The Eyes Have It

Do you remember reading glossy magazines as a teenager?  I do.  I loved them, especially the ones with quizzes.  (Despite the fact that these quizzes were invariably of the Red Riding Hood variety: That answer’s too hot.  That answer’s too cold.  That answer’s just right.  It was clear what you were supposed to say to get the good analysis.)  The magazines were full of excellent tips on how to be irresistible to the opposite sex.  A lot of the stuff in there was crap.  Some of it was just obvious.

They did get one thing right though – the power of eye contact.  Almost every article would discuss this to some extent, with the basic premise being that you should let someone know you are interested in them by (shock!) looking at them and then (double shock!) smiling.  Geniuses are working at these magazines, I tell you, geniuses.

Now, I’ve been “off the market” for ages.  Happily so.  I rarely think about those articles.  Yesterday at the supermarket though, I had a bit of a reminder.

See me, I’m interested in faces.  Give me a portrait over a landscape any day.  I find people fascinating and I love to look at a face and try to guess what kind of person is behind it.  What this means is that, yes, I am that creepy girl staring at you on the bus.  Nah, it’s not that bad.  It probably was when I was younger, but I’m more vigilant about how I am appearing to others now, as I’d rather not be considered creepy by random strangers.  So I surveil covertly, and no one’s the wiser.

Sometimes I forget though.  For example, I know I stare inappropriately at people with piercings that look like they would have been particularly painful.  (What would possess a person to put a hole through their cheek?  Or their neck fat?  Ow!)  And yesterday in the cereal aisle, I completely forgot myself.  There was this guy — about my age, I guess — with this huge black eye.  I was entranced by it, and I think my brain was making up stories about how it got there, when suddenly I realized I had stopped in the middle of the aisle and was totally staring at a stranger in the supermarket.  Like a freak.  And he was staring back at me.  Oops.

A fresh pair of eyes b&w

A fresh pair of eyes

Now, somewhere in my upbringing, previous to the influence of glossy magazines, I was taught that it was the polite thing to do that, having made eye contact with someone — intentionally or otherwise — you should smile and acknowledge them.  So, in an effort to save face, I did that.  The answering grin was ferocious and the “Hey, how’re you doing?” that followed it was far more enthusiastic than the situation warranted.

Glossy magazine: 1, good manners: nil.  Apparently, I was giving off entirely the wrong signals.  I put my head down, muttered “fine” and fled for the produce section.  I’m pretty sure my glossy magazine quizzes would call me a tease.

So, here are my conclusions from the experience:

  1. Apparently you can meet people at the grocery store.  That isn’t just a ridiculous sitcom plot device.
  2. Eye contact is a powerful tool and should be used sparingly.
  3. Guys are not as freaked out by being stared at by strangers as girls are.
  4. I think I could have totally picked that guy up if I’d wanted to; ergo…
  5. I’ve still got it, baby.

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