Strangers In the Night


The other day I was walking down the street in Chelsea when a nice-looking younger man approached me. He smiled and said hello and asked if I might like to get a drink. This never happens. What was different about me that day? Was it the high heels and the blow out from the amazing Russians at the cheap hair salon? I felt both flattered and frightened. The scared part of me wanted to ask, “Are you a serial killer?” and the skeptical part wanted to say, “You’re kind of young. Are you going all Emmanuel Macron on me?”

And if I said yes, I thought, how would I safeguard myself? I could ask if we could call his mother or if he minded if I took a picture of his driver’s license and texted it to a friend. I could ascertain his Insta handle and quickly troll for any hints of animal cruelty or a wife. It was about 5 PM on a respectable street and he had a nice smile. Would this just make a funny story for our engagement party? Being picked up on a street? But seriously, is it any worse than Tinder?

It didn’t have the creepy feel of a construction worker cat call, and he did ask if I had a boyfriend, and his shoes looked expensive. But I have binge watched “Dateline” and “Unsolved Mysteries” enough to know looks can be deceiving.

I ultimately said I was meeting someone and couldn’t but added, “Fortune favors the bold.” I didn’t know if he would recognize this translation of a Latin proverb but, provided he wasn’t a dangerous guy but just one willing to take a risk in a world where it seems hard to meet people in person, I didn’t want to kick him to the curb. He wished me a good day and pushed on.

The whole encounter made me wonder about the nature of the world we are living in and meeting people. It’s not a safe place where you can accept an invitation from a total stranger. Even in the online dating world, there are lists of safety practices, from meeting in public places to not leaving your drink unattended to telling a friend who you are meeting and where and checking in at the end of the date.

Who knows, maybe my Chelsea guy delivers this line to women all the time and is just playing a numbers game? Or maybe most women in New York have their guard up and face down and aren’t wandering around with a smile just happy to be out of yoga pants and looking at art in the gallery windows?

I suppose it’s good to look open, but bad to look vulnerable. Don’t talk to strangers is one of the first rules we learn. But as I have also learned from all my true crime consumption, sometimes it is the person you know who is the most dangerous.

Most people aren’t meeting via a fix up where a mutual friend knows each other’s entire dating history, credit rating, and phobias of pointed objects, so there is always some risk in going out with someone you don’t know. What’s fate or opportunity or just a really bad idea? Erring on the side of caution versus no risk, no reward. At the end of the day, it’s probably about trusting your gut. Be bold, but be safe. Love may spring from stranger places.

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