Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Eye contact

Now and then, one gets a clear reminder of our more savage human past.

If you look a dog directly in the eye and maintain that contact, you are challenging its status. He who looks away first admits subservience.

Wednesdays are my lunch buddy day with the little guy at his school. I got there a little late today, and found that he had plunked himself down right in the middle of the group of hostile, unpleasant kids who pick on him.

The battle was not long in commencing. They began to try to tell me all the bad things he had supposedly done. Then I felt a shift, an attempt to probe and challenge my authority. Which is awkward, because as a lunch buddy, I'm not supposed to be an authority figure in the first place, just a friend. And these inner city youngsters already get enough harshness and push-back from the adults in their lives.

So it is as if I was thrust back again into the middle of the kid-pack of my own childhood, and yet, of course, it was different. I felt their hard stares, their barely disguised jibes at both him and me -- but what could I possibly do? For I remember being little myself and how mortified I was as a youngster when a well-meaning teacher stepped into a situation to protect me but only made things worse.

Do I ignore it? Do I tattle-tale? Do I try to turn it around, disarm them with wit and warmth rather than attempting pyschological dominance?

I opted to warn them that I would take the matter to their teacher if it kept up, and then to pointedly ignore them and focus on my lunch buddy, even though my words to him sounded awkward, and I felt very vulnerable, as if they knew I was trying to dodge them rather than confront and win. But in a few minutes, somehow we all got talking about airplanes, which was apparently more interesting to the group than meanness.

I was reminded of what I read somewhere: the only people who want to be kids again, are those who have forgotten how hellish childhood really was.


Ela (braveheart) said...

You are a good Man

Ela (braveheart) said...

Now, back to the beginning of your post, about the dogs. I have a dog and he will not look into the eyes of another if he feels the other trying to picka fight. It is not as much the submissiveness in his case, because he did fight and win by pressing other dog to the ground and showing him his teeth, but walking away after that. hmm, maybe he wouldn't walk away if we humans werent there.
anyhow, it is a challenge to look into eyes, even with us, people.

good post

eastcoastdweller said...

Thank You for Your comments, lovely Ela.

Forgive me for not visiting Your blog yet this week. I'll make the rounds! I always enjoy my visits to Your world of talent!

Rebecca said...

Amen. I wouldn't be a kid again for all the tea in China. I see what goes on with my own son, and want to set things right for him or protect, only to realize that really, what it is about is righting my own childhood wrongs....argh

eastcoastdweller said...

It seems like it would be such a simple thing to do, orient one's eyeballs to those of another human. Yet to do so is the equivalent of opening your mouth to speak: it communicates your intent, your status, all kinds of things about who you are and your place in the world.

eastcoastdweller said...

Rebecca: I want to visit Your blog again this week as well. I get to be home for at least two hours before bedtime tonight -- sweet bliss!
That will be a good time to visit Gotham vicariously!

Rebecca said...

Hopefully it isn't work keeping you from home so late, ECD! I look forward to your visit...

Ela (braveheart) said...

:) Forgiven,EC!
I am still around, although I had few urges to disappear already.
Even if I do delete myself, I'll visit you.

eastcoastdweller said...

Rebecca: It has been work. )o:

Ela: Please never delete Your wonderful site! Don't deprive us of Your fascinating and mysterious art!

Kat said...


I am glad the conversation turned to a subject all could enjoy and participate in- the airplanes.

I was watching a program just the other day ... relating a psychological experiment. Subjects were brought in together .... later one would be told that another or others did not want to work with him on some project.... then later all were given word association tests.

That simple rejection was enough for the subject to then perform on the word association in a hostile and aggressive manner....

It was a fill in the blanks word association test so the subject had many choices they could have come up with...

but those rejected would come up with---

attack for attac-

or choke for cho-e

Those that were not rejected would come up with words like
as their word choices.

Hurt runs deep and poisons even the subconscious. How many tragic examples of isolated people that finally turn to extreme violence are there? lots

What tools came be given to kids to cope with this?
opportunities to bring forth their unique talents and abilities, a sincere interest and a kind word for them, and an explanation of how people's own insecurities cause them to engage in brutal and bullying behaviors.

It is a challenge to grow up and be grown up.

Ela (braveheart) said...

Kat's words are so true.

If we are not happy, the All of Us, the world will spin and spit the dirt of pain directly into our faces.
Even though world has east and west, it doesn't mean half should be happy and half can agonize in misery. only if it is hell and heaven in the same place. maybe it is.
but kindness will grow roots and change the world for all of us, for the better, and I still believe it, although sometimes I think it would be good if the earth spin right into the black hole, as it is time for cleansing.

EC, I'll try not to delete.

Maria said...

I honestly did not know the staring thing about dogs. So, I tried it out on my puppy and won handily. They don't call me alpha woman for nothing...

And, can be cruel in a way that just comes as a shock to us adults, mainly because they look so sweet and innocent. Luckily, my daughter goes to a very progressive school and any sort of bullying is not tolerated. But...I can't help thinking that we always miss something, you know?

eastcoastdweller said...


I am happy that You visited my blog. Check out FLOW, the Sister blog to Isis, when You have time as well.

And Rebecca, thank You for introducing me, albeit indirectly, to this witty and wise blogger friend of Yours.

Ian Lidster said...

Despite my distress at the passing of so much time, I would never, ever want to go back to childhood.

leslie said...

Sweet Eastcoastdweller,
There is a lovely piece of Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake waiting for you at my blogon my last post from yesterday. While you are enjoying it, my most recent post has your name tucked in at the bottom with the other Writiers I have tagged for the Writers Q&A meme.