Friday, November 12, 2010

His Eyes - Variations on a Theme

Okay, I had a bit of a revelation this past week.  As I wrote here, for most of my life, I have had trouble maintaining eye contact with many men for fear of what they might see in my eyes, i.e., that I’m gay.  I have written how I have been consciously working at maintaining eye contact in an effort to affirm myself and conquer that fear.  I’m still working on that; every day I work on that.  And I enjoy the small victories when they come and coach myself when I think I could have done better.

Well, a couple of days ago, I went to a local tire shop to have my snow tires put on.  The guy who helped me was probably about 27, clean-cut, not unattractive.  As soon as he handed me the form to fill out, however, my developing gaydar went off ever so slightly.  He seemed a little nervous.  But I thought:  tire place?  This is a bastion of deer-hunting, truck-driving, sports-watching, pot-bellied masculinity.  Nah, not him.  (Besides, it’s probably, I thought, just my gay adolescence again.)

I went and sat down to wait for the tires to be changed.  It wasn’t long, however, before he came around the corner and told me that my existing tires were totally shot and that I really needed new tires.  He told me he could give me a “killer deal.”  Again, the look, the je ne sais quoi that made me sense that this guy was covertly attracted to men.  I asked him to get me a price.  He came back a few minutes later.  Again, the same feeling.  I decided to get the tires.  He smiled a big smile (did his face redden slightly?) and he disappeared around the corner.

By then, the place was filling up with several men that fit the description of the type of men I would expect to see in a tire place (see above).  And, again, I thought, Naw, Not this guy.  I must be mistaken.

But the clincher was when my car was finished and I went to pay the bill.  Glances.  Eye contact. Hand my card.  Trouble with their card transmission thing.  Said I’d pay by check if that was ok.  Eye contact.  Nervous smile (on his part).  (I was being, I’m very proud to say, cool.)  The clincher was when – during this going back and forth, smiling, eye contact – he actually blushed – profusely – at one point.  Then, I felt I knew.  I smiled, thanked him and left.

Okay.  So what’s the point of this story?  It didn’t dawn on me until the next day:  I realized – duh – that not only have I spent my life avoiding eye contact with certain men because I was afraid of what they might see in my eyes, but also because I was afraid of what I might see in their eyes.

Simple to say, but this realization hit me like a ton of bricks:  I have, since puberty, been so paranoid, so afraid of being “recognized” and called out to any degree (even when it could have led to what I secretly desired), that I have studiously, assiduously avoided eye contact with many men for fear of what I might see in their eyes.  This experience with the guy at the tire store taught me that, and for that, I am grateful. 


  1. This post was wonderful, and so much a part of my gay adolescence too. I never thought to write about it specifically because it created so much angst that I ended up venting about other things. And, I still have moments from time to time.

    I'm one of those guys where the ONLY way you'll know if I'm gay is by watching my eyes, noticing what I look at, how long I look, etc.
    And that awareness freaks me out sometimes as it is how the abusive homophobes discover I'm gay. (Oh, Gee, I wonder how?) So I find that I will avoid looking at things that I really want to look at!

    I have no other "obviously gay trait" except for what I do with my eyes. But really, "obviously gay trait" is a misnomer in most retrospects because we are everywhere, tire shops, motorcycle clubs, waiters, structural engineers, rocket scientists, deer hunters, truck drivers (actually there seems to be A LOT of gay truck drivers), effeminate, masculine, it's across the board. You just can't rely on the stereotypes.

  2. Thanks for your comment, TGD. You make a very good point, which I haven't written about, i.e., "eye repression." I totally hear what you are saying about being very careful what and whom one looks at.

    A case in point comes to mind as I sit here: about a year ago, I was at a natural foods market at the checkout. (You're thinking, "What is it about you and checkouts?" Right?) As I was standing there, my eyes landed upon the extremely attractive guy who was working at the next register over. As I recall, he was just simply very, very attractive in a natural, pure sort of way. I guess I spaced because the next thing I knew, the woman who was at my register actually turned to look at what I was looking at. I hadn't realized I was being that obvious. :)

    Good point about us being everywhere. I guess that's part of my gay adolescence - discovering that. I'm enjoying it. It's nice to have surprises like that.

  3. You've stirred in me something about this staring business that has resonated with me. I often didn't want others to see what was truly inside me, but I also didn't want to see what was in them... but with the encouragement of your blog posts that addressed this in the past, I chose to be bolder this last week as I traveled through various airports across the country. I find airports fascinating places to "stare"... maybe the equivalent of your "checkers".

    Anyway, twice I had a stare-down of sorts where I purposely didn't pull away. One with a cute TSA officer at the security area where I got a shy smile in return for my efforts, and two, at a good-looking guy passing me in the terminal where he and I did triple look-backs.

    It was kind of fun. I haven't felt confident enough to play this game of engagement before, but with your encouragement - and now with this even more encouraging post - I think I'll keep giving it a try and see what comes of eye-contact.


  4. Thanks, Beck. It IS kind of fun, isn't it? (Triple look backs! Good for you!!) As well as empowering and affirming. Go have fun!

  5. That's called cruising, BTW. LOL! And yes, it's fun and affirming.

  6. I'm wondering if any of you have had this experience of staring each other down with a man who identifies as straight. I'm thinking of a young man who lived in my ward years ago. When he left for his mission he was a bit shy, but when he came home, he could and would hold eye contact with me for what seemed like a long time. He's an attorney now. He's been long married with kids. He came up to me in a restaurant the other day and the magic, at least for me, was still there. It also happens with one of my straight buddies. He will follow my lead. If I hold my gaze, he will hold his. It's almost intoxicating for me, but I sense it's no big deal to him. Any similar experiences?

    I also wanted to share the lyrics from this hit from Sunset Boulevard:

    With one look I can break your heart
    With one look I play every part
    I can make your sad heart sing
    With one look you'll know all you need to know

    With one smile I'm the girl next door
    Or the love that you've hungered for
    When I speak it's with my soul
    I can play any role

    No words can tell the stories my eyes tell
    Watch me when I frown, you can't write that down
    You know I'm right, it's there in black and white
    When I look your way, you'll hear what I say

    Yes, with one look I put words to shame
    Just one look sets the screen aflame
    Silent music starts to play
    One tear in my eye makes the whole world cry

    With one look they'll forgive the past
    They'll rejoice I've returned at last
    To my people in the dark
    Still out there in the dark...

    Silent music starts to play
    With one look you'll know all you need to know

    With one look I'll ignite a blaze
    I'll return to my glory days
    They'll say, "Norma's back at last!"

    This time I am staying, I'm staying for good
    I'll be back to where I was born to be
    With one look I'll be me!