How to Talk to a Woman Reading

No Means No, It Doesn’t Matter How Women Say It by Amna Saleem was immediately familiar to me as soon as I read the article. As she described the persistent attention of a man who approached her  with offers of a drink, despite the fact that she was reading a book and repeatedly declined politely, I was nodding along. I remembered various situations both when I was younger and older, and reading about the mocking responses of the irritating would-be suitor, I also remembered those I had heard myself, among them such as “Don’t you ever smile?” and “So what’s your boyfriend’s name?”

But the article and the author’s mention of some of the nicer Tweets she got from readers got me thinking on another topic. How can a man talk to a woman reading in a public place without seeming like a persistent creep? Or how would the non-creeps do it? Here’s an opinion.

My heartfelt suggestion to men who really want to speak to a woman reading would be to follow this example of what to say to her:

Excuse me/ sorry, hi, sorry to bother you, but I just noticed you are reading * insert name of book here * and I’m thinking of getting it for my father/ mother/ sister/ brother/ cousin/ friend. Could you tell me if it’s good/ what you think of it so far?”

If she answers your question, but doesn’t offer anything else, thank her, wish her pleasant reading and BACK OFF.

If a conversation follows, participate, but don’t overdo it with attention or suggestions, drop a bookshop tip or two, or ask her.

A woman reading in a restaurant, cafe, on a park bench or anywhere else outside of the home that’s sufficiently lit is not looking for a way to mask that she is alone, nor is she self-conscious about sitting by herself. Even if she is, that’s her business. She isn’t begging for persistent, even aggressive attention. She might be waiting for someone, she might have had a long day and just needs an escape for a while. Or she just wants to read, dammit.

The point is, she chose this space, this time and this book by herself, for herself. This needs to be respected.

I love to read and I make a goal out of taking myself somewhere beyond my home to do this. I like to interact with the outside world just as much as I like to withdraw from it sometimes. I need to look up from my book after a while, I most certainly need to eat and drink. Like the author of the article, possibly, I also enjoy looking at something other than my phone to fill my time.

It’s not that a woman reading in a public place, or anyone, can’t be approached at all. But this is a specific situation that merits thinking about.

If she’s reading, she intends to concentrate. The only person who is allowed to break that concentration is the one she might be waiting for. Unless they are both meeting up to read together. The fact that she has a book with her means she’s occupied. She picked something to do.

Anyone being approached by someone deserves politeness and respect, as well as some amount of distance at the beginning of communication, especially when it’s about talking to strangers.

That’s it. And no really does mean no.

 

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Germany: Random Useful Facts

Maybe all of this is only true for the North, which I’ve had the most experience with, but it might serve you well elsewhere in the land of Goethe, Mercedes and the Oktoberfest (NOT representative of the whole country), so here goes with some random useful facts about Germany.

Plans of action are appreciated. If there isn’t one, it’s a handy skill to be able to come up with one on the spot. This is particularly true for a night out with a group you might not know too well or organizing events with friends that involve being out and about. Things you can do to polish this skill and feel prepared regardless of decisions to be made at a moment’s notice: check transportation routes in advance, save map search results in your phone, buddy up with another reliable person, make a LIST. I feel joy simply typing this. Not to give anything away about myself, but you get the idea.

Don’t be fooled when you’re getting together with someone, say on a weekend, and they suggest being “spontaneous” or “spontan” in German. Spontan also entails a plan. First of all, you’re agreeing to proceed this way, and you need to know the translation: someone will need to text or call the other person to ask what’s going on for today and therefore make a plan. It’s unavoidable.

It’s a sure bet that almost every packaged item you buy in Germany either has detailed instructions about opening said packaged item, or a (sometimes cunningly hidden) HIER ÖFFNEN (open here) icon printed on it. Keep looking for it and don’t give up. Opening per procedure is often less messy and more satisfying than trying to tear off a layer of covering on your own. Following HIER ÖFFNEN will change your life and earn approving glances from those you happened to invite to brunch and help avoid frowns from locals.

This is true for many countries, but politeness is greatly admired in Germany and saying someone is “unfreundlich” doesn’t just mean unfriendly or rude, it carries a ton of disapprovement behind it. I think it’s also characteristic of the northern German character. One might not say outright that someone sucked on certain levels or express anger. But unfreundlich is both reserved and layered with subtext at the same time. There’s a range of German phrases, both long and short, that immediately convey consideration and good manners when spoken.

Daydreaming while standing in line is not necessarily frowned upon, but you will get a louder “Hallo” from staff. Saying you were lost in thought (one of the first phrases I learned when I moved and proceeded to use often, again, not to give away too much) with an apologetic smile diffuses this situation of potential minor time wasting.

These useful facts about Germany are as random as the situations life sometimes puts us in, so you’re covered.

Aunt in Progress

Your eyes changed colour some more since the last time we met. The traces of grey-blue were still visible, but they are gradually being replaced by other hues. I wonder if your eyes will be like your grandmother’s and mother’s, if you will share that same unique shade.

