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Sex, drugs and sausage rolls: London life, love and other random stuff

Why are gay men so crap at eye contact?

with 23 comments

Image of man looking out of the corner of his eye

Who's looking at you, kid?

“What’s wrong?” asked my colleague Claudia, as we exited Prêt a Manger and crossed the road back to the office. I’d suddenly stopped talking, which always unnerves people.

“Nothing,” I replied, “There’s just a really hot guy sitting on the wall and he just totally eyed me up!”

And it was true; he was sitting on the wall on the corner of Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, talking on the phone when he clocked me.

He jerked his head in an upwards ‘hello’ nod and smiled.

So what did I do?

Well naturally, I looked at the floor and carried on past him.

“He’s really hot!” said Claudia, chasing after me, “why don’t you talk to him?”

“Nooo! Anyway he’s on the phone. I’d be standing there like a muppet.”

She looked back, “Well he’s not now, so go talk to him.”

I looked back too, and sure enough, there he was, looking back, phoneless and still smiling.

“Nooo! I can’t!” I cried, “I’m too nervous!” and I scurried inside our building.

“I can’t believe you didn’t go and talk to him,” said an exasperated Claudia as we got in the lift, “he was obviously interested; he was really smiling at you. And he was gorgeous!”

Fuck it, I thought. You only live once.

“You know what? I’m going to go and talk to him.” I said with a grin. So I caught the lift back down and ran outside.

He was gone.

Despite his inability to ready my clear-as-mud signals, this guy had the right idea. He acknowledged that he’d seen me. His smile wasn’t a drunken or drug-fucked leer. It was a ‘hey, I’m friendly, come talk to me’ kind of smile. It was me that screwed things up and made him think I wasn’t interested.

Why is it that so many guys (me included) look away when you eye them up? Is it embarrassment? Lack of confidence? Lack of Dutch courage? Is it just a case of ‘look, mate, you’re lovely, I’m just not in the mood — I’m late for work/tired/drunk/hungover/had a bad day’?

Who reading this, has ever had the following internal dialogue?

Hmm, he’s looking at me, but I only caught a glimpse of him, so I’m not sure whether I fancy him or not, but if I look and he’s looking back and we make eye contact, he might think I fancy him, in which case I’ll have to look away quickly and I won’t have caught a proper glance at him, which means I’ll have to look again to see if he’s fit or not. But what if I look again and he’s looking and he’s not fit? Then he’s going to think I’m interested! Best I just look at the floor…

…Oh, but what if he’s hot? What if….

And so it goes on.

Seriously, guys. What logic are we using that tells us the best way to let a guy know we’re interested is to look away when he makes eye contact and spend the rest of the night studiously ignoring him?

And who in God’s name made us believe that a scowl is far sexier than a smile? Is it supposed to be enigmatic? Do we think it makes us look moody and sexy? Newsflash: it doesn’t. It just makes you look like a miserable cow.

The only way is to bite the bullet and take a look. At least you won’t have to resort to tracking him down on Manhunt/Gaydar/Facebook three months later to let him know you thought he was hot.

Which brings me nicely to the heady world of online dating.

I recently joined Manhunt, and I’m sorry to say, I’m bored already. Yes, it’s sex at your fingertips (and I’ve made full use of it), but apart from the constant stream of monosyllabic messages saying ‘hi’ or ‘hey’, I’m shocked at the amount of people — really fit guys from my gym or the scene who I’ve previously considered out of my league — who have sent me messages saying “I’ve always thought you were hot.”

Then why haven’t you LOOKED AT or SPOKEN to me before now?!

Why is it that as soon as people get behind the safety of a computer screen, their confidence skyrockets? Why, in the offline world, do guys never have the bollocks to show interest unless they’ve got a belly full of beer or Ecstasy?

And if we apply Manhunt/Gaydar etiquette to the ‘real’ world — who on earth walks up to someone in a bar, flops their dick out onto the bar stool and says ‘hi’?

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are guys out there who can make you feel like a deer in the headlights with their incessant, rabid staring. These über-confident, oversexed guys need to be dealt with equally as confidently.

I had it in the gym the other day while getting changed — this guy was making no secret of the fact that he was checking me out while I towelled off.

I turned to face him, stark-bollock naked (luckily the shower had been warm) and said in a very loud voice “Had a good look, have you?”

Bingo. Instant power shift. Suffice to say he went rather red and went back to getting changed himself — rather quickly, I may add.

It seems we, as gay men are either at one end of the scale or the other. At one end there’s the no-shame, ultra-confident (or desperate) starers, while at the other, there’s the rest of us, who have absolutely no idea how to deal with — or show — attention.

