As I’ve gotten older I find that there’s nothing quite so satisfying as the act of declaring that which I do not like and furthermore — avoiding it. For example, I can’t stand eating cauliflower, so I don’t. It was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done, declaring that I, Amelia, actually do not like consuming creepy white plants that taste like library breath. And I realized that despite its festivity, I hate drinking champagne, so I stopped that as well. (One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, am I right?) But my recent and perhaps most significant epiphany of that which I don’t like and therefore won’t do is a bit more tied in to the involvement of others: I hate saying “hi.” Hate it.
It’s not the word itself, because “hi” is fairly unassuming when it comes to syllables and requires the lowest level of intellect to get the point across. And I’m fine with its saluting cousins — the formal hello, the casual hey. I’ll type it in a text or an email just fine. What I can’t stand is the act of Saying Hi face to face while in transition from one point to another, no matter how leisurely I may appear to be walking.
Like many of the proverbial lightbulbs that eventually switch on above my head, this realization took a few documented occurrences before I was able to pinpoint my aversion. The first most notable times surround who else but my father. Aren’t parents always, according to therapists, the root from which all of our neurosis stem?
My dad loves saying hi. He is Mister Hello. At the bank, at the grocery story, on the sidewalk, at the movie theaters — there he is, addressing strangers like he’s in the running for Greeter of the Week at Home Depot. One time, while leaving a restaurant in downtown Manhattan my dad went rogue and shouted “Hello!” at a stranger coming in the door. I was mortified and so was said stranger who, as I pointed out to my dad, no doubt thought we were a father/daughter tag-team ready to steal wallets and take names.
Another scarring juncture includes the one time I thought I saw my ex-boyfriend on the corner of 57th and 6th avenue. Encouraged by my stupid roommate who said it would be rude of me to not say hi, I ran up and tapped my ex on the shoulder. As he wheeled around I stood there expectantly (waiting for some sort of, “OH MY GOD! NO WAY!,” I suppose), but instead he said, “Uh…do I know you?” It wasn’t my ex-boyfriend.
As if that’s not insane enough, I’ve realized that the people I avoid are those who I genuinely enjoy and would love to see, yet I cross the street due to my lame pretense of hating the ritual of hello: the stopping mid-walk, the waving in their face until I get their attention, tapping them on the solider or worse, having them see me first but due to my poor eyesight it takes me eight squinty beats longer to realize who the hell this person is. I mean saying hi is exhausting.
A few weeks ago I was walking past a restaurant and, fairly certain I spotted my friend named Maggie, I tucked my head down so I could become engrossed in an imaginary text. I got only a few steps past her when I heard, “Amelia?” Shit. Caught.
And then just last week, I was crossing the street holding Leandra’s arm like two old ladies on an icy sidewalk when I pointed out that my friend Jason was right in front of us. “That’s my friend Jason!,” I told her. “So go say hi,” she said back. “No way, that’s so much effort,” I responded. “I’ll just tell him later.”
And I do, which I’ve been told is even weirder: I admit to my avoidance of the “hi” later on. “I saw you last week!” I reported gleefully to Jason at a party that weekend. “Why didn’t you say hi?,” he asked.
Same with my friend Maggie at the restaurant — I admitted to her immediately that I recognized her but didn’t stop on purpose. “Why?”
“I just kind of hate saying hi,” I shrugged. To which they both replied, “I totally get it.”
And that, if you ask me, is precisely why I’m friends with them in the first place.
Champagne and cauliflower, anyone?