caro thinks

Body Language, 2001/09/21:17:25

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Andreas Bitesnich, Nudes I

(copied from, which isn't selling it anymore)
boy meets girl
I am unyielding, severe, judgmental. I.e., I am adamantly committed to the truth and to doing the right thing. This makes a lot of people afraid of me.

It used to strike me as incongruent, then, that people, often strangers, singled me out for immediately personal, confidential disclosures, sometimes breaking down into tears before my eyes. Friends who know me are usually more cautious, generally protecting me from the knowledge of their wrongdoing, having an implicit sense of how unsympathetic, unyielding, judgmental, and intolerant of such things I can be. Less close friends hide all manner of things from me, I learn from other people, that I have no problem with, just to be safe, because they are incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong.

A person like me can only listen to so many confessions of depravity. So a few years ago my friend Liz and I spent some time trying to figure out why people find me so approachable, even at times when I'm not feeling the least bit approachable. Our guiding principle in the investigations was to find out what kinds of behaviors or statements were coming from me, and make them stop. We were reading all sorts of pop psychology books and magazines at the time, and tried various solutions. It wasn't good enough to say that people knew that I have high standards, think deeply, say things that make sense, because I was receiving confessions from people who didn't have time to draw on that information. Liz, on the other hand, was not. I envied her deeply. Upon interviewing friends and acquaintances, it turned out that I knew more about the reprehensible behavior of people than almost anyone I knew, and not because I made any effort to find out. This intelligence was brought to my door, laid in my lap, and cried over.

The hurdle for me is that despite the above self-descriptions, I'm not a mean person. I try to be kind and civil to everyone. Thus, even when I was not making any sympathetic noises, I didn't necessarily bite the person's head off. This failure to lash out was apparently taken as encouragement, and, in many cases, as a declaration of my love and sexual interest.

One explanation that we hit upon was the way my eyes look. They are deep-set, which means that they are more shielded from the light, and that means that my pupils are more likely to dilate. Add to that my posture: I tend to hold my body very erect, but I also tend to hold my head slightly down, so that I'm looking out from under my eyebrows. "Like a bull about to charge," my sister once said to me, who warned me that the look was off-putting. I wish.

The dilation of pupils is apparently used by human beings subconsciously, as an indicator of friendliness. And I seemed to be cursed with a permanently warm, friendly, welcoming look. Come, tell me thy sins, my children, and I will annoint thee. Sort of like a trap-door spider lying in wait for evil.

Liz is an optometrist. She'd often comment, in the midst of conversation, on how enormous my pupils were. We experimented. Just a slight raising of my head contracted them to more normal size; but in my normal posture, they were the biggest, blackest holes she'd ever seen in books, in clinic, or anywhere else. My Achilles's heel. We devised a plan of action, with which she would help me via surreptitious signals, such that when I wanted someone to beat it, I'd lift my head a bit and cut those terrible welcoming pupils down to size. I have absolutely no data on this point to analyze, because I didn't collect any. I merely feel like things have gotten better for me in this area.

Now, the point of all this, in "boy meets girl" is to address some comments I just got in response to my last scathing entry on body language. (Sort on the topic "boy meets girl"). In it, I gave the impression that I think there is nothing to body language. I didn't mean to give that impression, but then again it's not a scientific, exhaustive treatment so that's gonna happen.

I don't think that there is nothing to communication via body language. My aim is to chip away, bit by bit, at the ridiculous and debilitating theories that only serve to make horny yet deprived men hornier by causing them to continue to suffer from deprivation. There are worse things than a horny man who thinks that you're interested in him because of something he thinks he read in your body language, but in peace time it's hard to think of many.

What does the dilation of Carolyn's pupils mean? Does it mean she's hot for you? No. It means that there isn't enough light getting to her eyes to contract them. Ask her to tilt her head back a tiny bit.

I'm not the only person in the world with deep-set eyes who might be mistaken for a hot prospect. It could happen to you, especially if you are intellectualizing it the way the sex manuals instruct you to do.

Another thing that more people than my sister have remarked upon is how intensely I look into people's eyes. "Trying to stare a hole through me" is a common remark I hear. Perhaps I am. When I am conscious of it, I am conscious of looking for explanations and answers that are not forthcoming in the person's statements. The more interesting the conversation, the more intently I stare. Liz, on the other hand, has strong cultural and familial restrictions on staring, and tends to look very mildly upon people, when she looks at all, even when she's standing in front of a man she's wild about.

