I was riding home on the subway today and doing my typical people-watching. The guy across the aisle from me caught my attention several times because he was an older teen and had that trendy cut that's basically ripped from British 70s pop stars. In an effort to call attention to this, or perhaps to shake the flies from his dirty locks, he kept swinging his head around like a dog shaking off water. Not only was I watching because that's what I do, but also because, well, he was moving a lot and he looked an awful lot like pictures of my older brother from the 70s.
A few minutes after my attention had focused elsewhere, I noticed a low grumbling that sounded distinctly like meanness. Meanness you know has a sound; it's that low tone with an evil level of volume meant to infiltrate your ears to the point where you hear it but you're not sure you heard it correctly. And the meanness was coming from Dog-Boy. At this point I was growing tired and had my eyes closed, but these are trashy tidbits I heard:
"... What the f@#k are you looking at? If you were ... "
" ... some people just have problems ... staring ... bitch!"
"Open your eyes, go on, so you can see the disrespect in my eyes ..."
Ahhh. Nice, right? I did nothing, just kept my eyes shut. I suppose this was a way out, but I was also thinking: What makes him so mad that someone was looking at him? Why is he so defensive? This must be that self-esteem issue everyone likes to use as a psychological answer. And, more importantly, didn't I use to feel like that when I caught someone looking at me? Don't I still feel that way sometimes?
Why do we feel like that when someone is watching us? What harm is there really if someone is watching us? I know that answer really depends on how you interpret the person watching, but then why should that matter?
So this Dog-Haired Boy made me think, and he also made me a little, well, defensive. I have every right to look. Especially when you're sitting directly across from me. I wasn't staring. I was watching. And, of course, I came up with comebacks to all of the little side comments he made. Which also made me angry. Why side comments? Why not just say it? And, again, but I do that sometimes too. Why do we do that?
It seems to me that it's all about fear.