The Eyes Have It
In the movie The Wedding Date, an otherwise mediocre and utterly predictable rom-com, the male lead says to his date, who is obsessing over what clothes she should wear to a party, “Let me teach you a trick—if you look people in the eye, they won’t notice what you’re wearing.”
The fact that it’s a “trick” we have to learn to develop tells us everything we need to know. For reasons most of us implicitly understand yet are hard-pressed to realize in our behavior, making eye-contact with another is often challenging, even intimidating. Because to lock on another person’s eyes is to make oneself vulnerable. And so many of us habitually find that difficult.
I was about to write we “instinctively” find it difficult, but that’s not quite true. You see, children—especially very young children—have very little problem looking you in the eye. It’s natural for them. Alas, somewhere along the way, as our personalities and relationships develop, they (that is, “we”) get more complicated. And protective. And sadly, we begin to avert our gaze.
I became distinctly aware of this with my two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter. Especially when taking her picture. And now that so many of us are covering most of our faces except our eyes, this dynamic becomes dramatically apparent.
Maybe this mask thing is good for more than keeping our germs to ourselves? Who knows? Maybe this horrible pandemic will get us grownups to relearn the innately human ability to look someone in the eye? Making eye contact is at the very essence of all human relationships.
Of course it helps when your granddaughter has eyes like these.
Copyright © 2020 Steven Kushner
Steve is a Reform rabbi who, in his retirement, found purpose and meaning in photography. Although primarily a street photographer, of late he has turned to seeing the power in images of abandoned buildings and still lifes. His award-winning work has been presented in galleries and shows in New Jersey.