Monday, April 14, 2008

The Guilty Look-Away

I just had an epiphany. Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more I'm narrowing down my focus. Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

I was watching Mad Men, a brilliant show about the employees, their spouses, and other romances at Sterling Cooper, a fictional 1960's advertising agency. There's this scene where Don (the main character) is sitting at the kitchen table with his wife. She tells him that her best friend found out her husband is cheating on her. (Don isn't particularly virtuous himself.) She then asks him why a man would do that to someone he loves. He looks at her, dead in the eyes, and says I don't know why.

Then I caught it. Or at the very least, I projected. He said his piece, and then just for a fraction of a second, he looked away. Didn't turn his head, he didn't even blink. Look at someone, and then imagine a clock in the distance somewhere behind that person's head. Now glance at the clock just for a second, not even enough time to process what time it was. That's the tell.

It's that one momentary lapse of concentration. It always happens. You get bored, or you think you're staring too intensely. But, damn, the second you look away, it's over. It's like you just got slimed on one of those Nickelodeon shows I used to watch. And be honest, so did you. Except instead of slime, its guilt. And it's still green, and it's all over your face.

We've all done it. I've done it, you've done it. But then I got to thinking, is this always true? (Here's where the aforementioned narrowing of the focus comes into play.) Then I realized that this is an affliction that solely affects men. I don't ever think I've seen a woman fall into this unsafe behavior. And I don't think I've ever done the look-away on another guy. So the Guilty Look-Away. Only to be used by men, on women.

Why is that? Why don't women do it? Well probably because they're smarter, more in control, and better liars. And why don't men do it to other men? Well, my guess is that extended eye contact between guys just gets awkward. We usually have talks while doing other things. Like having a beer watching a football game. Or having a beer at the bar. Or perhaps even having a beer rebuilding that '63 Mustang that's been sitting in the garage for the last 10 years. The point is men don't have a great deal of eye contact with other men. I don't really know why.

And that is precisely why we're complete rubbish at it. Maybe we're not very well practiced, or maybe men have some innate inability to be competent liars. Or maybe we just feel bad about what we've done.

Regardless, at one point or another, we have all performed the Guilty Look-Away or at least witnessed one first hand.