Is it because I am black?

I hate awkward eye contact. I try to avoid this at all costs but for some reason I engage in awkward eye contact on a very regular basis.

Today, as I was heading to the Starbucks a few feet away from my office I noticed that they have posted a security guard at the entrance (obviously they have had a rash of lid stealers).

I naturally made eye contact with this guy – which should not have been awkward, no, but I made a few errors that led to extreme awkwardness:

1. I did the glance away and then the glance back to see if he was still looking. 

He was. 

And he was smiling.

2. I smiled with my eyes (maybe I should be a model on ANTM?). That sort of secret smile like we were sharing an intimate moment. But we weren’t… I just wanted my morning latte – without any questionable smiling of any kind!

This incident begs the question – do I need to walk to the Starbucks across the road from now on?

It made me remember another time when awkward eye contact got me into trouble – I was 16 and was babysitting for an event at a Refugee House. As I was waiting for the children to come, I was seated in a common room where a Sudanese man was having his lunch. Naturally, we started chatting…and of course I busted out the biggest “welcome to Canada” smile and stunning conversation I could muster. 

The exact details tend to get a little foggy from here – I have since blocked most of the experience from my memory, but basically the conversation went like this:

Man: “I am a single man, wanting to become a Canadian citizen. Do you have a husband?”

Me (smiling and making copious amounts of eye contact): “No, silly I am only 16!”

Man: “Are you engaged?”

Me: “Engaged? No, hahaha, I am only 16!”

Man: “Do you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “No, but really I am only 16…”

Man: “Can we write letters? I would like to marry you, I will ask your father.”

Me: “What? I mean I am only 16 and you’re like older…”

Man: “…I really think marriage is the best way for me to make it in this country. And you need a husband, after all, you said it yourself, you are already 16…”

Various amounts of convincing me to marry him, whilst I sat there smiling, shaking my head frantically, saying over and over again “I am too young” and planning my escape.

Then he asked this final question:

 “Is it because I am black?”

Of course it wasn’t because he was black. Nor was it the fact that his two yellowed front teeth were protruding out like overstretched prongs of a fork. No, it might have stemmed from the fact, that at 16, I never desired to marry a random stranger trying to become a  Canadian citizen through any means.

So I did what any girl in my situation would have answered:

 “yes, it is because you are black.”

And so we both continued to sit there, no more eye contact, no more smiling. Just sitting there. But he could understand that reasoning, so I was good.

I learned later that all of my eye contact and smiling was giving him the green light to begin his proposal. Good to know, AFTER (thanks Mom).

Needless to say, I have never learned my lesson on eye contact. As this isn’t the end of these kind of stories: I don’t want to even mention the incident at the JoBerg airport (alone+making eye contact+smiling with my eyes+short shorts=very bad idea).

But at  this stage it might be nice to get a few proposals out of it – come to think of it…maybe I won’t change Starbucks after all…


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