Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Eyes Have It

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with a stranger - a white fellow.  No details necessary.  The point of the reference is to say that he told me a story about a certain reaction of a friend of his who was, to put it this way, not inclined to Blacks.  You see, he had another friend, a Black girl, whom he had the pleasure of introducing to his white lady friend.  As he did so, he related, the eyes of his white lady friend glossed over; like they just...changed.  He asked whether I'd ever seen that.  I told him no.  I don't recall ever witnessing something like that.  He said he knew for sure that his white friend was uncomfortable when, in addressing his Black friend, said, "Oh!  Your eyes are beautiful!"  And that was pretty much all she'd said to her the whole time.  He then went on to explain to me that her eyes were kinda like those of "Aunt Jemima" - big and round.  He got the sense that they stood out as such a strong feature, that her sole comment was on the very thing that helped make her feel uncomfortable; as if she couldn't help herself.  And, in an even more telling reaction, her eyes "glossed over".

I'm still not a hundred percent certain of what that looks like.  What I can say is that I believe I saw something pretty close to it the other day.  At least, something that made me immediately think of that story.

Recently, I had the occasion to talk with, let's call her, a saleswoman.  Now, by this, (and having gone through some form of Mary Kay Independent Consultant training and what not), I have a fairly good idea of the tiered approach, and a whiff of the psychology that's usually used, in scenarios such as these.  They don't tell you cost up front; you are asked to share; you get involved emotionally; you bond; you invest time.  And the more time and emotional involvement, the harder it is to walk away - the more guilt you are likely to feel if you do. Or so they hope!

Anyway, as Ms. Lady went through her spiel - and I'm participating because 1) I was curious about their offer 2) I've convinced myself I need to do new things to help me with material for my writing if nothing else 3) I had the time - I became engaged.  And I shared - willingly.  Then, it got to cost.  There was no way of telling that I was shocked at the prices that jumped out at me.  (Ever been invited to a Direct Buy session?  Kinda like that.)  So, when she asked what option would I prefer, I coolly answered, "I need some time to think about this."  Ladies and gentlemen?  That was when I saw what could only be described as her eyes glossing over.  We were about two hours in, and here I was, about to make her time add up to naught.

Her pleasant facial expression - the one that had accompanied the offer for coffee or tea; the one that met me at the door; the one that had listened so intently as I'd "shared" - had disappeared a the sound of "need some time."   As I told her, I'd had no idea of the cost - I had asked and (of course), no one had mentioned it.  But, now that I know, and it's more than I expected, I would have to think about it.  I held to my position and she was not amused.  Like, seriously.  I have never before experienced such an about-turn in someone's demeanour, countenance, approach and general disposition in such a short time.  I reminded her that I was assured there'd be no obligation after the information session.  She held that that was true but.  She couldn't grasp that I needed to think about forking out more than I'd expected; I couldn't grasp that she couldn't. I still held to my position and explained that once I had some time to think about it, I might get back in touch in a few days or something.

Well, she excused herself, saying that she was going to tell her superior that I was leaving.  In short, he made me a seriously discounted offer.  That was not the reason for my hesitation.  (I had had the impression that what they had on paper was cast in stone.) As it turned out, it was a heck of an offer!  I took it.

But, the eyes, man!  The eyes!  They just...changed.  The light went out; the smile disappeared.  Her face got dull.  Her expression one of incredulity.  (Someone said the other day that a certain politician's smile doesn't reach his eyes.  I'd thought of that then, too.)  She wasn't smiling at that point, but, her effort to remain pleasant was betrayed by that look of consternation/disbelief/incredulity and, kinda bordering a bit on anger. (Well, maybe reading a bit much into it?  Nah.  Just enough.)

And, after I accepted?  Yep.  The smile came back.  This time, gentility.  I kid you not.  It came to me after that I should've asked whether I was the first person to say no; to ask for time to make a decision.  It was not a distinction for which I was seeking but, based on her reaction, it sure looked that way. 

They say, "In vino, veritas." (In wine, [there is] truth).  That episode reminded me that truth lies within.  And the eyes have it.


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