How to Talk to a Woman Wearing Headphones

Want to know how to talk to a woman wearing headphones? It’s easy! Don’t.

Imagine being on a bus journey. You’re listening to music through headphones, or maybe you’re reading a good book. This is pretty standard fare nowadays, so let’s take it a bit further; imagine wearing headphones and sitting near someone who wants to talk to you. You don’t know this person, but you can tell they’re attracted to you and you’re not interested. You spend your journey with your head contorted in the opposite direction to them, praying they don’t disturb you.

This is a scenario many of the population are familiar with. If you’re a young female, it is very likely that at some point you’ll have encountered unwanted attention that, despite your best efforts, you couldn’t shake. The fact is, this other person has decided they want you and any response other than ‘take me!’ is unacceptable.

An abysmal article came to light yesterday called ‘How to Talk to a Woman Wearing Headphones‘ and earnt the author plenty of ridicule. In the article, it’s suggested that women wear headphones as a ‘challenge’ to men, to separate the weak from the strong. The author encourages men to persist in their harassment and at no point allow the woman to ‘take control of the situation’.

The article is so ludicrous that the jury is still out on whether it’s just really bad satire. Regardless, the scenario is all too real and so many women (and men) are regularly faced with it. The ‘tips’ in the article are used regularly by men in real life and are less than endearing.

Perhaps quite worryingly, when reading bits out near my brother he interjected, sarcastically, with “because no one should have conversations on public transport”. The point is not that we shouldn’t be embracing making new connections with people, but that we should have the choice of when we do this.

There is nothing wrong with trying to start conversations. Even me, shyest person ever, will often start conversations with strangers! The difference is, I only do this with people who look available to talk to and, generally, it’ll be in response to something we’ve both just witnessed. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you, it’s not your God-given right to force yourself on them.

A persons choice not to be available for conversation should always be respected. It’s not the mark of the modern world taking away our conversation, it’s the opportunity for us to create physical barriers when we’re simply not in the mood for superficial or unwanted interaction.

When I’m in public and bring out a book, or plug in my headphones, I’m not trying to be coy. It’s not a prop for me to look enigmatic or interesting – I’m doing it because I want to read or listen to music in peace. If I don’t reciprocate your initiation into conversation please don’t consider me rude, I’ve simply decided I don’t want to talk.

Image: Alice Hampson via Unsplash