Ask Kat Curious
The Weirdness of Others
Dear Kat: I’m not the kind of guy that acts like he’s never seen a female before. I don’t look around for women in adjacent vehicles at traffic stops. I don’t honk at females walking on the sidewalk as I drive past. I was taught that staring at anyone is impolite. For many years I worked at a local company that placed a lot of emphasis on sexual harassment awareness and stated that looking for longer than 3 seconds was staring. In other words, I really do try to mind my own business. Often times I work on my computer at coffee shops, and I will look around and crack my neck. I’ve noticed on many occasions that if there is a table of two women and one of them faces me, the one with her back to me inevitably wiggles her chair into a position that directly obscures the face of the woman facing me. What’s going on?
Dear WR: This might be hard for you to hear, but my advice is to not take it personally.
Women prefer to face each other when they talk, especially if it's going to be an intimate discussion. It is extremely likely that the woman with her back to you was simply repositioning herself to better face her friend. They may not have noticed you at all.
There are several dozen other variables that come into this scenario, too. Is it the same ladies every time? Maybe they recognize you and don't want you to get any ideas. Is it the same chair in the same café? Perhaps the chair is positioned over a crack in the floor that forces the occupant to move it if she wants to sit without rocking. Is there a particularly bright window behind you? The woman may have asked her friend to move to block the sunlight. Any of these could explain the wiggling.
It is much less likely that the women were offended by your mere presence, forcing the person with her back to you to reposition her chair, protecting her friend from all your trollish features.
It is also not very likely that you are so amazingly hot the woman facing you asked her friend to move to prevent staring herself. Just as you like to mind your own business, so do most women who are having a chat in a café.
If you really want to know what's going on, get up the guts to ask. Yes, this will probably freak out the women more than your staring would have, but if you really think this wiggling is a thing, you are going to need to satiate your curiosity somehow, and direct questioning is the best way to do it.
But overall, I can assure you that hardly anyone notices your lack of staring, although it is commendable. Your self-obsession and possible narcissism, however, may be something to discuss with your therapist. I notice that you took more than 200 words to ask a question that required maybe 25 words, mostly because you were considering how you are perceived in the world. Also, the fact that this question occurred to you in the first place means you believe people are reacting to your presence, when this is probably not the case at all. Maybe you're feeling paranoid, too, which is never fun.
Of course, one question to an advice columnist does not a serious psychological condition make. So I'll go back to my first advice: Don't take the wiggling personally. Keep on doing what you're doing (i.e. not being a creep), and ignore the weirdness in those around you.
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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.