Though, apparently, I look like one. Sometimes. From the side maybe. Or the back. Or in the pancake line.
I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened this trip. I was in a check-out line, or picking up pancakes at the griddle from the pancake chef, or walking into or out of a lady’s room and inevitably I got called sir or mistaken for a sir. A few examples, hilarious as they are. The woman walking into the restroom at the Wal-Mart in South Dakota who did a double take, sideways glancing at me, then at the restroom sign to make sure it was the women’s restroom she was walking into. The guy serving beignets at the art fair cart who asked, “what can I get you sir”, who then looked me fully in the face and started to sort of sputter. The time I was, once again, walking into a restroom at a gas station and a teen and her mother were sort of walking in tandem/following me in. The teen said to her Mom, “a guy just went into the restroom. Yes, mom, a man just went in.” I knew they were talking about me. I was just ahead of them. At first they didn’t even come in behind me, then they did, but didn’t go into a stall, even though one was available, until I came out, looked directly at them, smiled, and said hello. The mom said hi, then scowled at the teen. I guess they didn’t want to go into a stall next to a man, if a man was in there with them. Honestly, I don’t know why, I would. I mean, if I have to go, and there’s an open stall, I don’t care whose next to me, I’m going in. But then, I’m “the guy”, so maybe that changes my opinion about it.
I have a theory.
I don’t think we look at each other. Not really. Not in the eyes, not fully in the face. We glance sideways and nod or say hello or ask how people are doing, but we don’t really look. And because we don’t really look, we never truly see. I feel this way not just because I was repeatedly called a man this trip, until people really looked at me, realized I was a girl, and then hemmed and ha’d and pretended they hadn’t made that mistake, but because I’m a person who does look people in the eye. Unless I’m doing what I tell my honey to do occasionally which is, don’t make eye contact, don’t look at them, don’t engage. Those are special circumstances. Mostly both my honey and I look at people. I’ve always loved that about her, and I know she loves it about me. We are people who try to acknowledge other people. And the people we try to acknowledge usually like it; clerks in stores, people walking on the street, receptionists, homeless people, the list goes on and on. We look at people, both of us, but people don’t often look back, or at least they don’t initiate it. They look sideways or down or off somewhere over the shoulder. They don’t focus in, and in fact try not to.
Yeah, yeah… I wear boy shorts and t-shirts, my hair is really short, I probably even sort of walk like a guy, or not, I actually have no idea. But, I sound like a girl, unless it’s late into the night and I’ve been around a camp fire and the man voice comes out. I don’t think, when someone looks me fully in the face, they would ever wonder if I was a guy or a girl. I guess I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve been told. Especially when I smile, which I’m doing most of the time. And all of this isn’t really the point. I don’t actually care about being called a guy, but I do sort of care about not being seen. Not being seen for who I am.
I wasn’t seen because people didn’t really look, not at first anyway. I had to work at it, say something to them, make them look me in the eyes, in the face, before they realized the mistake they’d made. I saw it play out on face after face, time after time. Fascinating.
It makes me sad that we feel the need to avoid each other, to not fully engage with our fellow humans. We try to keep ourselves separate, and what? Safe? Unencumbered? We try to stay in our own little bubbles.
Next time, when you’re out and about, do a little experiment. Look people in the eyes, smile at them, say hello, engage in some brief but witty repartee. SEE them. Let them SEE you. The world is brighter and fuller and more expansive if we let people in, if we open ourselves up. I feel this way, and it can’t only be me. Trust me, the people you acknowledge, that you look at, talk to, most of them will like it. Most of them will light up. And you will feel awesome, more connected, free.
But then again, do you really want to take advice from a dude? This dude. I don’t know….