Regret in a dress on a swing

I decided to go out late last night and shoot hoops.  It was only me and my basketball out on the courts.  I had forgotten how peaceful that feeling was (I used to be quite a decent player).

It was getting dark when two college-age women, both dressed nicely, walked by and started using the swings.  I found myself wondering what they were like.  They were already relaxing in a park and swinging, an activity I enjoy myself.  Maybe they were shy like me, or gamers.  Or maybe there was something unique and interesting about them that would make me smile to learn.  What if they were wondering if there was something unique about me, the guy in the red bandana.  Would they be surprised to learn that I’m quiet, or that I’m educated, or that I sing opera?  I spent the next twenty minutes wanting to go over and say hello (and hoping they would come over to me), but I never did.

It soon got too dark to play, so I packed up and walked past them on the way to my car.  I waved and kept walking.

As I drove off, I could see that the women had left the park.  I wondered if they had been waiting for me to come over.  Had they been wondering if I was like them for the whole time?

On the drive home I thought about why I hadn’t done what I wanted.  Perhaps they would have found a stranger approaching them to be creepy.  That was the only reason I could think of.  I recalled an axiom that has been very true of my life so far: that I’ve always regretted the things I didn’t do much more than the things I’ve done.  I wish I had gone and talked to them, and I think I’ll spend the next week talking to one stranger a day just to see how it turns out.

Would you have gone and spoken to them?  Would it have been appropriate for me to do so?

PERSONAL: Cancer sucks.
PERSONAL: Cancer sucks.
APPEARANCES: I’ll be at the American Atheist convention this weekend.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Paul

    You should have ask them, if they wanted to shoot hoops with you. They might have said yes.

  • Paul

    I’d have done the same as you – wondered what it would be like, wondered who they were and what they did, wondered what might happen. And then I would have driven home, cursing myself for being such a coward :) I like your idea of talking to a stranger per day – might be tricky in Taiwan seeing as I currently speak almost none of the language but I’m gonna give it a shot.

  • mike

    Whenever I weigh this kind of question I always come to the conclusion that, yes, all other things being equal I should have talked to the stranger(s).

    There are the usual reasons against it, like maybe the two were enjoying their time together and didn’t want some stranger butting in and being unusually familiar and creepy. But at worst it would have given the two something to laugh about after brushing you off. I can’t think of many truly bad outcomes, and they all seem pretty unlikely, contrived situations.

    I tend to not be good at making conversation even when I’m the one being approached, so that’s another hurdle for me, but I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about starting conversations with adult strangers.

  • Sergio

    I like the personal touch on this blog. Not something all that common among a lot of the atheist blogs I’ve been reading.

    I believe you should strive to leave your comfort zone whenever possible. You clearly wanted to get to know those women, but you perceived of some obstacle, wether real or imaginary, and stopped yourself. I think you’ll be surprised by how warmly some people will react to being approached by strangers. This is not universal of course, but you will never know what might have come out of that interaction had you initiated it. Perhaps you would have met some new friends, or perhaps something more. Or, maybe they would have just brushed you off. Either way, you dont lose anything, and you gain experience leaving your comfort zone and, often, open the door for new experiences down the road. Life is more fun and interesting this way.

    I agree with the first comment. You should have asked them to shoot hoops with you. But its okay. You live and learn. I still struggle with leaving my comfort zone too sometimes. I think this is a life-long problem.

    Thanks for the post.

  • amandalea

    I make conversation with strangers all the’s waaaay more uncomfortable for me to act like they aren’t there in elevators and whatnot. Also, statistically, they are feeling just as awkward in the silence, so why not break it? I would have talked to the chics on the swings..probably wouldn’t have opened with, “Hey, ladies! I like swinging, too…”
    I’m also a relatively secure and abnormally outgoing 30yo female, so..perhaps I’m not the best source of advice in this matter. Guys don’t tend to mind: girls might run away screaming “Raaaaaape!”
    Good luck in these endeavors…>;)

  • Jeffrey Eldred

    I would have done the same thing. That said, I also would have regretted it.

  • Alexandria Wolf

    I’ve always walked right up to people I’ve found interesting and started a conversation. I’m in my 40′s now, been doing this all my life and it’s never gone badly for me. But I’m a moderately attractive woman and I was a cute girl so I had an edge over a guy. Because sadly, most violence is perpetrated by males and women are naturally leery of strange males for that reason. Still, as there were 2 of them they would have probably felt safe enough if you’d given them a friendly hello and chatted them up about the weather or basketball or the joys of swinging. Well, maybe not that last bit. ;) Anyway, any time you see someone interesting, if it’s in a place where they obviously wouldn’t feel unsafe with a strange man approaching them, give them a friendly smile and a hello. Their response will be a good indicator as to whether or not you should go on to open a conversation. Good luck!

  • The Nerd

    After dark, everyone’s a gangster or a sex offender. That’s simply the way it is. You did well leaving them alone.

  • Steven

    I agree with Paul up above; I would have likely done the same thing. And kicked myself afterward. I’ve been on both sides of that coin, and I can think of one or two times that I did make the approach, only to feel like a total heel afterward. The burning embarrassment from those times still makes me uncomfortable to think about.

    I usually don’t have a problem starting a conversation with a lone female in a friendly public place (like, say, a book store or a coffee shop), but in a park, after dark? Sketchy.