I’m horrible with names. I always have been, and I always will be. Add alcohol and my facial recognition goes out the window, too. This sounds like it would be highly problematic, but somehow I’ve managed.
I’m not proud of it, but I’ve gotten scary good at avoiding names. “Hey, how are you,” “Oh my god, what’s up,” and “Hey, hey,” make up my basic arsenal of name-free greetings. Mix and match with warm smiles and a healthy dose of enthusiasm, and people don’t tend to notice that you still haven’t learned their name. If I throw one of these at you, don’t take it personally – I’m trying.
Greeting someone is one of the most basic interactions we have on a daily basis, and because of this it’s easy to overlook its importance. Being the shyest person I know, I’ve been hyper aware of this my entire life.
There is a special place in my heart for people who always say hello because it means that I don’t have to work up the courage to say it first.
It’s also just nice to be acknowledged. Saying hi to someone in passing carries more than just a rhetorical “What’s up?” It says “Hey, I know we’ve met before, and, as a fellow human being, I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about your existence.” Not surprisingly, the better acquainted you are with someone, the more of an expectation there is that they will say hello to you if they see you.
Have you ever noticed how rare it is to actually call people by their names? If someone says my name it’s usually because they need to get my attention, and it works specifically because the directness feels alien.
That being said there are situations when addressing someone might not be practical – a loud, crowded fraternity for example. Just saying hi to someone gets complicated because there are so many other bodies, they might not see you in the first place, and chances are they wouldn’t be able to hear you over the music anyway.
In this case it makes much more sense to make physical contact with the person; a tap on the shoulder or a hand on their back is an easy way to say hello to someone who might not be able to hear or see you.
But there are also situations when physical contact instead of verbal acknowledgment is completely inappropriate.
Let’s take the same fraternity scenario, but this time dissolve the crowds of people, quiet the music, and turn the clock to about 1:30am. Everything is dead, and it’s time to go home. In this instance, choosing to acknowledge someone by putting your hand(s) on their body is going to send a very clear message.
I’m looking at you, boys.
As always, I can only speak from my own experiences. But three years worth of these kinds of encounters can’t be terribly inaccurate; I’ve had my butt slapped, thigh grabbed, waist squeezed, and back caressed – all by guys saying ‘hi.’
I’m not sure what sequence of thought dudes go through to arrive at the conclusion that, sure, you should totally touch a girl’s body instead of addressing her by her name. Definitely go ahead and reduce everything to a base physicality. Because no female has ever felt violated by unsolicited touching. Ever.
I’ll give boys the benefit of the doubt here – maybe the sneak-attack groping is just a really poorly calculated attempt at being sexy. Well, guys, here’s one of those females telling you point-blank that you have a better chance of getting in my pants if you actually speak to me instead.
Believe it or not, I am not quietly waiting for your touch, and you putting your hands on my body out of nowhere is not electrifying.
It’s humiliating. It makes my face flush, my teeth grind, and my stomach turn. And it doesn’t make me want to talk to you.
If I didn’t invite you to touch my body, do not take the liberty of skipping the invitation. Because as soon as you do, I’m objectified. I become my ass, or my waist, or whatever other body part you want to grab, and those body parts don’t get the implicit “Hey fellow human, I just want you to know I’m aware you exist.” Those body parts get defined by your ability to touch them. And it’s an awful feeling.
If you want to get my attention, I have a name. And you can use it.