Dear Readers: A recent query from “Perplexed in Suburbia” asked why people under the age of 50 don’t return friendly “hellos.”
I posited that this might be a regional issue, but also asked readers if my generation has raised a generation of “rude-niks.”
The responses flowed in, and I am sharing a representative sample.
While every theory suggested is valid, I think it’s vital to understand that we never really know what others are going through, which is a great reason to be friendly, regardless of the reaction.
Dear Amy: At our family’s rural retreat strangers wave VIGOROUSLY from their cars and trucks when encountered on the roads.
In our closely spaced prosperous cul de sac in the DC suburbs, every encounter is a chilly non-event.
I’d say the dynamic isn’t generational. People in urban neighborhoods don’t want to risk taking on new relationships too carelessly … they ain’t got the time! But out in rural-ville, loneliness is the threat.
— Dave in Bethesda, MD
Dear Dave: I hear you.
Dear Amy: I live in a city high-rise, and I have noticed that most young people getting on the elevator behave as though there’s no one else in there! But I don’t think it’s the way they were raised.
I think many people at an earlier stage of life haven’t quite realized that we are here only for a short time, and that even the most fortunate among us have sorrows, fears, worries and disappointments, and that we can ease each other’s way even slightly, with acknowledgment and kindness.
It takes a bit of living to see that. Almost without exception, my older neighbors make eye contact, smile, and say hello. I believe the younger ones will do so eventually.
— Alive in Chicago
Dear Alive: I agree with your take on this, and like you — I remain optimistic.
Dear Amy: I live in a very quiet neighborhood and chat regularly with a few of my neighbors. Otherwise, I’m an introvert. I have been accused of being a snob on plenty of occasions. I think introverts are just misunderstood.
I hope “Perplexed” continues to greet everyone. This person is making the world a better place. And I’ll try harder myself, just for having read the letter.
Dear Introvert: A beautiful response.
Dear Amy: I make that same observation all the time about people under the age of 50 in my safe suburban neighborhood.
My theory is that we raised our children to be so worried about stranger abductions that they reflexively avoid strangers to this day.
When you raise a generation of children to be paranoid, this is the result.
Dear Friendly: Many readers observed that this is a longer-term consequence of “stranger danger.”
Dear Amy: The other day, my wife and I were walking on the sidewalk and met a group of three high school kids.
We said hello (as we often do), and as often happens, for the most part they ignored us.
However, just after they passed us, we overheard one boy say to one girl, “Why did they talk to us?”
She responded, “They were being nice, dumb *ss.”
Apparently, she gets it, but her friends don’t.
— Also From Suburbia
Dear Also: The cluelessness is very “on brand.”
Dear Amy: One Sunday I was riding my bike far out on a bike path, towing my toddler behind me, when I got a flat tire.
I started walking us toward the car, tight to the far side of a wide path.
There was a definite age graduation in the (all-male) bikers who passed us. 40/50-year-olds stopped and made sure we were OK.
Thirtysomethings asked if I was OK as they zoomed past.
Twentysomethings were visibly and verbally annoyed at us for existing.
— Home Safe
Dear Home Safe: When/if those twentysomethings have children, they’ll be much more concerned with the plight of a stranded parent.
Dear Amy: I am 34 and I have noticed that people of all ages both wave and don’t wave. It has NOTHING to do with age.
Age does not determine what kind of person you are. There are rude and polite people of every age.
Dear Millennial: While true, stereotypes are born of experience.
Dear Amy: I remember my own Mom, born in 1922 and having since passed away, telling me, “I smile and say ‘Hello,’ if they don’t smile back I just say, ‘the hell with them.”
It still makes me smile.
— Miss You, Mom
Dear Miss You: Mom: Tender-hearted with a tough crust. I’m smiling, too.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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