Ever since I was young people have told me completely inappropriate things about their lives. Seriously, complete strangers come up to chat with me about personal and intimate details of their private history that really should only be shared with a doctor or a psychiatrist – for no apparent reason.
I mean, it’s not like I am an approachable person. I don’t tend to smile at strangers, I’m not outgoing or vibrant. I don’t do cuddles or touching unnecessarily. And I don’t give out caring sharing vibes.
When I was a people manager and I was told to sit in a 121 with my own manager and a staff member, who then proceeded to give feedback on why he didn’t like my style, I maintained a complete poker face. Because I am a professional – right? Afterwards, my manager said I looked like I was about to leap across the desk and strangle him.
So – my best poker face makes me look like a psychopath, my normal ‘I’m out shopping and in my own little world, not looking for a chat’ expression apparently looks like a free therapy service – what is wrong with my face?
When I was a young teenager out shopping with my mum, some random old man came over to me in the chemist to tell me all about his personal ailments. I was probably browsing hair care or something vaguely girly. Certainly I wouldn’t have been in the bunion or venereal disease section. There was nothing about me that would have suggested medical assistance. But I distinctly remember him sharing lengthy details about his various illnesses, even following me to the till and explaining about various heart issues, while my mum stood next to me in bemusement.
Afterwards my mum asked me what I had said to him (nothing!) and told me off for talking to strangers. I mean – no one tells you what to do when you are only listening to strangers!
Recently I was looking around a prospective house purchase when the vendor explained all about finding his wife playing with the plumber (I know, serious cliche) while he was away working nights. In detail. For a good 20 minutes. I had Mr G with me, so it wasn’t like I looked a good prospect to hit on. I don’t delude myself it’s my charm!
Within a few minutes of meeting an old friend of my husbands, she’d told me all about which base they’d reached as teenagers and how far they would never go.
Sitting at bus stops, waiting in queues, walking the dog – whatever I might be doing, throw in some random person and before you know it they are sharing information that I really didn’t need to fill my brain with.
Maybe it’s because they need the cathartic release of sharing with a stranger. Maybe it’s like the cat thing – you know, where a cat walks in the room and goes over to the person who ignores it.
So – what is it about my clearly unwelcoming demeanour that encourages people to share? Is there a deodorant for that?
Have you ever told a complete stranger intimate details about your life?