One day you were sitting on your mother’s lap at the dining room table and gazing around with wide eyes at us big people talking. Your grandmother stroked your mother’s hair and yours, looked at both of you, smiled and said, “Child of my child.”

At this point in time you and I seem to have established a pattern of moments when you recognize me. You looked around with a curious and questioning expression on your small face when your mother brought you to my side in the mornings, then your mouth turned up in an open, toothless smile when your eyes settled on me, and you bounced a little in your mother’s arms. After that you would always zero in on and reach for the beautiful shawl from your other aunt that I loved to wrap myself in, which is also true for your mother. Clearly we all share the same good taste!

During an outing I gave you my finger to hold while you lay in your pram, and you turned your hand around, so I carefully put my palm against yours. You tried to interlace your fingers with mine, but your hand was still tiny, fitting completely in the palm of mine. We looked at each other and I hoped you could hear my thought that I would always be there for you.

Your energy and increasing awareness of your surroundings remind me of your mother as a baby. When you focus on something, I have to remember your father’s face when he’s figuring out a task. Your vivacity makes me think of your shawl-giving aunt. The way you and your grandfather sometimes look at each other with the same twinkling, satisfied expression is uncanny. When you are quiet and settled, maybe thoughtful, your grandmother’s serene demeaner immediately comes to mind. The way you turn your head to follow your parents’ progress through a room and smile when they near you warms my heart.

There are many more family members walking through my memory as I watch you. You seem to further connect us all in the infinite passage of time.

On the morning before I left you were sitting on my bed, supported a little by your mother and me. I don’t know what you were telling your recently discovered feet, but you were very intent on it. You would turn around and smile when your mother spoke to you or laughed. All I could think was, Kid, I hope you will take as long as you need to figure things (feet) out, and that you will bring the attentiveness, focus, interest and happiness I see growing in you out in to the world.

 

So Busy

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days

When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

Stressed Out by 21 Pilots

During one of my jobs I had to sit down with a colleague to discuss a project we had been working on together. I had made careful notes in preparation for our meeting, while handling other tasks and calculating how much longer I would have to work that day to make up for having to leave earlier later in the week. At the same time I might have made a to-do-list for my after-work grocery shopping and worried about a friend who was not doing well.

As I I walked together with my co-worker to our conference room and politely asked how he was doing, he replied with a frustrated sigh, “Oh, it’s been crazy, I’ve just been so busy, just this constant load of things to do. I’m so stressed, I barely have any time.” He looked disgusted, as if someone was personally inconveniencing him. OK, the fact that I already knew him to be not the most reliable colleague and disregarding of efforts made by others contributed to the lightning-speed reaction in my head. What I thought was, Buddy, I’ve been here twice as long as you, and you think I’m NOT busy? Or anyone else?

Maybe it’s all in the wording. Maybe we react stronger to those who repeat something like the above, while not asking us how we are doing. Maybe both my natural state of positivity and my desire to maintain it drives me to say, I need to finish some things first, but I could get back to you * insert suggestion here *.

I have seen this time and time again, both in the workplace and outside of it, people who visibly do not trouble themselves or rush to exhibit involvement, committment, dedication, discipline, who cancel plans at a moment’s notice or simply don’t show up. They are surprisingly eloquent and clear as soon as they start talking about being “stressed”, while those at their desks rarely do. Why? Simple! One group has time to talk and the other doesn’t.

We all feel stressed or tired, we all share about it. We’re all busy most of the time. Sometimes you do have a hard day and end up talking only about your own experience. But the way it seems to work normally is saying, Wow, I’m just so wiped out from today, thanks for understanding, or I did this and that and now this, I just want to put my feet up, have a nice evening. Because the truth is, most of us are regularly stressed, tired or busy. There are rare exceptions, but I can’t think of any. It’s just the way life is, and the broader issue is how to deal with it and make sure you’re alright in the process.

I also think it’s pretty galling for people with less experience and a poor track record, in any context, to confidently tell someone on the opposite end of the spectrum about the tough time they are having. . .dealing with a sudden busy day, especially when half of what they are supposed to do ends up not being done. Again.

Whenever these encounters happen, I always come back to the same passage in one of Mindy Kaling’s books.

“. . . I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, “Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.I don’t believe anyone will ever give me a cake just like that, so I will simply bake my own.

As soon as I stop being so damn busy.

Why I Love Being an Aunt

I have to admit, I’m still a beginner. In fact, I’m a total first-timer! But aunthood has become one of the most (newly) defined things in my life. It truly feels like a new life title that’s been added to the list of other roles that define my personality and which are in turn fed by who I am at my core. So, why do I love being an aunt?

The happiness I experience every time I hear something about the currently smallest member of our family, or better yet, whenever I visit, is instinctive and encompassing. I don’t even have to think about it or analyze it, it’s just there.

It’s like a mix of the best parts of being a big sister, a best friend and a fan rolled in one, with maybe just a dash of parental instincts!

