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The Eyes Have it
Our eyes may or may not be he windows of our souls, but they are certainly our most eloquent instruments of communication, and in sexual chemistry they are the most important. That first spark is struck though the eyes. There is an instant of recognition, a moment that tells you that what you see is good, that here is someone very special, someone you would like to know, or someone who arouses you sex therapy perhaps someone you could understand and who, in turn, could understand you.
All that in a single second of eye contact, but beyond that recognition factor there is the Metacommunication that takes place with eye contact. At a large cocktail party recently, we ran into an old friend, a very attractive young woman. After the usual "How have you been?" And "What's new?" we asked, "Are you free after the party? Perhaps we could have dinner. "
She nodded across the room. "Do you see that tall blond guy there, the one talking to our hostess? Well, I'm leaving with him."
"A nice-looking fellow. Have you known him long?" "Long?" She laughed. "I never met him. I haven't even talked to him yet. It's just one of those things. You know, 'across a crowded room'.."
"You're picking him up without a word?" "It's mutual. You watch." And we did. While neither approached the other, there were plenty of significant looks, and about a half hour later our friend caught the blond stranger's eye, looked at the clock, then glanced at the apartment door. Then she gave us a smile, collected her coat, said good-bye to the hostess, and went out the door. With impeccable timing, the blond stranger had managed to be there and leave with her at just that moment, and all, to our delight, without a word being spoken.
It was clearly a case of the simplest and the most eloquent body language. The eye contact to feel each other out came first. For every situation there is a moral looking time. That is the length of time you can hold someone's eye and still be with the bounds of propriety. Violate that time by even a second and you send a message. The message is usually I am interested in you.
How long is the moral looking time? It varies from no time at all in an elevator to an extremely long time when you are addressing an audience. The important fact is that each of us knows the moral looking time for ever situation, if not instinctively, then by learning, even as we know the spoken language. Looking times are part of the vast, unspoken body language we use constantly, and they vary from culture to culture. In some African cultures they extravagantly long, in the northern cultures rather short.
By catching the blond stranger's eye and holding eye contract for long than the permitted time, my friend was saying I like you and setting in motion her own brand of Sexual chemistry She used her eyes first to size him up and then to transmit a message. In turn, as an indication that the sexual chemistry was working, her pickup allowed that lengthened eye contact.
If he had broken it off he would, in effect, have been saying I am not interested, and that would have been that. But he was interested, and sexual chemistry was ignited, and he not only held her gaze but also returned it at other opportunities, and he added another signal- a smile.
Oh, that smiles, that ubiquitous, exquisitely useful smile! It said not only I am interested but also I like what I see. I want to pursue this flirtation a bit further, and she, knowing the silent language, returned the smile.
The final message, after almost an hour of flirtatious eye contact, was the glance at the clock and then at door. It said, as plain as words, and away we go.
"Why didn't you simply go up to him after the initial eye contact?" I asked her a few days later, when she was telling me what a wonderful evening she had had and all the plans the two of them were making. "Or for that matter, why didn't he come up to you? My God, it was a cocktail party, where you're supposed to talk to other guests.
She grinned rather wickedly. "Because this was more fun. This was sharing a secret the two of us had. We both knew something was simmering from that first moment, but we wanted to prolong it, to stretch it out as long as possible. It's little like foreplay. The longer it goes on the more exciting the climax. We didn't say a word going down in the elevator, and I waited while he hailed a cab, and it was only then.. well, that started it."
"Oh no," I corrected her. "Your first look started it!" And that first look always does- if it's to be started at all. If one person ignores the initial eyes contact, nothing will happen, but if that person accepts the challenge- and it is a challenge- for any reason at all, there is a chance that sexual chemistry will take place.
Now the same two people who in one situation may react very strongly may in another, with nothing changed except that initial moment of contact, never react at all. If this is so, we have to reconsider sexual chemistry and realize that it is, to get back to our original chemical analysis, a reaction that needs the proper stimulus.
With inorganic chemicals, that stimulus could be heat, electricity, and water; with sexual chemistry, a stimulus is also necessary. It can be eye contact, or any one of a number of elements we will consider more carefully in later chapters: general body language, clothes, the Image Projection, meta communication, power, vulnerability, and many others. Any one of these elements or a combination of them, can initiate the reaction. With my friend at the cocktail party it was eye contact. With Stephanie it was a smile.
The Ubiquitous Smile
Stephanie, a clinical psychologist with two nubile daughters, told us she had a lot of trouble getting through to her children. "Of course, everyone has," she said. "It's the name of the parenthood game. As a psychologist I should know that. But now my girls are beginning to go to school dances, not yet dating, you know - they're fourteen and fifteen, and they go out in groups. Anyway, they would come home from the dances devastated, swearing they'll never go to another. 'None of the boys talk to us or look at us!' That's their most common complaint, and of course it's nonsense, as I realized when I went to one dance to pick them up. They're very attractive, and all the boys look at them but that's as far as it .
"That night I sat them down and said, 'before I met Daddy I was like you two girls. I'd go to parties or dances and never have a boy say more than one or two words."
"They looked at me appraisingly, for the first time prepared to listen seriously to the old lady from another generation. 'Do you know why?' I asked them, and they shook their heads. 'Because I was dumb enough to think that if I showed the boys how clever I was, how bitterly ironical and cynical I could be, they'd be overwhelmed by my intellect. So when one tried to talk to me, I'd look at him coldly and come up with a brilliant one-line that was snotty and superior.'
"I saw their faces get that grudgingly intent look. 'What happened?' "I shrugged. 'They'd back off and leave me alone, and I'd go home and cry. Then one night- I don't know why- a boy came up to me, and instead of cutting him down I smiled at him. What a revelation! It was instant attraction. For the first time I danced every number and had the sense to keep my brilliant wit under wraps.'"
"Did your girls accept your advice?" Stephanie laughed. "Not then, of course. It was 'Oh, Mom!' and the eyes rolled up to the ceiling, but I notice they've stopped complaining about dances, and they're getting a lot of phone calls from boys, and they keep telling me about these sudden, wild crushes of theirs - your Keeping Sexual Chemistry Alive, I guess. "