The other day when I was shopping at TJ Maxx, this woman I did not know and had never met, walked up to offer her opinion on the jacket my adult daughter was trying on. She was overweight, frumpy looking, badly dressed, had hair 20 years out of style, and looked around 58. I point that out for a reason.
Okay, so this woman just strikes up a conversation and I tried to be polite. But it kept going. And she says, “Ask me what I do!” so I did, and she replied by telling me that she’s with an agency out of Vegas that manages some of our top rap music artists.
Oookay. And she’s shopping at TJ Maxx? In Binghamton? Wearing that?
And then she went on about her favorite rapper being “M” and begins to tell us why, using the foulest of language, in a very loud voice, in a store full of other customers including small children nearby.
My daughter and I kept sidling away, but she kept following us, still yammering on. Eventually we got away from her, but it was very creepy.
Please tell me two things:
a. What did we do to attract that kind of nutcase? (It seems to happen to me a lot.)
b. What was the proper reaction?
Dear Nut Magnet,
Me, too. It’s like they home in, even from great distances. I don’t know why, but I suspect it has to do with approachability. If you are the kind of person who is easy to talk to, who meets every random glance with a smile, rather than an uncomfortable turning away, who nods hello, and whose very aura seems inviting to them, they sense it, and they zoom toward you immediately. I’ll never forget the bus ride to Jersey where, on a stop for lunch, one passenger passed the other sixty only to walk directly up to me, and in a heavy accent say, “Hello! I just get out of preezon today! Seex-teen years! I am so hoppy, I could keess the ground.”
Talk about sidling away.
What’s the option, though? Turn into a closed off, uninviting person? The kind no one dares approach? The kind who doesn’t seem friendly and open and welcoming and kind? I think this is just one of the downsides of being who you are, and who you are is someone others feel comfortable with. And that’s a good thing. So don’t try to change it.
As to how to react, you just have to go with your gut. And trust it. Some delusional people are dangerous, but I doubt we’re going to attract any of those. Fearful people attract dangerous ones, because they get what they focus on – something to fear. But maybe crazy people are wishing for calm, searching for a cooling, soothing balm, and balance, and they sense it in you, and so are drawn to you. So be cooling and soothing, and extract yourself from the situation as soon as you can, and never get close enough to touch.
You did fine. There’s no easy way to deal with that type of thing. Some would just freeze them out and walk away, but that does seem a little cruel.
In the meantime, just be glad she was at the store and not your front door.
And if you see her again, tell her to tell “M” I said hey.