I think this is a difficult topic to discuss, especially among todays youth. Interaction with the opposite gender has always been tricky.
Interaction with the opposite gender as a child
Growing up, you’re quite comfortable playing with your male cousins and male school friends during breaks. As a child you don’t distinguish any difference between the two, I mean all you’re thinking about is playing together, running around and having fun.
Interaction with the opposite gender as an adult
As adolescence kicks in and you are taught to keep your distance and any physical interaction between non-mahram males should be avoided, this is when it gets tricky.
My experiences while interacting with the opposite gender
I have often found myself in these situations. I’m sure Muslim males experience them too. I live in a western country, but I don’t think it should be used as an excuse.
Here you can’t avoid the inevitable handshake. It’s the first form of gesture you will encounter and is a crucial part of an interview. Your interviewer actually judges your handshake, if it’s firm and strong etc. I must admit, I went for an interview quite recently and I was sooo nervous. I really don’t shake hands with the opposite gender but do for interviews or when the hand is given by a non-Muslim. I know, that doesn’t make it right, but rejecting a hand from a Muslim male doesn’t feel as bad, as they should know the reason.
So, I shook his hand but hardly touching it and did a very quick gesture. Another awkward part of an interview, for me, is EYE-CONTACT!!! For the life of me, I could never maintain eye-contact with people. If I need to speak to a male, I would look above your head or down all the time. If I do look in your eye by mistake, I would quickly look away.
What confuses me is when Muslim males give you their hand. This is a problem especially on Eid days. Well, most men I greet are my uncles and first cousins, which is different. I know some people have different views on first cousins, but we are like brothers and sisters… very close. You will get the odd male who is unrelated and gives his hand. I guess I give my hand, not to be rude and it would probably be someone much older than me.
Muslim males :I met someone recently, a Muslim male. He extended his hand and introduced himself. I have no idea why, but I just reacted with my name and nodded my head. His hand was still outstretched and he just said: ” Oh, we don’t do handshakes”, that was a bit awkward, but I felt comfortable with it.
Parties: I also attended a party recently and I was seated next to a girl. She got up and the chair next to me was empty. Next thing, I heard a male voice next to me asking if he could have a seat. I was so shocked, I just said yes. I was never in this situation before!!! I don’t know what I would’ve done if it weren’t for my sister. Unlike me, she is a sociable person and speaks to people. He was making conversation and I gave him one-word answers. This was when my younger sister came to the rescue!!! ha-ha! Turns out, they were at the same university and I could continue being my normal unsociable self! (I’m bad, I know, but I can’t help it, childhood problem 🙁 )
Interaction between opposite genders on social media
This is a heavy topic. These days, it’s impossible not to chat to the opposite gender on social media platforms. It’s so easy to send a friend request, tweet at someone etc. Some people think that it’s harmless, as you aren’t speaking directly to the person. They also find it easier to chat to someone than to speak to them, this is common among introverts (don’t need to go far!) I would always be aware of what I say in a chat. I always think: ” what if someone were to read this conversation.” I would never want to put myself in an embarrassing situation. So, my advice to you is to always think before you type and think of the consequences of your actions. Keep your conversation with the opposite gender on an impersonal level. Don’t get too involved in their personal space 🙂
Wow, I think I summed up most of my views and experiences. I have a few more, but will allow them to accumulate some more and get back to you on it. I would love to hear your experiences and how you handle everyday situations.