Some Notes On People-Watching (Part 1)

Wonderful Listeners,

There’s something I would like to talk to you about. I honestly don’t care how vain or inconsiderate it may seem; I’m unapologetic about what I feel. I do hope, that maybe after reading, you may not feel that way though.

I want to talk about people. Not particularly anyone kind of people but all people in general, and the act of looking at people. What does it mean to gaze at another, especially in public? What are the social repercussions for gazing at strangers with a curiosity?

Allow me to dive on it. First, I want to talk to you about the act of of simply looking at others in public. I think that in the private sphere, it doesn’t really matter. Perhaps when you intrude into another’s private sphere for your own pleasure of looking, you’re being voyeuristic. I am guilty of this act. But it’s that curiosity of looking, and knowing you have the risk of being caught gazing at another by others, that’s fascinating.

I admit that I do people watch. It’s a big hobby of mine. I wouldn’t mind just going to a park or communal place and watching people for hours just observing as they pass by. Studying them, from head to toe, attempting to get to know them in split seconds (although sometimes minutes/hours), and then moving on to the next one. It’s invigorating.

However, for me, while I don’t think that people watching is weird (because I have a feeling that everyone does it, because, after all, humans are fascinating), a lot of other people do. This makes it somewhat challenging to try and enjoy the act of gazing at others because of others’ reactions to what I’m doing.

I think what my people watching comes down to really is noting appearance. After all, in mere seconds, that’s about all you can do is note appearance. Perhaps if you’re lucky, you might eavesdrop on a conversation and learn more about their personality, but only if you’re lucky. Thus, looking at others in public is a self-pleasuring study of appearances.

I do prefer that such a curiosity not be stifled by the stigmas and norms of society. I think that really, it is an honor to have someone gaze upon you with such fascination (or maybe I’m just an exhibitionist.) It at least means, if nothing, that you as an individual were eye-catching and interesting enough to capture another’s gaze for a moment of time.

I should also note that my situation is rather perplexing because of my situation. As a person interested in both sexes, I find myself looking at women and men alike. Then again, I would do that anyway because everyone has something fascinating about them, I believe. Still, it looks strange to note that someone else is looking at everyone and that no one is safe from their gaze.

However, I digress. I would like to move on to talking about what exactly I look for when I find a person to gaze at. For one, I’m often captivated by their facial features. But before it comes to that, I must notice the person at a distance. From so far away, they become an outline, a shape, their body only a form. I study this form.

Sometimes the form is appealing and sometimes not. However, it’s enjoyable to look at bodies, and all of their different shapes and sizes. Though “standards” of beauty creep in, I push them out most of the time. I’ve found that there is more to enjoy past the body which becomes a form at a distance.

After getting past the form, I move on to two things simultaneously: skin complexion and fashion. I admit that I am quite judgemental from a distance in this act of self-pleasuring. While I recognize that I do judge others (and sometimes quite harshly), I know better than to allow this carry into any conversation I could ever hold with them. I have that much respect for other people at least.

But back to the skin and fashions. I find that studying skin color is beautiful. Perhaps because I am an artist, and an artist fascinated by color in general (which was an unexpected evolution), I have a bias towards this. Please hear me out though. Skin color has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, or anything like that. It is merely a color in the act of looking. And let me tell you, Mother Nature has created some beautiful shades in her time.

On the flip side, fashions are a big thing for me. Since I was in high school (and you’ll know this if you’ve read this post), I’ve been able to judge others on their fashions. I’ve critiqued them so to speak. It’s even more apparent to me now that I have upgraded my own fashions. But these things are fun to contest!

Level with me. Since I’m not actively looking to engage with anyone, thus not bringing these critiques and assumptions to anyone’s attention, they remain empty. They are fleeting thoughts which amount to nothing, except for maybe a reveal of my own standards of attractiveness.

But once again, back to the fashions. Judging the clothing one wears, and how each garment compliments each other is an art itself. Fashion is an art form. So really, I am an artist studying another art form and critiquing someone’s use of it. Some people have great fashions, and others not so much; however, these critiques, naturally, are subjective.

