investigates: Do you have one of *those* faces?

By Karen | November 14 2012 | 65 Comments

DO strangers stop you on the street to ask you directions? Do people sit next to you on the bus and strike up a conversation, even if there are 20 other empty seats available? Or how about old women in the doctor’s surgery, telling you their life stories while you wait?

If this sounds familiar, you’ve got one of those faces! I have one of ‘those faces’ and when I step outside my front door I can’t move for the randomers stopping me to chat.

“I’m going into town to meet my sister-in-law,” said the old lady next to me on the bus last week, eyes wild and staring. “She thinks I have a problem with her, but I don’t. I DON’T.”

An elderly man in a hospital waiting room confided in me that he thought he had a hernia and tried to show it to me. I had made the mistake of catching his eye, you see. And later on in yet another hospital waiting room, a smiley pregnant woman walked right up to me the second I entered the room and told me she was having a C-section on Christmas Eve.

Funny thing is, I abhor small talk, I can’t do it and always lapse into an awkward silence so they’re really picking on the wrong person. But every single time the randomers sidle up to me and start yapping.

I have a theory about this however, honed over many years of experience. I think because I’m not naturally glamorous and am generally rather unkempt people think I’m less threatening and am more likely to chat to them. I’ve actually seen people bypass my glam, fashion conscious sister who always wears heels and perfect make-up, to come sit next to me in my sloppy t-shirt and jeans and start to chat.

Short of getting up and running away every time I’m approached, I have no idea how to avoid all of this. I don’t want to be rude and ignore the looper chatting to me, but neither do I actually want to talk to them. Help!

Do you have one of those faces and if so, how do you cope?


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65 Replies to " investigates: Do you have one of *those* faces?"

  • I cant cope with strangers talking to me, I am the queen of the awkward silence, unless im drunk, then I am the one talking strangers ear off

  • Miss Golightly says:

    Yes, I definitely have one of those faces! I remember one time standing in line to get a burger and a girl asked me “Do you think they are hiring at the moment?” so I said I had no idea but she should ask just in case. She paused and then said that she had just seen a guy she was dating with another girl and the worst thing was that she had just slept with him for the first time the other week. I definitely wasn’t expecting her to tell me something so personal but I figured she was in a kind of shock and upset and needed to say it to someone & I somehow fitted the bill. I just said that I was sorry to hear that and that she should just forget about him and he wasn’t worth getting upset over if that’s the way he was treating her.

    I always end up having a conversation in the supermarket or if I’m waiting somewhere and even if I’m walking down a busy street people will always stop me to ask for directions. Funnily enough my Mum is the same – conversations with strangers all the time. And now my daughter (who is 2.5) always strikes up conversations when she’s out and about – I guess it must run in the family!

  • Tara says:

    Some people have naturally friendly faces as their default. I do not which is a pity because I am friendly and love chatting to strangers but I’m usually stuck in my head so a slight frown is my default. I’m trying to change that :)

  • Shell says:

    Oh my god! this always happens to me.

    I hate it, I can’t have conversations with strangers, I don’t know what to say to them. I just nod and agree and then eventually go silent until they get the hint. I’m thinking of walking around with my ipod in my ears at all times.

  • le smurf says:

    Ah Yeah I have one of those faces! People talk to me on the bus, at the train station, in a queue, on the street, at a gig! Himself thinks I attract crazies! He’s probably right to be fair but I can’t not talk back to someone when they strike up a conversation with me – I just can’t be rude or ignore them! My sister is great at it – she just turns her head the other way!

  • Jo says:

    I attract small children. Mostly at art exhibitions. Had a group of school children wanting me to tell them about fish at an aquarium. It’s ok if I’m in the right mood!

  • Hellojed says:

    I usually say that I’m in a hurry and leave, or if I’m ‘trapped’ sitting beside them I put the earphones in when there’s a lull in the conversation and/or start reading. If that doesn’t work I’ll often just say that I have a headache and that I can’t really talk. Terribly rude I know but I see it as self-preservation – I’m happy to give directions, etc but conversations with complete strangers often make me anxious (unless I’m at a bar or some kind of social occasion).

