Hot, Creepy, and Movie Physics

Lotta chat in the blogospheres that I follow about a new bill going through that (hopefully) tightens up some of the laws on cyberstalking. I feel it’s a good thing. There’s no amount of law-writing that can give overworked cops more time and money to investigate with these things, nor that will convince a certain kind of person to take stalking seriously before the victim ends up in the hospital, but nevertheless, every little bit helps.

The downside–or upside–or maybe just a side about this is the sheer number of people coming forward with their stories about being stalked, and dear god in heaven, that’ll break your faith in humanity quick.

Much quicker, however, is the faith-breaking offered by the not one but two people I’ve seen say “Well, she only found that creepy because he was unattractive–if he was hot, it would have been a sweet romantic gesture!” a statement that makes me want to nip out to Wal-mart and see if you really can buy a shotgun in North Carolina without a waiting period.

Heavens to Murgatroyd, and in this day and age, too.

Most of you know this. All of you know this, probably. You’re cool people. None of the males among you would describe yourselves as Nice Guys ™ and then whine about how your niceness has somehow not caused vaginas to clang open like drawbridges around you, none of the females are doing the female equivalent, whatever that is.  Surely not. You’re much cooler than that.

However, on the off chance that one of you has suffered a severe blow to the head, rendering you a complete amnesiac and you are going through your bookmarks in an effort to reorient yourself in space and time, let me re-iterate–creepy is not a function of how hot you are.

Also attempts to emulate many of the whimsical romantic acts portrayed in chick flicks will get you pepper sprayed, since there are many things that we accept in movies that would be unbelievably freakin’ creepy in real life. Note the way that many decent people kill other people and none of them spend the rest of their lives haunted by guilt and regret, the lack of PTSD in most action hero survivors, etc, etc. Note that many romantic gestures that cause a heroine to melt in a movie, in real life would make the heroine expect to find a dead cat nailed to her door with a love poem attached to it.

Also many guns have recoil, and not all cars explode immediately upon going off a cliff.

Where was I?

Right, right, creepiness. And the inadvisability of using movies as a guide to human behavior. Or physics.

I do not know what makes people creepy. If I did, I would offer classes. However, I do spend a lot of time behind convention tables and I get great fans and normal fans and socially awkward fans…and occasional creeps.

The socially awkward fans are creeps much, much less often than you’d think. Creepy is not a function of being socially awkward, any more than it’s a function of being ugly. (I get ugly fans. I get hot fans. I get attractive fans, which is a category that really has very little to do with the first two. Again, if I knew what made that work, I would offer classes…) Socially awkward is just that–socially awkward, and I have been doing furry and comic cons long enough to know it a mile off, and, seriously…it’s fine. I have seen a lot of variations. There’s I-am-so-excited-I-am-talking-very-fast and that’s fine. There’s I-rehearsed-what-I-was-going-to-say-because-I-am-so-nervous and that’s fine, and when we go off script, which always happens immediately, they usually relax and deal. There’s I-am-just-really-bad-at-social-interactions, too. Yeah, sure, it gets a little painful when I have to deal with somebody with Asperger’s so bad that they can’t make eye-contact and apologize for everything immediately, but that’s only because I feel bad for the person who is so obviously distressed. (There was also the guy who would say something, and then run away. And then return a few minutes later. And say something. And run away. I felt terrible for him, I wanted to say “Stick around, it’s okay!” Otter suggested that he probably had a social anxiety issue and kept getting overloaded and having to go talk himself down, and she was very likely right.)

But these are minor concerns. I have had fans who have taken four years of commissioning me every year to be able to make eye contact with me when they do it, and y’know, it works out. We manage.

Creepy is something else.

If I could quantify it, I would. About all I can say is that there are levels of intimacy we achieve with each other as people over time, and when you try to jump the queue, that’s definitely creepy. (I think this is part of the problem with the big romantic gestures off the bat. You earn the right to those. Those are not a given.)  If you have ever attempted to ingratiate yourself with someone by displaying knowledge of them gleaned from outside research–perhaps in some misguided belief that your friends know this, and I know this, ergo we must be friends!–oh sweet god creepy. (Remind me to tell you about the internet weirdo I inherited some time…)

It should probably go without saying that if you say you’re not trying to be creepy, you have just failed spectacularly.

There’s also something about eye contact and body language in there too, but bugger if I can nail it down for you, except that I know it when I see it. (Too much eye contact is as bad as too little, but probably all I’ve done now is make people who aren’t creepy in the first place worry about their eye contact patterns, so don’t sweat it.)

