Shy or Rude? by Sharon O’Donnell

The other day I was at the mall with my 13-year-old son trying to find him some sunglasses to take to Scout camp. As we were standing there looking at sunglasses at a kiosk in the middle of the mall, I heard a female voice call out to my son, “Hey, Jason.” I turned to see two attractive girls on our right, but they were still standing about 20 feet away from us.
“Hey, Jason,” one of them said again, waving. I looked at Jason, who seemed to be doing his best to ignore the girls. He hadn’t even turned to acknowledge them yet.

I smiled at the girls and said, “Jason, they’re talking to you.” Jason had that deer in the headlights look, and he stayed focused on the sunglasses in his hand, not turning toward the girls at all. The girls were still standing there, pausing in their stroll down the mall. I smiled at them, embarrassed, and smiled and said as friendly as I could, “Hi!” I then motioned toward Jason and shrugged my shoulders and shook my head as if to say ‘what I can I do with him?’ They smiled and continued walking.

I was livid when I turned back to Jason. “Why didn’t you respond to them? That was very embarrassing for me and extremely rude of you.”

“Moooom,” he groaned.

“Don’t ‘Mom’ me,” I almost shouted. The sunglasses salesman was looking at us strangely by now, perhaps afraid a domestic dispute might erupt before him. “You don’t ignore people like that,” I said as I continued my tirade.

“I don’t know them very well,” Jason said.

“What?” I was incredulous. “What does that matter? People say ‘hi’ to strangers. I’ve seen you say hi to strangers, and you don’t know them.”

“I don’t know, Mom, I just don’t normally talk to them that much at school.”

I thought about the ‘deer in the headlights’ look that I had seen on his face a few moments ago, and I knew that he was uncomfortable with the situation. I didn’t want to make a mountain
out of a mole hill, but at the same time, I didn’t want Jason to appear rude to anyone. I got right in his face and said, “I don’t want to ever see you do that again. Do you understand? If someone says hello to you — particularly someone you know — you respond. You don’t ignore people.”

He sighed. “Okay, Mom.”

I know boys that age can be awkward in social situations, especially with girls. I can handle ‘awkward’; I can’t handle ‘rude’. Jason claimed later that he was shy, but that level of shyness is a problem in my eyes and has to be overcome. The bottom line is that you have to be friendly to others. Even if you are a 13-year-old boy.

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