The timer on my electric toothbrush is two minutes. I don't know why, but those usually feel like the longest two minutes of my life. I'm sure it has a lot to do with being aware of the time going by (and let's face it, brushing your teeth is necessary but hardly the most thrilling of activities). I never realized 120 seconds could go by so slowly.
Until last night.
I was invited to an eye gazing party. Just when I thought I had experienced the gamut of wacky ways to meet people, from online personals to speed dating to the lock and key party, along came yet another thing to try, perhaps wackiest of them all.
The premise behind the gazing party is something many of us urban daters can relate to. Having the same conversation over and over again when you meet new people can get monotonous (What do you do? How long have you been in New York? If you were an argyle sock, what three colors would you be? Okay, so maybe not necessarily that last one.). To my understanding, this event was started in an attempt to foster an environment wherein two people could have a real, meaningful connection.
This is how it works: Like speed dating, everyone gets a number, the women stay in one place, and the men circulate. Unlike speed dating, you don't get a checklist to mark down who you are and aren't interested in. You also don't get to talk. For two minutes, while various global music plays, all you do is look into the other person's eyes.
Last night, Willow, Polly and I went to a downtown bar to see what this gazing thing was all about. As we approached the venue, we all got intimidated. We glanced at people walking past us on the street.
"What if we have to stare at someone like that guy for two minutes?"
Our dread mounted. We would need plenty of alcohol to soothe our pre-staring jitters. Luckily, we had half an hour to get liquored up before the event began. We downed two cocktails in quick succession and I brought a glass of wine to get me through the actual gazing.
Oh, did I mention that there was a television crew filming the event for Telemundo? Si si, there was.
I had a buzz going that was supposed to make me more socially amenable, but instead made me a smartass.
"Do you want to mingle?" Polly asked.
"No." I replied.
Willow and Polly looked concerned.
"Um, I mean... yes! We should mingle. It's the thing we should be doing."
We went over by the bar, where the three of us proceeded to talk to nobody but each other for fifteen minutes. Then we returned to the couch 'n' ottoman area.
"That was some good mingling, ladies!" I said.
We made ourselves comfortable at our "stations". Luckily, Polly and I were on the same couch. Unluckily, this could also have some drawbacks.
"I think I'm going to end up laughing. I can't help it," Polly said.
"You can't laugh! If you start, that'll get me going, and we'll end up ruining the gazing for everyone." I took a big sip of wine.
My first gazee came over and sat down. Actor Alan and I started discussing Buddhism and meditation, which was a nice change from the typical what's-your-name-and-what-do-you-do intro. I asked how he heard about the party and he said a friend of his recommended it, that it was the friend's second eye gazing party and he enjoyed it. It was reassuring to have endorsement like that.
After a brief intro and some guidelines ("It's not a staring contest", "It's easier to pick one eye and gaze into it than go back and forth between eyes", "No touching"), the gazing began!
I thought I'd be a little more comfortable maintaining sustained eye contact with Actor Alan since we had a pleasant little intro chat. Boy, was I mistaken.
Looking for someone that long is INTENSE. I mean, the only time I look at a guy that close to me for that long is before we're about to make out. And even when I really like someone, that kind of uninterrupted eye contact can be overwhelming. But with a total stranger? Good lord, "uncomfortable" doesn't begin to describe it.
It wasn't unpleasant with Actor Alan and a few of the other men, but some had a way of looking at me that made me want to run out of the room. One guy slightly squinted at me as if trying to see way down deep into my soul and another guy actually sneaked a peak at my rack (Come on now! How on earth did he think he could get away with that?). Another guy winked at me; oh brother. If I was less of a lady, I would have rolled my eyes.
There was a break mid-way through, and a guy came over a few minutes early. Let's call him Musician Matt. I asked Musician Matt how he found out about the party and he said he went to the last one.
"Oh, you're friends with Actor Alan!"
That gave us something to talk about, though the chat was still rather stilted. Nevertheless, I tried to make small talk. It wasn't until the music stopped and guys around us stood up that I realized we accidentally chatted throughout the entire gazing session. Oops.
"You're not supposed to talk! It was so distracting!" Polly chastised me, then the two of us collapsed in laughter.
We laughed so hard, we couldn't stop for the next couple of gazing sessions. As promised, if one of us started cracking up, so did the other. I kept mouthing "sorry" to the dudes I was supposed to be staring at.
Then my contact lenses began to bother me. All this looking at people took a lot out of my Acuvues! I apologized to the last few guys for being so blinky.
After the last round, we got more drinks and did some proper mingling. It was draining and a novel experience, though I'm not sure if I could do it again. I found myself thinking about other things in order to close myself off to peoples' intense stares, or counted down the seconds to feel less... invaded.
I was glad to participate in this unique event and would recommend it to others, if only for the personal challenge and entertainment value. However, it was also nice to ride the subway home and not have to look at anyone.