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Why Are You Looking at Me?

Posted on 2009.07.22 at 10:50
Current Location: 75070
Current Music: Green Day - Dookie

We're a curious people. Its in our nature. Some like to peoplewatch; that is, observe without contact in an attempt to muse upon their target's agenda for entertainment purposes.

I'm not one of those people.

When I was young I noticed that most people in other cars looked directly at you while passing or being passed. Idle curiosity I assumed. Invariably the spied-upon driver would look back. No nods were ever passed, or waves exchanged like motorcyclists do when confronted with each other on a reverse approach. Just a glance. But I'm a fairly private person. So I refrain from doing that when driving. In fact, I haven't looked at another driver in a very long time. I'm usually too busy watching the road and my mirrors anyway.

One of my pet peeves surrounds what I consider an awkward response when entering the men's room. No matter which level of activity the other occupants are engaged in at the time, many will take the time to turn and see who's coming in - something else I never do. Furthermore when looked at in this surrounding, I don't acknowledge the seeker. I have zero interest in ascertaining attendance, and often wonder why others do.

Despite these shortcomings, I do greatly enjoy eye-contact. I've been told my gaze conveys trustworthiness. But I reserve those times for my mother, my lovers or my children. Those I'm intimate with. Close friends and co-workers. For awhile I tried making sincere overtures to waitstaff - I'd read somewhere that is was disrespectful not to do so. But I found I couldn't keep it up. As an introvert, it took far too much energy. Besides, I tip well - and I'm sure between eye-contact and cash, waitstaff would rather have the cash.

Some countries I've been to find it disrespectful to look another person in the eye. I flourished in those cultures.

But there are those I run across those who are adverse to my hesitance. A co-worker mentioned that she wanted to take me out to lunch for my birthday. I thanked her - it was very sweet, and we often enjoy lunch together on any given day, then explained that I was never one to celebrate birthdays, and did in fact prefer them to be non-events. She said she understood, but enjoyed making a big deal about milestone birthdays. I explained that I was especially adamant about those remaining ignored.

If I am capable of understanding that some people feel strongly about their perspective, why do I have such a hard time convincing others I feel just as strongly about mine?


Melancthe the Woe, So-Called
melancthe at 2009-07-22 16:09 (UTC) (Link)
For awhile I tried making sincere overtures to waitstaff - I'd read somewhere that is was disrespectful not to do so.

When I was a struggling university student many years ago, I did a few waitressing jobs. I wasn't any good at it, but I was personable and I got decent tips. The people I disliked the most weren't the ones who were rude to me, it was the ones who'd feel the need to chat to me, presumably out of politeness. They'd ask me questions about my life, about what I was studying, about everything. In the meantime, I'd be desperate to just leave their table. It was acutely embarrassing and irritating for me. My favourite customers were the ones who'd order politely and with a smile but who wouldn't waste anyone's time with pointless chit-chat.

Now, when I'm in a restaurant, I try to do the same thing: be friendly but to-the-point. And tip VERY well.

I like making eye contact with people, but that's because it makes them remember me rather than because of any intrinsic desire to do so.
ehowton at 2009-07-22 16:58 (UTC) (Link)
Cabbies and barbers are my top two incessant chatter violators. Subconsciously it may be the reason I go from buzz cut to ponytail & back again.
thesweetestnote at 2009-07-22 18:03 (UTC) (Link)
I'm with you on this one. I never look at anyone driving. And when I get a stare or glance I get all WTF!? I keep to myself when out alone. My eyes fixed at the floor or any non-human object (the fish tanks at Wal-Mart are a favorite of mine). The restroom is different for me. I look out of defense. I guess I just feel really vulnerable while my pants are unbuttoned or down. It's an intimate act and there's other fuckers in there sharing the experience. It freaks me out sometimes. So I guess subconsciously I size up potential danger. I think I've seem too many prison shows/movies.

Eye contact is most important to me with loved ones and friends. It tells you everything that person is going through. The eyes are truly the windows to the soul. A main factor in my recent separation was that I was no longer getting eye contact. As if she was hiding something.

Yep. Eye contact and body language. A great form of communication. Here in my city looking at the wrong person can actually start a fight. Fuckin' machismo and gang fuckers. Another reason I keep my hands, feet and eyes to myself.
ehowton at 2009-07-23 01:25 (UTC) (Link)
The eyes are truly the windows to the soul.

