I was talking to a man in town (I’ll leave out the details, but no, it was not your husband) and observed that his gaze was fixed not upon my face but—oh so discreetly, I’m sure he thought—on my chest.
It’s been a long time since I’ve come across a tit-watcher. (“Tit-watcher” is one of many descriptive monikers I came up with in my youth, along with Tuna Breath and Sweaty Hands, but I digress.) When I was a teen, guys would speak directly to my breasts with some frequency. I would try—always in vain—to force eye contact, to lift and keep their gaze above my neck. At these times, I looked as if I was doing a version of The Limbo.
My friend Dale says it’s hard not to look, and that he just hopes he doesn’t get caught when he grabs an eyeful. Most men over the age of 30 probably still look but are better at getting away with it. So perhaps, on the day of the recent ogling, the girls were too prominent to resist, or maybe they were distractingly wall-eyed or otherwise out of whack.
Whatever the reason, I was complaining to Dale about the behavior. “Women don’t go around staring at men’s crotches, you know.”
“If a guy’s penis was growing out his chest, you’d stare at it,” he said.
I couldn’t argue with that.
While staring into the high beams is not cool, sometimes a lustful look can serve a positive purpose. Mike and I had great rapport on our first date, but I couldn’t tell if he was attracted to me or if he even had a libido, and I do prefer a man with a libido. But when I got up to use the ladies’ room, I caught him taking a quick top-to-bottom glance at my body, and then his head swiveled around like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist to check out my ass as I walked away. Subtle.
Blatant leering isn’t necessarily a good thing, but a look can be informative. When my marriage first broke up, my son played on a Little League team. A teammate’s dad was quite good looking, but I assumed he was married, and I would never have given someone else’s husband a second glance. Every so often, though, I could swear he was checking me out, which would have been highly unusual for a married man in our town. (At least I have never experienced a sexual vibe from these men, which is probably why I’m still welcomed at parties.) I came away from the baseball season really wondering about him. If I was correct that he was looking at me, something was off.
Sure enough, in the fall I discovered that he was getting divorced; the separation had been in the works during baseball season. It was only because of his roving eyes that I was paying enough attention to find that out, and it was only because I found that out that we ended up dating.
I confess I’m not above capitalizing on my awareness of men’s propensity to peek. Years ago, I was at a work party and noticed a good-looking guy at the other end of the table, and I wanted to meet him without having to approach him. I was wearing a form-fitting black sweater, and somehow I knew that if I stood up, this guy was going to notice me. (Not all men are this distractable.) I did, and he did.
I’m also not above using a bit of eye contact as part of the mating ritual, although I do try to suggest something a bit less crude than, “I want to fuck you” when I do; it’s more of a come-hither thing, such as when I obtained a boyfriend in junior high school by staring at him across the room until he came over and asked me to dance. But other than the time I saw Chris Noth at a restaurant in New York City (okay, maybe the look I gave him did say “I want to fuck you”), in recent years I haven’t had much opportunity to use eye contact for this purpose, with single men in eye-contact distance in short supply.
With the exception of the recent episode, there aren’t too many men giving me the once over anymore either. What a depressing thought: as rude as it can be, some day they won’t be looking at all. I wouldn’t encourage this behavior, but maybe I shouldn’t complain about it either.