August 03, 2015

Where Am I Looking?

It's been established that Autistic people are not the best at eye contact, in general.

Of course, there are exceptions. It's not that we don't do it, it's often that we don't do it enough, or too much, or time it incorrectly.

I have an easier time looking at just one person talking to me. I prefer looking at brown over blue eyes. I prefer looking at female faces over male.

I learned, at a very young age, from reading about how investigators interrogate people, that you can look at the point just between two eyes and people believe you are looking into their eyes. It's a trick I use when I know I have to socially conform.

I'll admit, however, that if there is a group of two or more people talking, I really have no choice but to stare at the person talking, or not look at either. In meetings, I tend to want to close my eyes and concentrate on what is being said. I, of course don't, because I have yet to feel comfortable enough to close my eyes in a business meeting.

So if my eyes are open and I'm not looking at your eyes, or that point between them, where am I looking?

I look at mouths. A lot. So much so, that I'm a pretty good lip reader. I can tell you all about your teeth. Your lips. Your nose. Your ears. Your neck. And then I am forced to move my gaze up again because you noticed my eyes wandering and you think there's something on your face maybe?

Not everyone notices, but if you're the type that does, I have to think about what my eyes are doing, so I don't really listen to you. Sorry, but it's the truth. I hear you, but I can't listen properly.

If you have a shiny necklace, my apologies, but I am wondering about the material and make. I will try to guess the brand, the gems and the karats. I will identify the cut and style.

Like I said, if you are female, you are in better luck, as I am most likely looking somewhere around your face. If you are male, it's easier to avoid your gaze because most men don't seem to care as much about where my eyes are going. I tend to look at shoulders, arms and hands on men.

Unfortunately, according to body language specialists, looking at a man's mouth/lips makes him think you want to kiss him. Add to the fact that I'm most likely looking at his arms - he may get the impression I am checking him out or into him. Even worse, I have a thing for pinstripe (on men, women, mannequins, it doesn't matter) so if he's sitting, I am looking at his pants and he believes I am looking at something else....

All this to say, I'm good at isolated parts of people and not always looking at the whole person. If you are in a different context next time I meet you (in the caf instead of a meeting room), I won't immediately recognize you. If you are wearing sunglasses, I probably won't recognize you. Dyed your hair? I either won't notice right away or won't recognize you. But I would sooner recognize your voice, or a mention of where we met ("the numbers from Monday's meeting were thrilling, weren't they?") and I will jump back to the situation mentally and match the puzzle pieces.

There are, however, times this all comes in handy. I can find you in the dark. LOL. I don't judge people by appearances. I understand body language better than spoken words. It's really good when playing poker, since I can rely on other body cues. (And I can count've been warned)
Also handy when car shopping since we spend most of the time looking at the car and I keep a deadpan face - confusing them as to whether I'm interested - so they keep adding perks or dropping the price.

Curious to know where other Autistic people look - strangely enough, I like looking at other Autistics. It doesn't seem as harsh for some reason.

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