more specific than a conversation), the better. We might be getting older, but we can still exercise our brains. They’ll thank us when we’re 95 and still hashing out sudoku puzzles.
So I imagine necessary conversations like my order at the fast food restaurant or what I’ll say to a coworker. I definitely plan what I’m going to say to the insurance agent when I’m forced to make contact. Being a girl, I’ve often thought through how I’d respond if someone comments on my outfit that day (do I tell them the story? do I tell them where I got it? do I blush and just say thanks? these are vital questions for this introvert). One thing I never thought through, however, was what to say if a random guy asked for my number. Maybe because I’d reached the ripe old age of 24 without a single man ever asking, but it just isn’t something I expect. I don’t have many guy friends/acquaintances. I don’t hang out near strangers often, except at coffee shops (in which I’m typically sporting my very off-putting concentration face), so the whole concept wasn’t even on my imagination radar.
Until last week.
I was filling my tank at the gas station when two guys hopped out of a truck behind me. One of them said across the way, “hey, I like your glasses!” Apparently my brain had decided on the *just blush and say “thanks”* tactic that day. But two minutes later, the other guy wandered over and asked my name. I generally try to be kind to everyone I meet, but it was easy in this case because he was a very nice-looking and polite young man. In other words, I was getting no creepy vibes. I believe I may have thrown him off a bit at first: you see, I’m used to the business world and church. When you see someone, you shake their hand. So when he asked my name, I told him and shook his hand. Ha. It didn’t dawn on me until a week later that that may not have been a normal response…
Anyway, this really isn’t a significant tale. He asked a few questions – very politely – if I was from town, if I had a boyfriend, how old was I, etc., to determine if asking for my number was appropriate. Let me tell you, I was rather impressed. Of course, I had nothing to compare the experience to, but he made it very easy to be polite. I almost hated telling him no (It’s a personal thing – I don’t give my phone number to strangers. You can’t be too careful being a single girl living alone). When I told him, “I’m sorry, I don’t do the whole strangers thing,” I was kicking myself inside for saying something so odd. Why didn’t I plan something for these awkward situations? Jules… Well, I could tell he was slightly taken aback, but do you know what he did? He said “okay,” asked another question or two, then said, “it was nice to meet you, have a good day.”
Here’s what I’ve learned: first, not all guys are jerks. Okay so I don’t really believe all guys are jerks. In fact, in my experience most guys are genuinely nice, they just need a little smoothing out (much like myself). But I had assumed in my ignorance that any guy who walked up to a strange girl to ask for her number would be rude and arrogant. I apologize; I was wrong.
Second, politeness wins big rewards. Maybe not the reward you were wishing, but rewards nonetheless. When you’re polite to someone else, you make it so much easier for them to return that kindness. The Golden Rule is still applicable today, and it goes far beyond what you do: it’s all about how you do it.
Young men everywhere, take points from AJ. By all means, speak to girls. But speak politely. Go ahead and do some fact-checking to make sure asking for her number is appropriate, but do it politely. By all means, ask for her number (or maybe something more public, like how to find her on Instagram or Facebook), but ask politely. And if she says no, let her say no.
Young women everywhere, take note. By all means, feel free to answer or not answer personal questions. But answer politely. By all means, feel free to accept or reject an offer, but do it politely. Just because the questions were unsolicited does not let us off the hook of respectability. Even if we are asked in a rude manner, be the bigger (wo)man and respond politely. The rule doesn’t say “do unto others as they’ve done unto you,” but instead, firmly and gently show that there’s a better way.
It’s been two weeks, and the whole experience still makes me smile inside. Wouldn’t you rather leave that impression than gain a number that may never text you back?