Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Staring: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

 “Yvette, don’t be surprised if people stare at you. They don’t mean anything,” I explained when she visited me for the first time in Milan, Italy.

I have to admit, it was weird. People wouldn’t even steal a look; they would just look you in the eyes and up and down.  My black friend with green eyes caught hell. She couldn’t eat in peace, take a walk in peace, it was nuts.  Italian friends would explain that people looked at me because I was different. “They’ve been seeing black models for years.  I know I'm not the first persona di colore they’ve seen,” I would argue. “Growing up, we were taught that staring isn’t nice.”  I wondered if that lesson is cultural, something we share in America.

I shouldn’t have been so annoyed. Yvette and I know that being twins, staring comes with the deal. And it’s not always a good deal. You can hear the comparisons piling up – which one has that, which one has this. Twins are studied like objects in museum.

Stares vary in nature. There are stares of curiosity. There are stares of admiration. There are stares that want to make you say, “May I help you?”  Women, young and old share the "She thinks she's cute," stare which is more like a stare down. And then, sorry guys, there are men who will stare and scare you. They know what they're doing.  Some even stare with the attitude, "I'm looking at you, and therefore you need to look back and me." You can give it back or turn your attention anywhere but to him. Study a piece of lint or the number of lights in a ceiling.
I’ve caught myself staring at a great outfit or a beautiful person and when I’m caught in the act, I pay a well-deserved compliment.
“Recently, I was at a party and felt eyes on me,” a cousin of ours recounted. “In fact, a woman I don't know well was staring as if she were ripping my clothes to shreds. When our eyes met, the woman looked quickly away.”  Did we mention that there are stares that throw daggers?
Children's stares come from innocence. They see something or someone different and they explore by staring. It's part of their learning experience.  But it's up to parents to explain why at a certain point staring isn't appropriate.

What do you do? Do you dare to stare?

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