He was a middle-aged man. We had not spent much time together. Now we were outside walking through an overgrown area where plants blocked the path. He walked in front of me and as he passed various shrubbery and branches, instead of holding them aside or saying, “Watch yourself” or some such, he let the branches and stems fling back and hit me. Once I realized it, I slowed my gait and fell behind slightly so that the branches stilled before I reached them and I could easily move them aside for myself.
This small action on his part spoke volumes to me. He was not doing it on purpose – trying to make foliage hit me the way someone might do if they were trying to be either playful or rude – as much as he was oblivious to what he was doing. He wasn’t thinking about me, the woman walking behind him at all. I instinctively knew he’d had no one teach him the little niceties of interacting – or he’d had no interest in learning – and I further knew I wasn’t going to be the one to do it now. There were already too many other things about which I had deep reservations.