Do Not Sing or Make Eye Contact: A Study in Anthropology

Do not sing or make eye contact, do not sing or make eye contact. For God’s sake do not do anything that you were made to do.

Sometimes I stand outside myself, watching. I think, if only, if only you would just keep from doing that, I can love you. Just for God’s sake, do not sing or make eye contact.

I remember first coming to really like Louise. We were talking and bumbling around at work, and I was glancing everywhere, looking down, shuffling backwards unconsciously, retreating into my safe ‘I’m not that interested anyway’ zone; I suppose that’s what it is, why else would I do it? In fact, I think it was when I first asked if she’d like to hang out some time… Makes sense… And she took a large, unnatural side step to be in my eyeline, in very close proximity. And the move made me so happy, so relieved and released from what I was doing, that I was ever-grateful to her. She had overtly, loudly snapped me out of my shell and made it impossible to continue any awkwardness.

And I find myself copying her. It’s a move I’ve picked up now, repeated, but it’s now a natural instinct for me, like it must have been for her – I imagine maybe we have both felt similar things when we have each done it in our separate moments; maybe I’m evolving out of that shyness and into someone who gets agitated and desperate to advance friendships and conversations in a more relaxed way, to break the barriers people like the old me seem to put up.

I look awkward in my skin to me, like a child trying on her mother’s clothes and meeting strangers, caught in the act, being constantly called on the new things she’s trying out. Before she can think about it, answering the questions and the highlights that, later, will make her regret herself. She was so new to all this and so in awe of herself, even the stranger could tell she wasn’t ready.

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