The Etiquette of Staring

If a person is around me for any longer than ten minutes they will most likely get stared at. Usually this is unintentional. I zone out, taking wild rides on trains of thought, which usually stop by the ‘most recent TV show I watched’, ‘that cloud looks like a ____’ and ‘Harry Potter plot inconsistency’ stations before I snap out of it and realise that the blank space I was staring at is now

Staring seems to make people uncomfortable. Which puts an interesting spin on staring contest enthusiasts.

I’m not brilliant at eye contact, though I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’sbecause it gives people the opportunity to extract my soul like some kind of occular Dementor, though I think it’s more likely due to the confusing etiquette surrounding when it is appropriate to look someone in the eye.

Not having a good balance in eye contact screws you up in multiple areas:

Honesty: too much, and you seem like you’re trying too hard and are thus covering up a lie. Too little, and you are shifty, and clearly have something to hide.

Relationships: look too long, and they will know you’re interested. Don’t look at all and it seems like you’re avoiding them. Either because you are interested, or because you are not interested. Helpful.

Study: looking up during an exam DEFINITELY MEANS PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE CHEATING. So you don’t look up at all which makes picking up dropped pens or responding to unexpected noises difficult and confusing. This feeds in to honesty, so not looking also means PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE TRYING TO HIDE THE FACT YOU ARE CHEATING. Because exams didn’t already make me neurotic enough.

Conversations: looking too much means you are either super interested or zoning out. People will always assume it is the one it isn’t which leads to more of the same. Not looking at all or minimal looking means you aren’t interested and people get all kinds of affronted. Or don’t notice and keep going, again leading to more of the same. Generally leads to doom spirals.

Getting caught in a stare usually goes one of four ways.

In the first, you know they can see your line of vision and you both get trapped in the stare net. Neither wants to look away, and you both try and scope out the other. Eventually you look away at the same time and act like the whole thing never happened. An awkward laugh may be implemented at this point. Usually one for strangers.

The second is the misdirection stare. They catch you, so you look over their shoulder and try to convince them you were looking at some fascinating thing there. Murphy’s Law dictates that the only thing behind them will be either something really bland like a plastic chair, or something that it is socially worse for you to be staring at. Like a ‘breasts of the day’ calendar.

Third is the compromise for eye strain stare. Here you make eye contact, then pretend to look away whilst monitoring the situation from the corner of your eye. They know you are still looking, but in order to know this, they have to be looking too. Neither of you wants to admit to being Starer 0, so you both pretend that no one is looking at anyone.

Finally there is the machine gun stare. You get caught staring. You look away. Look up again to see if they are still looking. They are. They look down. Then back up. You see this and look down again. Continues for uncomfortably long and makes you think of the Old Spice ad. Then you picture the other person in a towel and everything gets horrifying as you question what sort of person you are. Usually one of you has to leave in order to end the madness.

I’m not sure what the solution to any of these is really. You could always yell “THIS IS SPARTA” and sprint away, but whilst pop-culturetastic, I don’t know if that would alleviate the awkwardness much.

Oh well. Here’s looking at you kid.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Etiquette of Staring

  1. Haha great post! We all know the uncomfortable stare :s

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