Now, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to touch base on the facial features (finally!) This part is probably the most enjoyable. Why? Because it allows me to connect with a stranger the most. Think about it. It’s hard to connect with anyone whose face you cannot see, yet, as soon as their face is revealed we automatically begin making connections to it (some sympathetic and others repulsive.)

Honestly, the studying of faces is truly interesting. Looking, and having the pleasure to look at someone’s face, to notice the intricacies of their structure, color, shape, etc. is a privilege. While we cannot always hide our face from the public, it is natural that this pleasure is extended to everyone.

I find it really captivating to notice someone’s hair, nose, mouth, teeth, ears, wrinkles, pores, etc. But above all, I am a lover of eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, so the saying goes. Well, perhaps it is true in situations of intimacy, but in fleeting moments of publicity, it doesn’t measure up as much.

Lastly, I want to quickly touch base on race, gender, and ethnicity. I evaluate these things last. Why? Because I think once I get here, the pleasure of looking, evaluating, and appreciating, can turn into a weighing of the other against personal standards. Still, I will dabble carefully in it. How beautiful can an example of a race, a gender, and an ethnicity be? Quite… Though, this leads to generalizations but I try to keep that at a minimum, for I know better.

I have said all of this with an open heart. But I must make clear my intentions. When people-watching, it is not about being sexual, in any way. It is simply about enjoying the experience of variety in the human race phenotypes. (Admittedly, there is a natural battle with attraction, but still, you can be attracted to someone and not intend to pursue them nor fantasize about them. That’s a matter of personal self-control.)

So, I stand by my word, it is a pleasure and a privilege to gaze at another. While possibly a taboo which must remain executed stealthily, I do hope that one day it might not be. Sure, the act of noting appearances in passing is superficial, but it can be fun. And yes, boiling down the individual to their physicality is perhaps inconsiderate, but in the sport of people-watching, you have little room to do anything else.

***

I have no problem admitting that these habits may be strange. I think that they’re strange because I feel them so intensely. But I wouldn’t stop doing what I do. Still, there’s a second half to this entire sport of people-watching, one that only reveals itself when time is not an issue for the gazer nor the gazed upon. But I’ll leave that much for another time.

Until then, cheers.


Do you people watch in this way? Do you find people-watching invasive and weird, or comforting in some way? What are you’re thoughts knowing that this could happen to you at anytime in public? Leave all your thoughts below.

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3 thoughts on “Some Notes On People-Watching (Part 1)

  1. watching people and gazing is another. One can gaze in another’s face and capture their attention. I find when a man gazes and make eye contact with a woman that woman is captivated. An exchange of energy (one of the unwritten parts of communicating) whatever your intentions it would be understood. At the same token capturing the gaze a man that you don’t know can go either way depending on the setting. On the street it could be a sign of challenge. You may end up in an argument or fight. Be careful with Police Officers they they may interpret it negatively.
    Gazing is not the same a maintaining eye. Strangers may take offensive depending on one’s culture; some people on a power trip make a fascinating part of being a human a sin.
    What I like about gazing is that you can tell when you have captured somebody’s attention whether an individual or crowd whatever you do to get it make it worth your while…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting ideas George. I think there is a slight difference as you say between watching people and gazing. But there are also many similarities.
      I think that gazing can be honed in on something but that comes with the act of watching, does it not? You can be intense or completely casual about how you watch something or someone. It’s the act of taking interest to allow it to take space in your mind, somewhat passively at that, that’s intriguing.
      Regardless of how others feel, it’s how I feel. Sure, some cultures could be offended by such an intense gaze done so casually but that’s there culture. The act of studying appearance happens all of the time, especially in passing. What makes people watching so striking is the fact that you sit down and dedicate time and energy to do it, and to do so somewhat boldly at that.
      No one wants to be judge and I think that’s where offense takes place, when others assume you are judging them (negatively) simply because you are observing them.

      Liked by 1 person

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