I have a policy of keeping my mouth shut in public. I don’t give unsolicited advice. I don’t offer my opinion unless it’s asked for. I don’t volunteer the answers to questions asked of any and every one in the general vicinity. I’ve found I’m better off keeping my advice and opinions and answers to myself.
I was in a thrift store the other day, a thrift store in a small town filled with retired snowbirds. The music playing was from the era before rock-n-roll. A lady commented on how much she liked the music, and a man wondered aloud why no one played Pat Boone anymore. They had some discussion (instigated by the man) about who played Tammy in the eponymous movies. (Answer according to the man in the thrift shop: Debbie Reynolds, followed by Sandra Dee.) The man then asked the woman if she knew who was singing the song playing at that moment. She didn’t. (I didn’t either.)
The man began giving the woman clues, as if he were the MC on a quiz show and she the contestant. She was very young when she sang the song we were hearing. (No response from the woman.) She was in several Rogers and Hammerstein movies, the man said. (No response from the woman.) She was the mom on the Partridge Family.
Oh! Oh! I knew the answer!
Did I adhere to my own policy and keep my mouth shut? Did I stay quiet and let someone else answer the question? Did I bask silently in my knowledge? No, no, and no. I piped right in with Shirley Jones! When the man with the question didn’t hear me, I piped up even louder, Shirley Jones!
He turned to me and said I was right. Now everyone shopping in the thrift store knew how smart I am! I was so proud of myself, until I realized now the man wanted to chat.
She had been in a lot of Rogers and Hammerstein movies, he told me. (I suppose he didn’t realize I’d already heard that informational tidbit.) Of course, he said, she was really young then.
Well, she wasn’t exactly old when she was in the Partridge Family, I told him. I started feeling a little frantic when I realized he wanted to chat. I decidedly did not want to chat with a stranger in the thrift store.
He wasn’t a bad looking man. He looked to be in his mid-50s, but maybe he was in his early 60s and well preserved. He had neatly combed hair, and his beard was trimmed. He was dressed more formally than most of the old guys I see in small desert towns, and if the large cross hanging from his neck was more than a fashion statement, he must have been a Christian. All of those features might have been appealing to a woman of a certain age and religious affiliation trolling the thrift store for a gentleman companion, but I was not such a woman.
He chuckled and agreed Shirley Jones had not been old when she appeared on television as the Partridge matriarch. Then he said of course a baby boomer would know Shirley Jones played the mother on the Partridge Family.
Excuse me? Me, a baby boomer? I don’t think so!
At this point in the conversation, I knew I did not want this man’s attention. I was born in the early 1970s. I am a proud member of Generation X. My parents were baby boomers, not me. If he thought I was a baby boomer, he was seeing me as he wanted me to be, not as who I actually am.
When I failed to give the guy the attention he desired, he wandered away. I’m lucky it was so easy to be rid of him. I don’t want some baby boomer man attaching himself to me, so I really do need to keep quiet. How was he to know I didn’t want to chat or flirt? How was he to know I only wanted credit for having the correct answer?