Eye Contact with Strangers

Georg Zimmel’s belief that the “blasé attitude” is a symptom of self-preservation subsist even a hundred years after having made the claim, however due to gender disparities this mentality has evolved in separate yet similar directions. First off, one must acknowledge that Georg Zimmel’s argument stems from the perspective of a man at the turn of the twentieth century.  Interestingly enough, his perception of the implications a city has on the subjective self sustain, despite the onslaught of modernity.  Undeniably, there is a conditioned indifference many adopt in a city which triggers the tunnel vision so heavily relied upon to navigate the streets.  Zimmel justifies in his work, “The Metropolis and the Mental Life,” how this mindset is a repercussion of incessant stimulus, what he fails to shed light on, however, is how the experience may differ according to gender.  Men are more apt to rely on what Zimmel refers to as the “matter of fact” (4) attitude which fuels the “money economy” with its impersonal embrace towards “social intercourse” (4).  This mindset proves indispensable in the financial world, where money “reduces all quality and individuality to the question: how much?” (4) Furthermore the crowd of competition feeds the stipulation for specialization, as it is crucial to seem indispensable in the economic “arena of struggle.” (17) Women exhibit similar behavioral tendencies, however the reasoning behind their self-preservation is rooted in a skepticism stemming from socialization.  The burden of uterus and fragility of femininity necessitates a reserved nature often times disguised as distrust.  Unfortunately, such a demeanor elicits an isolation that renders one susceptible to loneliness.  This claim comes from personal experiences I myself have had in New York.  As I cut through the streets littered with strangers, I’ve learned to avert my eyes.  However, last week I made accidental eye contact with a man standing outside a dry cleaner.  I thought little of it, and continued on my way.  Four blocks later, he came up behind me, panting, asking where I was going and if he could follow.  It took me three more blocks to impress upon him my disinterest. The man’s behavior was inappropriate, but would have been alarming if it were to have happened during the night.  This experience unveiled the irony of the human condition. Women, by and large, invest hours into their appearance in hopes of grabbing the interest of others.  The unfortunate reality is that females are inclined to view themselves through the eyes of others.   Amid a sea of faces, a woman’s desire to draw attention to herself constructs an interesting paradox. This species of specialization is perhaps rooted in our evolutionary impulse to procreate.


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