How many missed opportunities go by every week, every day, because people don’t know how what to do when someone flicks an appreciative glance their way?

How many happy relationships have never even begun because both parties opted for ‘bored and disinterested’, when inside they were aching to say hello?

Try it next time you’re out. If you catch a guy looking at you, look back. And for God’s sake — crack a smile. You never know — he could be the man you end up marrying.

Oh, and if by way of fate, this post falls under the nose of sitting-on-the-wall-in-Holborn guy — I’m sorry. I’d love to have a drink sometime…

Written by guy_interrupted

September 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Love, sex and dating

Tagged with , , ,

23 Responses

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  1. I’m definitely the guy that looks at the floor when I see a guy that I think is interesting, I never even know if he’s looking at me or not because I look away that quickly. I think it’s a huge lack of confidence in my part, in that respect.

    I do think that being used to the safety of the computer screen, I feel unprotected in the real world and have no idea how to react, so the computer and online world is only making things worse in my opinion.

    Great post


    September 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm

  2. Great post! I’m pretty much never the guy who gets checked out, but on those immensely rare occasions that it’s happened, I never know what to do with it.


    September 26, 2010 at 3:44 pm

  3. This could not be more spot on if it were attached to a laser guided missile. I can look away that quickly that last time I gave myself whiplash.

    This is the blog of the year. No contest.


    September 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

  4. So true. But perhaps there’s some slack we should cut ourselves because in some places and sometimes, it’s dangerous to boldly check another man out. Having spent a vast majority of my life in such places, it’s tough to erase years of self-protective aloofness.

    And when the pendulum swings the other way as in the online community where it is clearly safe, all foreplay and niceties get thrown out the window because…well, where have we had the chance to practice and develop those skills?

    Anyway, just a thought on how things got that bad from an older dude who lived through the terror. Now even where I live it’s not that bad and we should all start learning how to flirt and approach with more confidence.


    September 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm

  5. I do this all the time. I live in a very straight area, but occasionally there are little glimmers out there in the wilderness. So what do I do? Look away.



    September 26, 2010 at 11:59 pm

  6. If nothing else, this blog post confirms my belief that even the guys that fit the stereotype of what gay society considers attractive think every encounter is all about them.

    It’s amazing how many gym bunnies are just unattractive guys inside who hit the gym to gain attention that they think they deserve because of their ‘great’ personality.

    Perhaps this guy was smiling because he was having a good day, had just read a funny text or just wanted to make the world a more friendly place? The fact he happened to look at you at the same time doesn’t mean it was meant for you…


    September 27, 2010 at 6:10 am

    • Sorry were you reading a different blog post?

      Whether or not the guy was actually smiling in order to attract the writer is irrelevant. The focus was more on our own insecurities. Which if I’m being honest he’s definitely nailed. Someone smiling at me? Cue blush, awkward smile, and a sudden interest in the intricacies of the pavement.

      If you knew the writer you’d know he isn’t the person you’ve attacked. It’s a shame you don’t have the conviction to stand by your own words posting anonymously is pretty lame. But perhaps that reflects more on your insecurities than anything else.


      September 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

    • There’s a perceived stereotype of the arrogant gay man. This is normally attributed to the self-esteem of the person that creates this stereotype.

      For many years, I personally felt intimidated by “the scene”, full of good looking guys that seemed haughty. I felt I looked grim in comparison. I was distant, and uncomfortable, and guys reacted to that negatively. Already my pre-conceived attitude had done the damage.

      Many years on, I feel a bit more self-assured, and while I still think I’ve still not got the best physique, that’s my problem – it’s not the fault of the guy that has worked at it. Chances are, you’ll find that once you shuck off all that, people – like this blogger – are actually quite good people.


      September 27, 2010 at 9:17 am

  7. It’s not just gay guys – the ‘eyes down and blush furiously’ phenomenon is just as prevalent in the straight world…


    September 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

    • It’s really all guys gay or straight who feel and act like that!


      October 24, 2010 at 10:08 pm

  8. To some degree I wish I had this problem. My problem stems from my inability to even register the most obvious advances of other guys – happens all the time. When I’m shopping; merely walking round the city killing time, waiting for someone or out on a night in a bar. Its always my friends who notice people checking me out way before I do and sadly always point it out way past the point of me being able to do anything about… not that I’d be likely to do anything even if was point out to me sooner. Oh confidence, where art thou?