Please note that at no point in there did I say anything about being hot. Yes, pretty people do sometimes get away with more in this world, that’s the reality we live in and I will tell you no lies–but that’s not the case here. I have known many, many people that I did not find hot, and they were most of them good and decent people, and I have known people who were devastatingly attractive while also having been beaten with the ugly stick–I am dead serious in this, I swear by Ganesh and his rodent handmaidens–and I have known people who had reasonably symmetrical features and who probably took a good photo who were oh-my-god-do-not-want-run-away.

That’ s life. If people find you creepy rather than charming, do not assume it is because they are shallow and want someone who looks like a movie star. Trust me.

Creepy makes you unattractive. Not the other way around.

  • reply Corvus ,

    “…when you try to jump the queue, that’s definitely creepy. (I think this is part of the problem with the big romantic gestures off the bat. You earn the right to those. Those are not a given.) If you have ever attempted to ingratiate yourself with someone by displaying knowledge of them gleaned from outside research… oh sweet god creepy. ”

    Nail. Head. Boom. You have a real knack for that.

    I think one of the things about eye contact and body language relates to a discussion my boyfriend and I had recently re: the difference between just checking someone out, and being damn creepy while checking someone out. I think the defining mark of a creeper re: checking someone out is whether they ever acknowledge that what they are looking at is indeed a person, and not just an object to be stared at.

    Actually, I think a lot of creeper behavior comes down to that. Do your acknowledge you are dealing with a real, independent person who owes you nothing and has a life and interests of hir own, or do you a) act like your dealing with an object or b) treat the person you’re dealing with in a way that definitely says “what you think is not important”.

    Example time: Once, at work, I caught this guy checking me out. When I made eyecontact he immediately responded by laughing sheepishly and said “Sorry! That’s a beautiful costume, though”. He also looked me in the face while saying so. That was not creepy.

    Example two: I caught yet another guy (what can I say, it is a nice costume) staring at me as I worked. This time, when I gave him the “Yes?” look, I not only had to duck down to his eye level to get him to acknowledge I was more than a pair of boobs, he responded by waving a hand dismissively, saying nothing, absolutely REFUSING to look up from my boobs… and he stood there, silently, and waited for me to continue working so he could continue oogling. The impression I got was “How dare a person interrupt me from staring at this object!” and that was creepy as all hell.

    /ramble

    • reply kat ,

      The female version that I have encountered is a sort of… obsessive and misplaced motherliness, maybe? Usually starts with nosiness and unsolicited advice — creepy only in that the person will have no understanding of what subjects are off limits, and will completely ignore any attempts you make to communicate “I am not discussing this” — and moving on, if allowed, to total control over all actions, opinions, and basically your entire life. The rages, if you (say) do not like a tv program they’ve told you to, are ugly, manipulative, terrifying things.

      Doesn’t have to be sexual. I have a nasty flinch reflex due to a couple of women like this in my past, and I am both female and very straight. Both the women were straight; one was in a relationship. It seems to be more a control thing.

      The “treating the other person as an object” and “jump the emotional queue” and “display knowledge they really shouldn’t have about you” aspects of the creepy remain constant.

      • reply Haro ,

        Sadly, Ursula, while I agree with your stance on the issue wholeheartedly, I have to point out that there’s a rather sizable portion of the female population who really WOULD consider a hot guy acting like a total stalker to be the most romantic thing ever and desperately wish that a guy would do that for them in real life.

        They are called Twilight fans. And I’m not making a joke or a dig at Twilight, either. These are the same types of women who think “Every Breath You Take” is a romantic song and not, say, hideously creepy. (Seriously, it’s the most stalker-tastic song I’ve ever seen.)

        I am thankful that most women are not quite this… dense, but the sizable minority still bears mentioning.

        • reply Atrus ,

          What Haro said. It is also very dangerous when it’s the people around the victim that think that “if he’s hot it’s not creepy”, as they might end up helping a stalker (or worse, rapist) get his way because they think he’s just so sweet and caring.

          • reply Creature SH ,

            Thank you so much for taking the time to point these things out in written form. They should all be common sense or at least a matter of just a bit of life experience, but they seem to woosh right over far too many heads out there.

            • reply Ian ,

              Wonderfully written post. It’s not often somebody can capture in words, our wordless gut reactions to social situations.

              The “jumping the intimacy queue” line is very apt. I would note that this goes both ways: it’s also creepy to reveal a lot about yourself immediately. The creepiest woman I’ve ever met told me, after nothing but introductions and weather chat, that she had just got over cancer and out of a bad relationship. “Now you are socially obligated to comfort me, which will produce intimacy.”

              In fairness to the gender skew, that’s the one & only example of a female creep I could muster.

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