It’s the up and down, the once over, the full blown inspection. It’s when a person’s eyes bulge out of their heads and roll all the way from your head to your feet without any attempt at subtly. This “once over” can happen anywhere, at the grocery store, at a dance club, while you walk your dog, buy your meds, get gas for your car. It can even happen at work; in fact, it does happen at work.
There are two categories of this look (and they are both 2 seconds of mental/emotional turmoil for the one being looked at).
1. There’s the “I’m looking at your body; I can see through your clothes, even though your clothes are on” type (you know, the perverted look a colleague gives you, but it’s too quick, so you can’t call him or her out).
2. There’s the “I’m inspecting your outfit in an inappropriate way, while I am deciding if I like it or not, and I may be trying to make you feel bad, but I might also just really like your outfit” type (you know, the inspection look, when you can’t tell if a colleague hates you and is jealous of you or if you look like a freaking hobo at work today). Here, you can see Elvi, Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in the epic and operatic film, Scarface, is giving the “look”
In the real world, the way I’d respond to a number one situation would be to look the starer in the eye and say, “why don’t you take an X-RAY?!” In the real world for number two, I’d say, “did you wanna borrow this for tomorrow?”
But work doesn’t function like the real world. Work has it’s own world. The work world contains a lot of weird looks, passive aggressive comments, obnoxious glances at your cleavage no matter your cup size (even if you’re wearing an effing smock), schizophrenic emails that might be simple reminders as much as they might be mean ultimatums. God forbid I have a zit on my face; it’s high school (not college, after college, you go back to high school evidently).
After one of these looks, I’ve been asked, “So, are you married?” “Have you lost more weight?” “Where did you get that little sweater, dear?” And at work, all you can do is answer politely, or else you run the risk (however slightly) of seeming paranoid, rude, frigid, antisocial, secretive, overly sensitive etc. We all know none of these traits make for an ideal candidate. I too would not want to work with a paranoid rude person.
Yet, in the non-work setting, we all know it’s rude and inapp to look at someone a certain way. In the non-work world, a looker can be confronted or pointed/called out.
As I mentioned in the article, How to Write the Right Email, I worked in the food service industry throughout most of my adolescence and young lady-hood. I can tell you accurately that there are looks out there that will make you want to go home and hide under a blanket for the rest of your life. Even after untangling my way out of the nastiest nest of looks, I still hate the “once over” the most. It’s the most sneaky violation of boundaries.
Particularly in the professional setting I feel the most powerless against it, ironically. Unlike the nosey onlooker, I behave politely and act like it never happened while swallowing a friggin’ lump the size of a baseball.
As you can see, I’m at a total loss when it comes to the “look” at work. The only way I know how to deal with it is just to know it’ll probably happen again. I simply try not to dwell, but when it’s a reoccurring pattern what is a professional to do?