    It was painfully pointed out to me that I was clearly “on fire” in terms of the attention I was courting at Pride recently. Every bar we went into I was apparently checked out but yet again my inability to register this kicked in and I was oblivious to it all. Even on the rare occasions when people actually approach me when I’m out, I’ll eventually come back to which ever group of friends I’m with to be grilled with, “he was seriously hot and was so into you. you better have a number and you better be meeting him”. My usual response is a look of confusion followed by “seriously, you think? I just thought he was being friendly”. Duh, major fail!!

    However, my talent, for lack of better word, does not extend to people checking my friends out or showing interest in them – this I do notice. So I would have to say I agree with the scowling comments. I’m not entirely sure why guys think this is a good look to go for when trying to illustrate in actions their interest in someone. I can never tell whether they’re actually pissed off or just ready to hit someone, rather than actually make initial suggestions of maybe making a move. Or, when you’re checking someone out do something other than just stare – it really can be slightly unnerving, even from a spectator’s point of view. Smiling is always the way to go and cant be mistaken for anything other than what it is – a genuine display of someone’s interest in getting to know you a wee bit better.

    Funny you should mention online dating, given your last blog post I wondering when online dating would surface. Manhunt? Brave move. Not sure I’d have used the word dating when it comes to that site; least not with my experiences with the place, “dating” is clearly NOT the main motivation for the vast majority on that site. And seriously, how many headless people are there in the world with perfectly toned bodies?… If only their faces were as pleasing on the eye as their gym perfected torsos are (although I do stress I’m not that shallow; I appreciate a nice body and face but by god it would be nice for some of them to have something between their ears as well). Personally, I always love the descriptions; well when people bother to say anything about themselves other than “hung, fit n horny”. “straight acting” seems to be a popular one as well. I assume this means they go out, drink way to much beer before hitting someone on the way for an Indian before taking a girl back and sleeping with them (not that I want to pigeonhole anyone based on their sexuality, heavens forbid), because if its not that, then why would any gay man in their own mind want to mimic the actions of a heterosexual?… unless they’re seriously in need of therapy to deal with their “orientation” issues.

    Anyway, I digress. I guess it all really boils down to rejection. No one likes it, however inevitable it is, so to some degree the thought of someone not replying to a message you send or ignoring a wink or track you leave (depending on which site you subscribe too) is easier to digest than approaching some random guy who may or may not be smiling in your direction. Also, over thinking the situation is a major killer to ones confidence. You will literally play ever imaginable scenario out within your mind before you get the confidence kick to simply simile back or say hello, by which point the guy, like the guy in question here, has gone off on his merry way and your left wondering “what if”. I guess there is no real quick fix solution to this one. You’re either the type of person who has confidence enough to go over and chat to someone, or your not and will always be slightly envious of those who can.

    However, if all else fails simply do what I do. File the experience under “was not meant to be” and justify your lack of confidence in being able to approach someone by the fact that if they were that interest in you, then they should have made the first move and come over, instead of just standing their smiling at me. Denial is a useful took when used correctly.


    September 27, 2010 at 11:37 am

  9. I instinctively put this down to a reflex “he might not be gay” reaction. More likely, no one knows what to do with eye contact. It’s not just a gay thing: people can tell others to “go talk to him/her”, but no one really takes their own advice. Learn sign language: you get a whole new perspective on eye contact. It’s fascinating.


    September 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm

  10. On the few occasions that I’ve found someone throwing a furtive glance my way, they’ve normally been generous lesbians with bad breath, convulsive chubby chasers or simply ‘ten-pinters’ to put it mildly. What was that about beggars and choosers? The few times that I’ve gratefully managed to find the other person attractive, my ‘look at the floor whilst frowning and breathing in’ routine is usually due to an inability to communicate with people I find attractive. They render me self conscious to the point where I cannot speak or even look at them. If I do manage to get chatting with them, it’s not unusual for me to foam at the mouth / ramble about odd things / crack terrible jokes or just make random strange noises. I once even made a mooing noise at some bloke who struck up a conversation and started flirting. The fact that I’ve now met a lovely bloke gives hope to all of you out there who are yet to meet Prince Charming (or a smiley chubby bloke who stutters and makes animal noises when nervous).

    Johnny Red Pants

    September 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

  11. Let’s be honest, the only reason he was smiling e.g. gorping, would be he thought you were hot and he was probably horny, and probably on the phone to some guy he was going to hook up with, then he saw you it was just a bit of visual eye candy.

