mirrors & social awkwardness

I don’t think I’m pretty. But there is one place in which I’ve actually found myself twice saying, “You know what? I’m not so bad!” That place is the women’s shower room at my current gym. It’s a one-person kind of deal with a shower stall, toilet, sink and mirror/counter for primping. For some reason, it feels like a mini sanctuary. I used to change at the office and never even go in, but I’ve been using it more and more frequently. Something about the combination of a cooler temperature, dimmer lights and being locked in — makes everything seem relaxed. I’m sure it wouldn’t be that way if women were clambering for entry, but it’s usually pretty quiet, so I’m not rushed.

Today was one of the days that I stood looking at myself in the mirror. I was in the midst of changing and started wondering if I’d ever be able to trim off those remaining unsightly areas through exercise and proper nutrition. It finally occurred to me that I will probably never be trimmer than I am right now. I felt around my abdomen and realized (somehow for the first time?) that my flesh and fat are even with the widest part of my pelvis. And my midsection is just as wide as my (giant) rib cage. So maybe I can reduce the jiggle in my arms, tummy and butt, but the width is just about as good as it’s going to get.

And, in that moment, I realized for the second time in my life that I wasn’t so bad looking. I find myself growing defiant at those times because I feel like there’s a crowd of people surrounding me, also staring me down in the mirror, throwing things and wrinkling their noses and reaffirming the negative voice that I use to talk myself down daily. So I’m speaking out against them, telling them they’re wrong, acting incredulous about the fact that no males are attracted to me or flirtatious toward me. The moment lasts all of an actual minute and then is long gone, but the memory does linger in my mind.

Which is why tonight at the gym, after that had happened, I got kind of frustrated. Because there are a few men at the gym who look at me quite often. And I just can’t figure it out, because I know they’re not attracted to me. After that self-affirming mirror session, I wonder if I have something on my face or if I have a visible wedgie. There must be some issue that’s making them stare. Tonight, I had the young South Asian boy whose mom picks him up at the end of his workouts and who’s gone from sporadic attendance to near-daily attendance and is trying (successfully) to beef up his small frame. The other was the sort of dejected-looking fellow who often does some yoga at the end of his routine. He wears a cross necklace every day and a Korn concert tour T-shirt most of the time. And both of them looked at me at LEAST 15 times each! Now, I will chalk up at least one-third of those instances to times when I was looking at them first. So maybe that’s what brings it on in its entirety. But the other two-thirds? That’s a lot of reverberating if we’re just dealing with echoes, people. I have pretty good peripheral vision, so staring straight ahead, counting reps and trying not to drop the weights gives me a fine angle on the shifty eyes of my fellow gym goers.

I have talked about the staring issue before. I really hate it! It happened all the time on MSU’s campus and always seems to crop up again in crowded circumstances. I run through the list of precautions: check your nose, feel your front teeth with your tongue, smooth your hair, check (discreetly) for wedgies, make sure your pants aren’t tucked into your shoes, pull down the hem of your shirt or skirt, glance in the first mirrored surface you pass, etc. What’s left? I can’t change my face, my height, my broad shoulders or my clownish feet. I choose not to over groom my eyebrows. My hair gets frizzy but so does everyone else’s from time to time. I try to wear semi-stylish clothes, or at least not roll out of bed and step straight out onto the street. I give my best effort in the shower every morning and do everything I can to be presentable to the rest of the human race. What am I missing?!

In these situations, I often wonder where the goodly part of society draws the line on random social interaction. Am I allowed to go up to one of these guys and ask him why he keeps looking at me? I will be sure to add that I, too, keep looking at him, and thus am not judging him for doing so, merely wanting to know why it’s happening. Are they internally/mentally freakish like me and remember everything about the people around them, keep ongoing catalogs of factoids and watch me for patterns? Because that would make me laugh and I would totally ask them to be my friends. Maybe they just have the ever-accusatory “staring problem” that I thought I’d left back in the fourth grade. Maybe they’re not actively looking so much as just gazing into empty space that I happen to fill… 15 times an hour… Hmm.

Anyway, this dilemma about interaction also reminds me of another thought I had at the gym the other night. Another where-do-you-draw-the-line scenario. I saw a man there with very nice teeth. And I wondered if it would be weird for me to walk up to him and tell him that I admired his teeth, specifically. Another guy who I see quite often is generally composed very well. He has a well-proportioned face that goes with his body. Can you say, “You have very symmetric features. And your body and your face go together well. I just thought you should know that”? I mean, it sounds much less smarmy than, “Hey hottie, I like what you got,” but it may still be inappropriate for a random social encounter, even with someone you’ll never talk to again. It’s like I want these people to realize they’re good looking, even if it’s something textbookish like in that last example. If anyone has ever looked at me from afar and thought I was attractive, he’s never made it known. I think I might faint if that ever happened to me. I definitely wouldn’t be able to form coherent words for at least 10 minutes afterward. So, these people probably know they’re hot. But what if they don’t? I like to improve people’s days, so maybe I should make an effort to get over my killer shyness and say something when I have a strong inclination.

I wish one of those guys would say something to me. Even if it were just to say, “I can’t tell if you’re male or female – I’m sorry I keep looking.” Any explanation would be fine. Sure, it’d be nicer to hear, “You’re so gorgeous, I just can’t stop myself” (wait, have to stop laughing before I can continue typing…) but I just need to know. Does anyone else deal with this kind of thing, or is it just me?

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2 Comments

Filed under exercise, recap, thoughts

2 responses to “mirrors & social awkwardness

  1. Mandy

    You can’t know that they don’t find you attractive. Stop saying stuff like that.

  2. e. autumne

    I’ll just say I have a strong hunch then. I have gotten too much negative feedback (and almost nothing positive) over the years to think that anyone will ever find me attractive. It would be different if I’d ever been approached and flirted with, given a phone number or even smiled at provocatively for an extended period of time. =P When one of those things happens (I don’t count Gym Guy; his intentions were far from clear) I will be sure to start wondering if the staring is caused by my ravishing beauty. =)

    But thanks for the support; even if I disagree, I still appreciate it.

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