And my point here is that the sex manuals tell you to take a person's meeting your gaze as an indication of sexual interest. Have I blown this one out of the water yet? Oh, those big black pupils, staring so intently at me, whilst we haggle about the interpretation of the Abelardian thesis....

OK, seriously, there is some meaning to eye contact. True, when my focus is on how a man looks, and I like what I see, I will look longer. But if my focus is not on how he looks, but on our conversation, then I can stare for hours at the ugliest wretches on the planet without wavering, and have done so many many times, let me tell you!

Also true, as a starer, I've noticed that when people begin to lie or provide justifications for actions that they are sure are wrong but don't want to admit are wrong (recall that I am the great confessor, so I get this a lot), they look away. The more honest a person is, the more she tends to be able to keep eye contact. People are very superstitious about their eyes. They believe somewhere deep inside that their eyes really are a window into their souls, and that if they continue to allow me to have a straight shot their true motives will be revealed unto me. It isn't true, of course; I discern almost no information from eye contact, however subconsciously superstitious about it I might be. I wish I could see in because I'd really like some explanations of things I've heard and seen, but I can't so you can relax. Mwuhaha.

But people don't always break eye contact because they are lying or basically dishonest. In the case of some of my friends, I know that they are unpracticed and uncomfortable with extended eye contact. Some of them think it is rude, so they avoid people's eyes in the same way that animals avoid staring unless they are looking for a fight. I break eye contact often if the person is doing something gross or annoying; before my lips start to curl in disgust, I turn away.

How about blushing? I blush for all kinds of reasons: because I am embarrassed, angry, confused, offended, scared shitless, or just plain excited about life. I don't know if I ever blush because I'm interested in a man, but the variety of reasons that human beings blush ought to give one pause in interpreting sudden color in the face.

Underlying all of this is my deep concern, due to my own experiences with men and due to what I hear people say, that there is a persistent attitude among some men, and even some women, that women are alien beings; my deeper concern is that they are spreading this attitude via their advice books, and instead of making the relationships between men and women easier and better as we become a more scientific species they are making them harder and worse. The bottom line is that it isn't what a woman thinks, but what some man thinks he reads in her body language or other cues, that counts. After all, she's unaware of the behaviors that she's engaged in and she needs a perceptive male to relay this information to her so that she can be educated as to her true feelings. Or else, she needs to have her body language overhauled to suit his interpretations of it. Both of these ideas are ridiculous, and I aim to combat them by providing another point of view, from a real live woman. Consider this: I am the ultimate arbiter in here. I don't care if every cell in my body appears to be saying "yes". If I, who am greater than the sum of my cells, say "no", it's no. Thus even if body language says a lot about my animal attraction, you still can't infer anything about my human interest.

My mantra: talk, talk, talk. Conversation is the vehicle of thought. A few sentences are worth a thousand blushes and stares and flips of the hair. I've flipped my hair probably ten times since I sat down at my computer today, and there's no one here to see it but the hummingbirds, who tend to find it off-putting and distinctly unsexy.

Now, there is some body language and verbal language that requires no interpretation. I encounter this language all the time, and I don't care what it means in the mind of the man who does it. I only care what it means to me. Do any of the following say to a woman, "I want to have sex with you:" Nose-picking, teeth-picking, ear-digging, zit-popping, spitting, talking about other women's breasts, describing the kind of look that drives you nuts when the woman you're with doesn't look like that, telling dirty jokes that ridicule women, joking to other men about women in front of the woman, speaking about women as though they are second-class citizens or stupid or have certain duties or don't belong in certain places due to their anatomical differences from men, telling women that their body language is revealing something that is closer to the truth than their verbal language, declaring that you've never been a slave to the shower, asserting that you don't care about your level of fitness or how you eat, and making fun of a woman for looking in a mirror and dressing nicely instead of doing the same thing yourself. I see and hear all of this on a regular basis, and all of it says "I'm not the least bit interested in having sex with you." More importantly, they excite in my own mind the conviction that I wouldn't have sex with this man if he were the last mammal on earth.

Do men have any clue whatever how often and how devastatingly they shoot themselves in the foot, with stuff like this? You could perfect every sexy technique printed in every sex tract ever written, but if you combine it with any of the above you're sunk.
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