    Don’t worry tho, plenty where that came from on back on Gaydar 😉


    September 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  12. Amazing Post! I am one of those guys who loves getting attention at the club but once I’ve got it, I don’t know how to deal with it. I never make eye contact with anyone and, sadly (and obviously), I never end up chatting with anyone, not to mention getting a number. Anyway, I loved this post. Thanks for sharing.


    October 5, 2010 at 1:45 am

  13. If I were the guy in the coffee shop, I would have stayed hoping to see if you’d come back. *sigh* one can always dream


    October 10, 2010 at 10:26 pm

  14. Ahh can’t believe how true your words are. I spent the whole time thinking it was just me..gotta say, I’m half reassured that it’s a general problem…on the other hand the part of me that was thinking this was just a shy phase is a little disappointed.

    i speak for myself when i say that the whole thing starts with my low self-esteem and sometimes feeling of inferiority. i’ve got many many people making compliments to me and mentioning the values,traits and qualities i seem to have. and i probably dont see it very differently from them. i am conscious of myself. but the question is: how can the conscious me explain to the unconscious me what the conscious already knows? how can i reach deeply to my psychological roots and stop myself from instinctively flinching every time i get a little eye contact?

    does it ever get better?

    p.s. everything you say hits very near home. it’s like hearing myself talk. that’s why i like this blog most of all. keep it up!


    October 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

  15. Most gay men do that, I have looked at some demi-god and lowered my eye’s when I realised he could see me.
    Yet still we are drawn to certain men.
    We deny them the chance and ourselves that moment in time when he really could be the one


    October 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  16. I’m also the guy who looks at the floor when checked out by a guy.

    I just wouldn’t know what to say. What if I read the signals wrong? What if he’s straight, or homophobe?

    When logged in on GayRomeo or DudesNude or whatever, you make clear you can be spoken to. Even when not in the mood, you know you can get contacted. In a normal, non-gay going out stetting, I don’t expect to flirt…


    October 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm

  17. Don´t know if I should laugh or cry when I read this. If you have problems with self-esteem, I am dead in the water. I’m a girl but I can recognize myself in what you say and not at all! I have never liked how I look .. I look like my father and his side of the family: a large, sturdy, pale .. not so girly girl or woman now a days.. and with the problem: I blush easily, it’s not that I get embarrassed easily (with my family? i don´t think so!) but I get red anyway…bad combo…
    Where I live, there is no dating…More: let’s become uncontrollably drunk and get it on in the woods! I don´t drink and I did not meet guys in the woods! Guys like me but Im more of a “good friend”
    But I am sure of one thing: I’d rather be alone than meet guys who are like them my friends live with. Their values are not mine but similar to many of those who are here….. I have a “what if” boy too, David .. god he was cute! We were in a so-called litratur camps at the sametime. The first time I saw him, I thought: No, not one of them, a popular jackass and in the same house .. No. .. BUT he was the nicest and sweetest guy and we laughed uncontrollably for 3 days.. (i remember one of his friends had make-up .. it was the first time I saw a guy with makeup, i was 13-14 old and he was so cool in his black clothes and makeup)
    Met David in the stairs one day; He came from the shower .. in just a towel …D: HELLO! and red-faced me: hi.Good bye. ..But in the end Choosing the girl with hockey hair (long in back, short otherwise)and then she fell asleep in a lecture, he had to wake her,when the key speaker stopt and just lookt at them David was not so happy about it but I was happy about it( Was that bad of me?)


    January 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm

  18. Confession time. I’ve come across you once, must have been about 8 years ago at a club in Brixton I’d never been to before or since, thought you were out of my league and never cracked up a conversation. We did smile at each other though 🙂 Wish I’d read this advice back then!

    At the time I suffered from self-esteem issues, which I am now clear of, without traversing into arrogance. I definitely think this is a self esteem thing. I’d like to think if the same situation presented now, and we were both single (which I’m not any more)… I’d definitely have a crack 🙂


    January 4, 2012 at 12:24 am

  19. This is so true! My friend and I called it ‘Scared Gay Eyes’. We’re from Sydney, but were living in New York last year and noticed it doesn’t happen nearly as much there. Our theory is that Sydney is a smaller scene, people are concerned about their sexual reputation and don’t want to be seen as ‘interested’ or acknowledge any sexual attraction, or any other sort of interest, publicly. It drives me nuts, and the gay world would be a friendlier, more playful place if we got over it. We’re even starting up a Facebook group ‘Scared Gay Eyes: Look Again’ Thanks for the post


    March 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm

  20. Reblogged this on itsAwholeLOADofJD!.


    November 5, 2012 at 6:39 am

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