'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

25 February 2011

Creeped Out

Lu loaned me her laptop so I'm back in business. Of course Lu also told me I 'owed her' and that she could collect anytime she wanted. I'm guessing me and the pooper scooper are going to be getting downright chummy for a couple of weeks until I pry the price of a new computer out of my ass.

I've noticed something about bucolic Hurricane, Utah. The people here tend to stare. It threw me for a bit. I'm used to California where any eye contact longer than a split second is deemed 'Mad Dogging' and a mortal insult to a large percentage of the population.

When I taught crime prevention one of the things we talked about was this very issue. I always taught people, and especially women, to walk tall and confident. Head up, eyes scanning, shoulders back and arms swinging freely. Walking with downcast eyes and slumped shoulders is fairly shouting to the predators that here is easy prey. If you look like a victim it's pretty much assured someone will attempt to make you one. As for eye contact I taught a short meeting of the eyes and then back to scanning. Never look down afterward, just pause briefly and then resume your scan of your surroundings. No staring contests or attempts at intimidation, just a quick meeting of the eyes to let everyone who's interested know that you're alert, confident and not one to be taken unawares or lightly.

It's different here. I've had sharp words for more than one person who I caught openly staring. The thing about eye contact is that if you're challenged the options are to return the regard, challenge the starer openly or simply act as if nothing untoward is happening. I usually follow the course of avoiding trouble whenever and wherever I can and simply act as if I didn't care but sometimes a challenge should be met. Fortunately for me in every case the starer looked away red faced and acted genuinely contrite. It made me consider.

I now believe it's a small town phenomenon, maybe even something unique to small Mormon communities. I think they're looking for a family connection. In this area there's still a lot of tribalism. Many, even most, of the folks living here have a family connection to the founding and long term families. Lu has been approached more than once by people who either did or thought they recognized her or her family resemblance. The old families here do share a remarkable degree of familiarity. We've been to a few gatherings and a casual perusal made identifying family ties quite easy and illuminating. There was, and to an extent still is, some interbreeding. Oh it's generally at arms length but the numbers of distant cousins marrying and producing offspring is still quite high. Lu's father's family is a perfect example. The family resemblance even among the more distant cousins is striking, especially among the males. I saw 2 children of a family patriarch who recently passed away, one of Lu's uncles. They looked absolutely nothing like the family archetype. Turned out they were adopted. The rest of the family there could have been brothers and sisters, so closely did they look like one another.

So now I've had to reconsider my responses. Chances are that the guy staring openly at us is trying to decide which branch of the family we're connected to. Or rather Lu since I'm an outsider and look like one. Maybe a family member or friend trying to decide if he can approach and talk about all the things that are important to them. Of course he could also just be a creep checking out my oh so beautiful wife in which case all bets are off and a full set of lumps is in the offing. Do I ignore, greet or thump? I can't yet decide based on the small amount of input I have garnered so far.

Frankly it's giving me a headache. I need to run a course for these people; "Why Staring Is Rude". I don't know what the hell you're looking for but it's beginning to creep me out.

Please excuse me now while I go clean my carry piece.



Ed Rasimus said...

I remember my first assignment to Europe. Except for the major capitol cities virtually everyone looks you in the face and wishes you a good day. On a survival escape/evasion exercise I told my partner we would simply walk down the street and wish everyone we met Buon Giorno with a smile. We were the only one of eight evasion teams that went undiscovered and unreported.

The DO said...

Nice Ed! AFN still does commercials about how not to be a target, and blending in is key. I just can't quite get past the being stared at thing, either, though. It's strange, and it bothers me! I get looking someone in the eye and saying hello, it's another thing to blatantly stare at someone.

LauraB said...

Oh, man...how irksome that would be. I am all for the emotive lift of the eyebrow when people are going too far. That and a curt nod get the point across. Of course, in a small town everyone is scrutinized until they feel they can trust you.

The Mormons may be different but they sure as heck have helped us with our food storage needs.

Brigid said...

For a time I noticed young men openly staring at me. The eyes, then they'd turn away, as if they didn't wish to be caught looking. Finally one of them spoke.

"Hey, Ma'am" Nice CAR." It wasnt my fine form, still perhaps appealing, it was my 67 Cuda.


and Ma'am. :-)

KurtP said...

Maybe you need one of those arrow tee shirts that say " ---> she's kinfolk"

Murphy's Law said...