Saturday, May 21, 2011


This is so common I almost feel silly posting about it.  But a lot of what I'm likely to write about is common, and questioning what is common is a good idea.

I got off the back of the bus at San Mateo while new riders boarded at the front.  As I headed up past the front of the bus a guy stood, slack-jawed moving his eyes down and then back up my body.  He did this until it became clear that he was in my way and should probably board the bus before it took off without him.

I'm calling this sort of check-out the "star struck scan".  The guy seemed somewhat overcome and had an energy that suggested he just didn't know what to do with himself.  Maybe whatever went through his mind completely erased his social training that it's rude to stare.  It's possible for this "look" to be a little bit cute, or even flattering if it didn't also make me feel like running away to staple as many pizza boxes as possible to my person. 

In the store, I pushed my cart up a main aisle, stealthily making room for the many other kamikaze shoppers vying for a bit of aisle real estate.  A man pushing a cart the opposite way let his eyes wander down and back up my body, a little smirk on his face reminiscent of a Disney villain just coming up with her brilliant evil plan.  It's the kind of look that stabs fear into your heart and you think "Aw shit!  Those cute little dalmatians are totally screwed!"

The man said something to me as he passed and I can not remember what it was!  It was something inane and yet suggestive in tone like "What you up to today?" - something that begged a smart-ass and non-flirty response like "finding ingredients to poison my neighbor" but which gets a hurried response rising in tone like "shopping" because the urge to get away from this person is so strong that you simply can't think of something clever in the half a second he's still in hearing distance. 

I do expect people to look at me.  Humans: we're forward facing, lead with our heads and have two eyes right there at the front!  For those of us who can process visual information, seeing is a very important part of our lives.  We make important decisions based on visual data.  And yes, I do expect that data to include who we want to get to know and how we want to know them.

A lot of what makes it hard to write about creepy looks is that it's so subjective.  But that's true of a lot of creepy dynamics between people.  This doesn't have to do much with actions, words, gestures... anything that I can empirically point at and say "See?  That is creepy!"  This has to do with intent and the energy it creates.

When we come across a star struck scanner, I think his intent is really all about himself, his fantasy, what he can do with the picture of my body.  And this is creepy because, intentionally or not, he's letting me see that he's using me-the body for his purposes, without any inclination towards me-the person.  The point where he let's me see this is the clincher.  I couldn't care that someone fantasizes about me-the body (or me-the person) unless I know!

The evil Disney villain is creepy for a similar reason -I can tell he's using me-the body a way in which I haven't consented.  However, he's creepier because his smirk tells me more about the nature of his fantasy AND the fact that he's sharing so much of his reaction with me suggests that he wants me to have some kind of reaction in front of him, like smiling or looking away in disgust.  This is manipulative.  Thinking about it makes you want to scream "NO!  You will NOT screw these puppies!"  (See how well metaphors work?)

I do wonder if I read too much into this sort of thing.  There are multitudes of possibilities for everything.  I mean... maybe he was remembering his last intimate date with his right hand and just happened to be looking at my body at the same time.  Or maybe he was really unaware of how he was sharing information through his face.  However, since he then followed up with an inviting phrase, one I felt slightly creepy about (even if I don't remember exactly what he said); it validates that he wanted some interaction with me, some reaction from me.  The way he went about doing it stunk.

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