go get em tiger, 3:45 PM
"Hey. Will you make eye contact with me for 60 seconds?"
She takes off her sunglasses.
"Awesome! I have a timer set for 60 seconds and when I start it, no talking and no looking away."
"OK! Tell me when."
Our eye contact is dynamic. At times our connection is playful and lighthearted. There's a slight smile. A silent laugh. Then it's serious, contemplative, bearing more weight. Straight lips, penetrating eyes. A subtle nostril flare. Then a bigger smile, a quick glance to the left.
I give her a leave-behind card and tell her how pleased and surprised I am that she agreed to participate.
She introduces herself as Elinor.
I chose Elinor specifically because of her sunglasses. I wanted to know if the sunglasses were indicative of an unwillingness to have this kind of interaction. I wanted to know if they were an intentional disinterest in a vulnerable interaction. I had a suspicion that the likelihood of a rejection would be higher from her because of the sunglasses, because of what I thought she might be communicating by wearing them. I thought her big, dark glasses communicated a "please leave me alone" message. I wanted to test that assumption. To my surprise I found a more enthusiastic participate in her obscured eyes than I've found in the uncovered eyes of many other people.
We have a great conversation that touches on many topics.
She tells me how she was able to participate in this vulnerable interaction because of it's limited duration. It's only for 60 seconds. It's a safe space in which to be vulnerable for a limited, bounded period of time. It similar to how she can let herself be vulnerable in the recording studio for the duration of a song. She knows that an end to the vulnerable time is coming. Same with our interaction.
I tell her how I've been doing this practice in other cities (Victoria BC, Portland) and how, so far, in Los Angeles I get more responses of the "What? Uhhh... This is weird."-type. Yet, despite that, Angelinos are participating. No one has yet rejected me in LA.
Elinor is from New York City. Hah! Here I am in Los Angeles making eye contact with another New Yorker. She tells me how eye contact is common in NYC and how a New Yorker can tell if you're trying to front or pretend to be someone you're not. A New Yorker uses eye contact to see if you're being authentic or not.
She tells me about her experience singing blues to prison inmates, and how being authentic with them is key to connecting with them. Elinor makes eye contact with the inmates, sees the person in each of them, and allows herself to be vulnerable so that they can see her. By doing this she can establish a connection with them. The inmates don't have people who make eye contact with them and see the person; just the prisoner, the criminal.
She says that I must have many interesting actions, and postulates that the most interesting are the "no's" - right? "Actually, the "no's" are usually not that interesting. They're usually short, straight-forward interactions," I tell her. There's usually not much conversation when confronted with a "no." The "yes's" on the other hand can be very interesting. Some aren't. Some interactions are as minimal as possible while still being a "yes" - merely responses to my prompts and nothing else asked or shared. The bare minimum. Other times a LMEC interaction is the beginning of a friendship.
We talk about the difference between creating boundaries and walls. It takes a lot of energy to be open to making eye contact with everyone all the time when out and about. I am often like this, open to making eye contact, actively seeking it out, in fact. It doesn't seem to be possible to do it all the time, even if everyone else were to be open to it. It takes a lot of energy to do this, and sometimes you have to stop to recharge, to keep some energy to yourself, to take care of yourself, and create a personal space for yourself even whenn, especially when, surrounded by other people.
She wants to send me a picture instead of taking one now, and I'm on board with that.
We hug, and she leaves the shop, bound for an acupuncture session.