How You Doin’

I’m from the North. My general greeting policy has been that I don’t talk to strangers unless they talk to me. Moving to Richmond has changed me. I can barely walk one block without someone saying hello. This is particularly true of older gentlemen.

Sometimes they’re harmless. It’s nice to be acknowledged. The occasional, “how ya doin’?” or, “hello, sunshine” is good for the soul.

Today while I was walking I noticed an older man who has come to our gallery for Soup Day. I saw him brush his fist against a window, as if he was mesmerized by the glass. In the afternoon light, the moment took on a magical quality. I said hello hesitantly, not sure if he would recognize me or if it would matter. I was wearing sunglasses, he’s not mentally “with-it,” and his English is limited. Half an hour later as I was sweeping the gallery, I heard a single knock on the glass, and my friend was there. He bowed an acknowledgment, and was gone as quickly as he came.

That moment was a gift, but sometimes men treat me like I owe them a greeting. Twice today I passed by a man without saying anything and they tried to get my attention after the fact. The second one practically yelled at me, “HOW YOU DOIN’?” Excuse me, sir, my mouth’s hanging open because I’m finishing a run, I can barely see you because I don’t have my glasses on, and I owe you nothing.

When this happens on the same block where two days ago I heard a man making comments to a woman at the bus stop about “when a man puts his hands on a woman,” and two men talked about me behind my back but within earshot, it just makes me want to stand up and say, #METOO.

I want to go back to those men and say, “Hey, today a man showed me honor without saying a word. He doesn’t know how to communicate, but you have many words at your disposal. Treat the women around you with respect. If you’re going to say hello to her, say it in a way that makes her feel comfortable. If she doesn’t answer you, take it. That’s her choice. She is not there for your viewing pleasure or your validation. She’s there because she wants to be. Let her.”

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