    The worst time I was stuck beside someone was in a 50 minute flight where the guy beside me was terrified of flying – he was already drunk and would not stop talking, even though I tried my best (and politely) to stop the conversation. After three whiskeys (which his friends kept passing back to him) he became verbally aggressive, luckily we were landing at that stage. Walking towards the terminal I saw two airport employees running towards me – turns out the guy was behind me decided to light up a cigarette right beside the aeroplane that was being refuelled!

  • Molly says:

    Not Just Inside – laughing here, thats so funny, thats the way I am too

  • dublinista says:

    Me too Karen!! Recently I’ve had a stranger take out his dentures to show me and loitering at the DART I had someone bypass everyone else to ask me for long involved directions.
    I have fairly unkempt hair and a penchant for age inappropriate clothes with animal prints so I think you may be on to something with the unthreatening appearance thing!!

  • Kitty In The City says:

    No, I don’t have one of those faces, I think people think I look foreign (sallow skin, long nose) so unless they’re old and a bit blind they don’t get into chats. But some of these above are so funny I sort of wish they would!

  • OtherMary says:

    I had no idea this happens to people! Never happened to me, except for a couple of old ladies who probably strike up a conversation with everyone. I wouldn’t know what to say anyway.

    My serious/thinking face is kind of angry-looking, but even when I purposefully put on my best bitch-face, I cannot deter those Concern people.

  • I seem to have one of “those faces” too… waiting at the bus stop (or in the bus), with clearly visible earphones? Yeah, they’re still striking up a conversation.
    The funny thing though is that people always ask me for directions when I am myself visiting: every single time I go to Paris, without failing, I get asked for directions in the metro or in the streets (I’ll always remember this young couple last time I was there, they were lost in the metro, only spoke english and nobody helped them: the smile they gave me when I told them how to go from A to B made my day).

  • Anita says:

    I always get asked for directions but generally people tend not to try and strike up conversations with me – maybe I have a “mid-way” face? Approachable enough for directions and small things but not for entire conversations? I’ve perfected (I like to think so anyway) the art of seeming friendly but giving off a small “don’t start a conversation with me” vibe, there is a reason for this though, I’m deaf. It’s too complicated to explain to strangers that I’m deaf, so I just try not to encourage conversations in case I can’t hear them well (but I find with old people it’s enough to just nod, smile and make murmuring “mmm I see” noises anyway).

  • Ailsa says:

    I call this a “mental magnet”. And i too am one.

  • hopeandpray says:

    I have a special kind of face that means normal people never sit beside me on the bus or train but crazy/scary/’interesting’ people always will. I been on the train with people who were hammered ‘because they are too afraid to go on trains sober’ (wtf?) and my personal highlight has to be getting a ‘blessing’ from a man that had just gotten out of prison after having him tell me about how he was going to make contact with certain people he was angry with now he was on the outside. Oh dear. But little old ladies? Avoid me like the plague.

  • Beth TV says:

    Celine, I’m exactly the same as well. Go anywhere in the world for even an hour and I’m asked the directions to anywhere from the local ATM to the Eiffel Tower to the subway to a butcher that sells vegeterian tongue. Yet I am never asked directions for anywhere in Dublin!! Between that and being asked in shops if they sell so and so or which aisle the radishes or mushy peas are kept, I never get a minutes peace.

    Maybe we give off the tour guide/shelf stacker scent?

  • Leela says:

    I think I sometimes have one of those faces as it happens sometimes but not all the time.
    I am crap at small talk, but as I said to my husband recently when he complained about someone chewing his ear of in the petrol station, you may be the only person they speak to all day. It can be a lonely old world.

  • Maybe we do Beth, maybe we do! That’s a reasonable explanation!

  • Jane says:

    Wow, this article could be written by me! I have definitely have one of those faces and I detest small talk!

  • Sascha says:

    I have one of those faces; absolutely everyone talks to me which is why I do my best to avoid Public Transport if I can. If you really don’t want to speak to someone just pretend you don’t speak English :) xx

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