Eric Wahl

February 1998

I went to New York City over Winter Holiday, and, I must say, being in that town sure makes it hard to come back to Kansas (where the best restaurant serves slabs of beef you have to hook up to a 4X4 to get home).

I'd only ever been in NYC while on layover during flights to other places. This time, however, I enjoyed the chance to stay with my brother, who lives in the city, and all I can say is whoo-ha. Where have they been hiding this place? Long story short, I had a great time, and people there were NICE. POLITE. That was a shock.

The only thing I found disconcerting was the absolute lack of eye contact. I've been told that this is a politeness, a way of recognizing everyone's personal space, etc. Okay, I can grasp that, I suppose, but that practice makes me seem/feel rude when I do make eye contact with people. This is probably not a midwestern thing (there is a bit more eye-contact here, but prolonged eye-contact with males is viewed as aggressive). I began to think this eye-contact thing was something I picked up living abroad or something. Certainly, in the Middle East there is a great deal more eye-contact between people, although it's considered rude to stare at married, covered females. Males in the Middle East routinely maintain eye-contact. They also have fewer hangups about personal space, as one may often see males arm-in-arm as they walk. Similarly, they kiss when meeting. Imagine this happening in Kansas. Oi-vey.

The same holds true for Latin America and South America. I should say the same type of personal space/affection mores as can be seen in the Middle East. In such countries, physical proximity is important -- you kiss those you meet, strangers or not. American proximity hangups are viewed as cold, rude, even humorous by many other cultures.

Then I briefly visited "The Village" in NYC. Guess what? Eye-contact. What the hell is the connection here? I dunno. I'm merely relating a sociological phenomenon. I ain't the answer man today. So what do you think? Do gays and lesbians (and bisexuals and transgenders -- who am I leaving out?) have different social mores than their straight, American counterparts? The more (different "more") I thought about this the more I began to really wonder. My LesBiGay friends are much more affectionate, if that's the word, than are my straight friends. Why do you suppose this is?

And then I began to wonder about the ubiquitous gaydar phenomenon. Mine seems to be defective (maybe bisexuals just didn't get the extended warranty), but I apparently have enough to send and receive weak signals on certain rural wavelengths. Is eye-contact a learned behavior? Enough sociology!

Sitting in a booth at an Applebee's restaurant recently, I decided to try a little experiment. We had a really nice waiter, so I decided he'd be the test mouse. I stared at him. A lot. If he went by, I stared at him. At first eye-contact, he immediately averted his eyes. On repeated eye-contacts, over an extended period of time, he shared eye-contact longer and longer. What would he do? I imagined he might come ask if there was something I needed. He did not.

I though he might become beligerent, even confrontational. He didn't. He went about his business. When the check arrived in it's covered folder, I found something else.

A phone number. Oh. I didn't know quite how to react because such stuff rarely happens to me. My first thought was, "Is THAT how it works!?" So, I called him to explain I wasn't exactly sure what I was doing that night. He asked me out. I said I was living about two hours outside the city, but would give it a go some weekend. What am I doing? I'll let you know how it goes.

I received a lot of interesting feedback about gay-themed movies (and some good suggestions I will follow up on). As always, thanks!

Veteran musical goddess and soul sister Dusty Springfield is apparently ailing with cancer again in England. Dusty, you're in my thoughts.

Spring semester starts tomorrow for me and I'm again teaching two sections of Composition 2. Lawdy, is it too much to ask for just one gay or lesbian student!?

Good vibes, all.


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