This discussion has been tippy-toed ’round more times than I can count, but since TC is a quiet place these days, I thought (with the permission of the lovely editrixes) that we might have a chat about this.
1) It is apparent that the smile of a lady is a valuable thing, lightening many a heart.
2) Not all people that one meets are gentlemen or ladies.
3) Interactions that are proper in one situation are entirely improper in others.
Any time one interacts with a strange person, one must take into account the safety of that interaction. If one is (for some reason) alone in an empty parking lot and suddenly accosted by a strange gentleman, one does not smile welcomingly. I used to walk past the parole office on the way to pick my children up from school. I did not (and do not) feel that this was an excellent place to display my teeth. Even Miss Manners doesn’t expect a lady to speak to a strange gentleman on the street, except to acknowledge a gentlemanly nod with one of her own.
Now, if one is inside a store, or inside some other busy public venue, and a gentleman speaks to you… that is an entirely different matter. I think that ladies should be courteous, say “Hello” and interact in the usual ways. Smile, for heaven’s sakes. You’re not alone. To see someone you know and to “not see” them, that’s what the used to call the cut-direct, and there is no more deadly insult. Speak a kind word if you’re spoken to (certainly to the people with whom you have business), make good eye contact, be pleasant.
Some people are “invisible” to others, such as the homeless. If you are not in a situation of risk, you are more likely to give a gift with your smile to one of those gentlemen than to “decent looking” men in a similar situation. I’ve gotten past the age of courtship, and usually even youngish gangbangers will smile back at me. (I look like their aunties, I suppose). We’re not in the business of judging people by their clothing, are we? Or should I re-read the book of James? (If a person – man or woman – sends out danger signals, pay attention. Always, of course, listen to the Spirit and not to common sense – you’re here on a mission, and that mission is to love your neighbor… but don’t guilt yourself into doing something foolish, either. Listen to God, not man).
So. People want a simple answer, “Should a woman speak to/smile at every man that she comes across?” The answer is no – but the answer is also to err on the side of generosity with your smiles and greetings. We’re not supposed to be afraid of man, just of God. 🙂 You might feed a hungry soul.
At least that’s my take…