You regulars remember Wendy. I met her at a party and introduced myself as Bob Levey. She replied that her name was Wendy. Just Wendy. No last name. So I blasted her out of the park a few days ago for being childish and impolite.
A lot of readers have risen to Wendy's defense, none more eloquently than Hollys J. Harloff-Ender of Northwest. Hollys writes to say that she is 29 years old and "upset by your point of view about women who do not give out their names to anyone who asks."
What's the danger in saying "Hi, I'm Wendy Jones," rather than "Hi, I'm Wendy?" Hollys passed along two examples from her own experience.
"One night, while at a party given by some friends," she writes, "I was approached by a young man who started off his conversation with Hi, I am so and so; who are you? I gave him my first name, mainly to be polite. However, I did not give him my last name until he pursued the matter further. I didn't really want to, but I figured he was probably a nice enough person as he knew some of the same people I did.
"About a week after the party, he began calling me as he had looked up my phone number in the telephone book. I didn't want to date this man, but he insisted on calling me every night for about two weeks. He eventually lost interest and stopped bothering me.
"On another occasion, very recently, I was walking home from work when a young man approached me and started walking very close to me. At first I just ignored him, but he began to talk to me. He said Hi, I am Dennis and I bet you are from Colorado. You have that fresh mountain girl look, etc. etc.
"He asked me if I lived in the neighborhood, where I worked and a few other things. He was well-dressed, carried a briefcase and looked as if he had also just left an office building. Maybe he was a nice person; maybe not. You can't always tell by judging a person's appearance.
"I tried to ignore him, but I couldn't shake him. When we got to a corner, I hesitated, hoping he would continue on his way. But he didn't. He put his hand on my arm and turned me about so I had to face him. He said he could see by my ring that I was married. I said nothing.
"He asked me to have a cup of coffee with him and I said no. He then began yelling at me because I refused him. I began to walk away, taking care to go home by another route in the event he should follow me. As I walked away, he started saying things like he hoped my husband appreciated me and that marriage shouldn't stop me from having a cup of coffee with somebody. . . .
"Why is it that men always feel so free to invade a woman's space?
"Why do they yell and whistle as a woman walks past them?
"Why do they stare at you and talk about your body parts in a sexual way?
"What gives them that right?
"Why do you expect a woman to just give out her name to someone that she doesn't know very well or at ll, or maybe doesn't want to know?"
To answer your questions in order, Hollys:
1) Macho conditioning. A lot of men don't feel like men unless they pursue women aggressively. And you're not very aggressive, these men feel, if you don't make the first move into a woman's "space."
2) I've never understood this one. Any man who tries this must fail about 99.9 per cent of the time to attract a response, much less a date for Saturday night. The yellers and the whistlers are insecure, I think, although they probably think they're just the opposite.
3) Add up answers one and two and you'll have the answer to No. Three. Again, I can't understand men who think this approach will yield results, because it won't.
5) Thanks to your examples, I hereby change my tune on this one, Hollys. All other factors being equal, I'll always feel it's more polite, more businesslike and more adult to give one's full name when asked, or when meeting a stranger. However, I grant that there are many situations where a woman's safety has to come first. I agree with you that if she errs, it should be on the side of caution.