While still adulting on your own and being excited about things, you discover the importance of moments and being present anew, through watching this little person grow, change and react to the world, and to you.

I am proud of the new parents. It is special to see a sibling step in to this new phase of life, with all its challenges, triumphs, surprises, all the highs and lows. It is incredibly touching and humbling at the same time to see someone you’ve known all your life caring so selflessly for a child you are also unquestionably ready to be there for.

 

 

 

Journals Are…

Therapeutic.

Easy to keep, take with you and store.

Irresistible! The lure of a blank page, a page that belongs only to you.

Available in every single size, design and layout you can think of.

Easy to customize if you’d rather have something individual. Get a plain one and go DIY.

A legitimate excuse to either buy pens in a variety of colours or grab free ones whereever you see them.

A relief for those thinking what to give you for your birthday or Christmas.

Something you can find around the world to bring back with you.

A time capsule.

A source of something to do wherever you may be.

A possible harmless obsession.

Fashionable! Writing has never gone out of style and every day I see at least one adult scribbling away in a notebook.

There for you to put down whatever you want, without judgement, scrutiny or distractions from anyone else.

 

 

Sunday Diaries

It’s logical that most of these will probably start with what I was thinking about after I woke up, since lying in bed on a Sunday morning is a luxury I like to enjoy when I have it. A bit of daydreaming, a bit of music, a bit of reading, getting the brain whirring if the spirit so moves you, before you can’t deny that you do have to get up and eat, for breakfast is also a beautiful and wonderful thing.

So I don’t grab, but normally, even gently reach for my phone (dropping it once was enough), that handy purveyor of things entertaining, and scroll a bit on YouTube. Grace Helbig’s review of this year’s celebrity Halloween costumes got me sniggering and put me in a slightly sarcastic state of mind, which lead to typing in some words in the YouTube search bar that had been simmering at the back of said mind. These words were benching dating. This new word for age-old behaviour has apparently been setting both the dating world and the internet ablaze for quite some time now, unfortunately, and we are never too old nor too uncreative to find a label that might take at least some of the sting off those “What the hell?” moments.

One of the first videos that popped up was this snippet from The View upoloaded in June of this year. “Well, it’s kind of poopy, but what are you gonna do,” host Whoopi Goldberg says matter-of-factly. “It’s poopy,” she continues, “Well, I think it’s just a ball of **** to do that to somebody.” I’m neither a fan nor an expert on this particular show, but as usual Whoopi confirmed my hope that as long as I came across this video, she would be the one to say what needed to be said.

Scrolling through a few other videos and remembering the numerous articles I had read on the subject in the past few days, it was both strange to seemingly re-identify a known problem, narrowing down the more general “not calling/ texting/ writing/ dating back” actions somewhat to a description that fit a repeating MO, and saddening to see just how easy it is to set someone on the path of emotional turmoil. Was there a little bit of relief involved at finding some kind of words that seemed to box in what so many were going through? I’m not sure. Whichever way you spin it and however you try to categorize it, it still boils down to mistreatment and disappointment. Both facts of life.

But that was enough for now of letting benching occupy my thoughts on a day as precious as Sunday, so well-scrambled eggs on sliced tomato and bell pepper, with a bit of cheese, as well as toast with jam, followed my musings, nourishing ideas for a possible future blog post.

It’s very easy to give in to staying at home on a Sunday that is a bit grey and automatically makes you think it must be cold out there, but my determination to combat these yearnings today won over. The world is your oyster if you have the right shoes on and cover yourself where you can get cold. Or, in this case, my trusty Alster river walk was once again my oyster. A not new, but re-confirmed piece of wisdom: going outside, moving, breathing, looking, thinking, listening to music, observing, taking pictures and feeling what must only be creative adrenaline of your very own is most often the right decision. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were still plenty of autumn colors to snap and fill my Instagram with, and no matter how many times I have been here, the area just keeps surprising me. Venturing in to the side streets you see along the way is a good way to branch out, and I think how much there is still left of this city to discover. It’s a comforting thought. Damp, dark, sometimes moss-covered tree trunks frame turn-of-the-century villas and yellow leaves flutter against the almost white sky.

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This local blend of urban, historic and nature provides a lot of joy for kindred souls I spot along the way, silently strolling along with headphones on, like me, giving each other a glance sometimes and what I like to think is a small, secret smile of acknowledgement. Walking to the soundtrack of your choosing is a film-esque experience right there, especially for a person with a quickly romantic imagination, and spotting a house that immediately makes you think of Pemberley (even if it does look different, but I can’t travel to England right this second, so let’s make the best of the already wonderful things we have) makes you tingle.

Bumping in to a friend out on her jog was a pleasant surprise. After some chatting I watch her run on with light, energetic movements, and feel suddenly happy, hopeful that we, or at least those I know, are all doing something today that is making us content, peaceful and just what we want to be in this moment.

And why would anyone want to know or read all of this, you might ask? Well, isn’t that the reason why we blog?