Thursday, June 28, 2007


I wish it wasn't rude to stare.

I love watching people. I find people of every ethnicity, gender, size, age, and lifestyle absolutely fascinating. Restaurants, airports, grocery stores, almost any place will do. I love watching people interact and trying to guess who she's trying to impress, whether those two have a good marriage or not, what those other two are plotting, what his struggles are, and so on. I like to imagine stories about people, from the frazzled moms at Grocery Outlet to the guy at the airport who looks like an Arab prince.

The problem is, here in the U.S. it's rude to stare, and how can you watch people without, you know, watching them?

It seems other cultures don't have the strictures on this that we do. When we lived on an Indian reserve in Canada, the older ladies were fascinated with my children. I remember going to the store and being instantly surrounded at the door by three grandmas who pointed and stared and shrieked "Emmitygojenes!!" ("little white kids") and lots of other comments until I finally turned and left since they wouldn't let me get any shopping done. In Yemen, the women at parties would stare at me as long as they wanted (most of the afternoon, in some cases). Plus they felt free to pat and pinch me and then discuss me with their friends.

So, why do we have this inconvenient social rule that it's rude to watch people? I make a motion we change it.

And a p.s. inspired by Mark Roth's comment: When my sis Becky and her husband Rod moved to the Middle East, it drove Rod absolutely nuts to be stared at all the time. It didn't bother Becky at all--she was used to it from growing up Beachy/Amish. How about that.

Quote of the Day:
"I felt like Templeton."
--my sis Margaret (source of frugal recipe in previous post) after they went cruising around Kutztown picking up castoffs the university students had left on the curb.
Templeton, of course, is the rat in Charlotte's Web


  1. Second.

    Dorcas, as a Mennonite in the US, how do you respond to stares coming your way?

    (Weren't, BTW.)


  2. Mark--Stares don't really bother me, but they do make me feel like I need to stand up straight and make the children behave.

    As for was/were--is "it" considered plural? Or is this a case (can't remember the name) like "if I were a rich man?"

  3. When someone stares at me, I suppose the best I could do is smile at him/her/them pleasantly.

    In the less-than-best category would be staring back, wiggling my nose, briefly arching an eyebrow, making my eyes big, winking, yawning without covering my mouth, glaring, sticking out my tongue, and/or asking "May I help you or are you just looking?"

    Regarding the grammar matter, think subjunctive. If you're like me (or do I mean I?), you don't know what to think. When in doubt, use it with if, wishes, and some hypotheticals. Alternately, Google "were subjunctive wish" or something along those lines.


    Oh, and pardon my staring at your grammer. I mean, grammar.


  4. Mark's making my head swim.

  5. I love people watching too. I wonder if there's a connection between the relative individuation/isolation of people in Western cultures and the no-stare rule? Maybe people in cultures that tend to be collectivist are used to being scrutinized/observed (for lack of a better word) and, therefore, don't have a problem with it?

    Who knows? I guess we'll just have to be grateful that big sun glasses are in fashion again, giving us a little more freedom to, uhm, discretely observe human social exchanges. :)

    BTW, Happy Birthday!

  6. Recently went through a bout of Bell's Palsy (One side of my face quit working). The only way to speak clearly was to stick a finger in my cheek. It was the best time of my life - adults dare not stare nor ask what I was doing. They would pretend they see this every day.

    Little kids were the best. They'd stare for days in grocery stores at my face, one eye bigger than the other, mouth crooked, and only one eyebrow working. My favorite was a little boy about 3 who, after I'd been making faces at him asked, "Does your face hurt?"

    I kind of miss messing with the kids.

  7. Isn't Templeton also the rat in Charlotte's Web? Also, their are ways to stare without staring ain't their.....

  8. Glen--you're right and I'm wrong. Change duly noted--it was Charlotte's Web and not the Cricket in Times Square.

  9. people staring make me uncomfortable. i tend to start thinking along the lines of a t-shirt i've seen before: "keep staring! i might do a trick"

  10. Me too. especially watching people work. I think this social rule must be a modern one invented to protect people's privacy in modern urban environment. Just my hunch, tough. I have reference to support this theory... :)