Have you ever had the misfortune of talking to an acquaintance or even a complete stranger who had something odd or distracting on their face? You didn't want to stare, but you just couldn't help it. You felt compelled to at least sneak a peek! Something just seemed to jump out and scream "LOOK AT ME!! LOOOK!"
Let me share an example that made a lasting impact on me:
Several years ago, I was chatting with an employee at Walmart. It was a pleasant exchange, except that I noticed that she had a bat in the cave. That's code for something yucky in her nose. It was right at the edge of her nostril. Every time she breathed, the air moved it back and forth, in and out.
I was trying to focus on what the nice young woman was saying, but I was worrying about not staring at it!
So I was listening but simultaneously having a debate in my head- should I tell her or not? I'd certainly want to know if I had that little problem! It's the right thing to do! But would our mutual humiliation be worth it? Perhaps I could save her pride as she continued interacting with people through the day.
My face started feeling warm as I tried to gather the courage to tell her. I'm ashamed to say that I chickened out. But I've been paid back for my sin.
Ever since that fateful day, I often find myself obsessively checking my nose in the mirror before spending time in public or conversing with people. Some folks might think I'm being vain, but that's not true. I just fear the same fate!
To be honest, I have been embarrassed by the same problem since then. I can think of two incidents of seeing a dreaded it in my nose after talking with someone! Nostril karma? Somehow I survived to confess it!
I live close to a Sonic Drive-In. One afternoon I made my typical Happy Hour run (half-priced drinks) to indulge myself with my favorite beverage.
A manager brought my order to me. I recognized him. He had worked there for a long time.
He's a very personable, good-looking young man in his late twenties. His smile and blue eyes are certainly hard to ignore!
That particular day, his appearance grabbed my attention once again, but it was not his smile nor his eyes. It was his throat.
The handsome and charming Sonic manager had acquired some new ink. It was right below his adam's apple.
My brain- which wanted to behave as if all was normal and didn't want to offend, was trying to gain control over my gut reaction- which wanted to stare but look away and yell "WHYYYY?!"
The new throat tattoo was a bright red blood splatter design about three inches in diameter, with an evil looking skull right in the center of it.
Now I think I'm quite open-minded about current trends. I personally don't have any skin art, but both of my adult kids do. I really don't have a problem with ink in general, but I was not a fan of that design!
I wasn't sure how to react. Does that prove my 55 year old fuddy-duddiness?
I tried not to gawk. I was my normal pleasant, chatty self and I didn't mention the morbid tat. I wonder if he could sense my struggle?
However...when a person pays big bucks to have a unique, brightly-colored message displayed in a very prominent spot, don't they want it to be noticed? I think now that I should have stared at it and mentioned it!
Oh, I wouldn't have criticized him. I still liked the kid. But I would have acknowledged his new look.
I've previously admitted that I'm an overthinker. These two anecdotes prove it! And I'll just bet you've endured similar circumstances.
After much deep contemplation about all this, I've decided that there are three important life truths that we must consider:
*To look or not to look, that is the question!
*To embrace the awkwardness and speak up, that is the challenge!
*To laugh about the situation later, that is the goal!
Weird social moments are just going to happen to all of us. If we just face them head on and refuse to look away, they might not be so intimidating.
And you might even get a funny story to tell your friends later.