Trust can be gained, and trust can be lost in just a glance.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2009-07-22 19:16 (UTC) (Link)
title or description
Melancthe the Woe, So-Called
melancthe at 2009-07-22 22:12 (UTC) (Link)
... that reminds me of my cat Smeagy. He gives me that look every day!
hiro_antagonist at 2009-07-22 22:02 (UTC) (Link)
looking and gaze are often dominance techniques among most higher mammals, so direct gazes when two people aren't infatuated with each other tend to be avoided.

As civilization and the rules of behavior it enforces expands, the gaze is less emphasized (newer, better ways of dominant behavior[pay grade lol]), even though biologically speaking, the behavior probably hasn't lost any of its force. Thus the confusion, I'd imagine.

Awkwardness is also a good mechanism for avoiding false-positives in human behavior. If someone mis-interpreted any gaze directed their way as the other person intending to kill them, or steal their food or whatnot, that misinterpretation would lead to a lot of pointless slaughter. So people get awkward and try and figure out the other person's intent before deciding in any absolute way. Probably a good behavior when you think about it.
ehowton at 2009-07-23 01:23 (UTC) (Link)
Quite. Doesn't explain the whole men's room thing though. I often feel as if I'm being sized up, so to speak. I expect at any time chest-beating to occur.
catttitude at 2009-07-22 22:04 (UTC) (Link)
But I reserve those times for my mother, my lovers or my children.

Glad to hear about your lovers, may I join in. ;)
ehowton at 2009-07-23 01:21 (UTC) (Link)
You put the "GRRRR!" in lover, baby. Yeah!
dawaioser at 2009-07-23 04:58 (UTC) (Link)
Again, Sir...we agree. I'm not one for eye contact or silly chatter.
ehowton at 2009-07-23 05:04 (UTC) (Link)
All this has happened before, and will happen again.
quicksilvermad at 2009-07-23 04:58 (UTC) (Link)
I'm a people watcher. But it's an artistic thing. I sit down on a park bench in DC and watch the crowds of tourists mill past me... Sometimes I'll sketch someone who catches my eyes, others I'll write little made up stories about these strangers amongst the blank pages of my sketchbook. I haven't done this since graduation—the last time I really just sat and "people watched" was my junior year when I still took the Metro to and from school. There are some really interesting characters on Metro trains...

I used to be a deeply introverted person. In fact, a few weekends ago, my mother and I drove out to the Dulles Town Center (really it's a huge mall) to check out AiW's Northern VA "campus" (a building shared with a pediatric clinic connected to the Sears). We ended up walking the length of the mall and found one of those specialty jewelry stores that has unique pieces like puzzle rings. Long story short, I actually ended up in a long conversation with one of the managers about college and other completely random stuff to the point where we both actually sat down across from each other with some lovely opal rings on display between us.

As we left the shop (one unplanned buy of a puzzle ring extra), my mother actually grabbed me around the shoulders and said:
"I remember when you wouldn't even ask someone for help in a clothing store and you actually sat down and talked with her."

I could say it was all because of the forced "stranger conversation starting" I had to do when I was in college or the fact that I've stood up in front of upwards of fifty people to describe my own artwork on more than one occasion and I was "forced" to interact, but that's only half of the equation. The other half was overcoming social anxiety through therapy and medication.

I understand your perspective completely because I used to be exactly like that. But as of this moment, I'm one of those people who will strike up a conversation about movies or whatever with someone waiting in line at the theater/Best Buy/restaurant/bar.
ehowton at 2009-07-23 05:03 (UTC) (Link)
And as hard as this may be to believe, I used to be just like you. I found it exhausting.
(Anonymous) at 2009-07-23 14:10 (UTC) (Link)
Azeem: Salaam, little one.
Small Girl: Did God paint you?
Azeem: Did God paint me?
Azeem: For certain.
Small Girl: Why?
Azeem: Because Allah loves wondrous varieties.
qualmsdotcom at 2009-08-03 00:10 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for linking me here. While I am definitely a people watcher, which is exactly why I love trains, I live in an environment where staring at people can get you in big trouble. So any time I get the chance, I love it. Though I do share your point of view on birthdays. My 18th birthday was very difficult to ignore with everyone reminding me.
ehowton at 2009-08-03 00:40 (UTC) (Link)
I'm hoping my 40th goes relatively unnoticed myself. Its like being 18...with 22 years experience!
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