It was cloudy and rumbling, and Jack Russell Terriers are notoriously difficult if they don’t get at least one good walk every day. So I decided to try to beat the rain and get Rugby out for a swing around the neighborhood. It kept getting darker, windier, and the distant thunder was getting louder. Rugby was in fine fettle, I must say, though he felt compelled to pee on every bush, rock, or tuft of grass. I have never seen a dog who seemed to enjoy a walk so much. I wish there was something, anything, I could get that excited about every day.
We were in the home stretch, about to loop around the church that faces our house across a parking lot and a row of trees. Then a young woman, maybe in her 20’s, dressed for the task, jogged toward us, pony tail swinging. She had that cold, stony, “I don’t want to acknowledge anyone” look on her face that so many younger people cultivate today. I looked at her and smiled anyway. That was how I was brought up, you see. We acknowledge each other. We signal good will, and that we are part of the same community. We are nice.
As she jogged past, I said, certainly loud enough that she could hear me, “Don’t get caught in the rain!” That is an incidental, spontaneous, friendly comment between strangers. I must engage in, and respond to, dozens of such comments a week, while shopping, teaching, or walking the dog. They require a response: a nod, a smile, a brief answer like “I won’t!” What I got was a snub. No response at all.
I felt like I was being treated like an unfamous Morgan Freeman, as if my statement was, “Hey, honey, good form!” I wasn’t flirting with her, or harassing her. I was being a human being, and doing what human beings need to do to make life bearable. And I felt insulted.
Yup, I’m old enough to be her father…grandfather, even. That, I was taught, makes showing some respect, like acknowledging that I spoke to her in a friendly, neighborly manner, even more mandatory as an ethical social response.
If this is where feminism, #MeToo, and generational bias is leading young women today, they will poison the next iteration of our society, not cure it.
Meanwhile, I am pondering whether there is an ethical, effective follow-up response to the next jogger who treats me like a turd on the sidewalk.
The options I am thinking now clearly would not be constructive.