Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Stare

I think of myself as being a pretty sophisticated person when it comes to, shall we say, the sexual dynamics of the human male. But sometimes you boys puzzle me.

Okay, here's what happening. I work out at the gym three times a week. (At least.) And there's a guy who works there, who I see about every time I go in, and I'm confused by the signals I'm getting from him. It's not what he says - he always does the "Hey, how are you? Have a good workout?" thing that all the employees do. That's perfectly fine.

But lately I've noticed: he stares at me. I mean, he really stares at me.

That's not completely inexplicable, although God knows I definitely don't look my best when I work out. If anyone knows a way I can run for five miles and look all fresh and pretty at the end of it, let me know. I have not discovered the trick of this. But hey, the guy works at a gym, maybe he's learned to eroticize red-faced girls who are streaming with sweat.

Now usually when I work out, Max is with me. Interestingly, although Max and I are very clearly a couple, this does not seem to faze Gym Guy at all. Granted, he does not stare as much when I'm walking by holding Max's hand. But neither has he ever displayed the "hey, she's cute – but, oh, she's taken" attitude.

So, several weeks go by, I see him staring at me whenever I'm there, and I just shrug it off, although it makes me ever-so-mildly uncomfortable. It's not that I feel threatened, not at all. It's just that when I'm working out, I don't want to think about what I look like. But when I see some guy looking at me that way, I am suddenly reminded that my hair is slick with sweat and I probably have mascara smudges under my eyes. It's distracting. One the reasons I love my gym is that many, many of the men who work out there are gay, and honey, those gym queens could care less about me. They are quite focused on a) themselves and b) other cute men. I prefer it that way.

Then one day last week, Max – who is a reluctant jock at best - plays hooky. So I was working out alone, and there was Gym Guy – staring.

And frankly, it was starting to get to me. Or rather, the fact that he just stared and did nothing else. It was confusing. Some days I'd tell myself, Matisse, you're making too much of it. Look at him, he's a dark-skinned guy, he may come from a culture with a longer social-looking time than here, and you're totally misinterpreting him.

I'd mentioned the matter to Max, who, after some observation, said "Yeah, I see what you mean. Do you think he knows you're Mistress Matisse?"

I shrugged. "It's possible." One the female employees had recognized me a few months ago and done the "hey-aren't-you…?" routine. She could have told other people, so who knows, maybe Gym Guy was just staring at me because I'm a dominatrix who writes about kinky things in the paper. I told myself there were all kinds of other ways to interpret The Stare.

But then I'd make eye contact with him and think: No. I am not misinterpreting this.

Which doesn't make him an evil guy, of course. In fact, I'm sure Gym Guy is perfectly nice, and he's not at all bad-looking. But I'm not interested. I feel like I've tried to waft off the "I'm not interested" vibe to him. However, some guys just don't pick up on cues, so you have to let them make the approach, and then politely turn them down.

So that day I thought to myself, Okay, let's just nip this in the bud. After I worked out, I showered and dried my hair and fixed my face, and generally returned myself to a reasonably presentable state. And then I went out into the lobby area and plunked myself down on one of the couches near the front desk. And I waited.

Look, here I am, all alone, no boyfriend, sitting here alone on the couch flipping through a magazine. Come hit on me so I can say no thank you, okay?

Ten minutes or so tick by. But did Gym Guy come over and talk to me? No. He did not.

Okay, clearly I had been misinterpreting him. Fine. I'll get over myself.

Back in the gym a few days later, and there he is. Staring. Later that evening, I was in the adjacent grocery store and I saw him there, and he saw me, and I swear to god, if he'd been a dog, he would have been pointing.

I'm completely perplexed, because if I was displaying the kind of behavior he's displaying, I'd be making a move on someone. All this heightened awareness with no follow-through confuses me. And it's getting on my nerves, because it's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. That sounds really bitchy – "oh, woe is me, I have to wait for this guy to hit on me so I can shoot him down". I don't mean it in a nasty way – but I spend six hours or so a week at the gym, and I just want to work out without having to deal with the energy. But at this point, I'm not sure what I can do except continue to ignore The Stare.

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