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The chick with the stink-eye

Imagine a gaggle of girls sitting at a cafe. I say gaggle because the girls are flapping and squawking like they’re popping out eggs. Observing the animated group, one could be forgiven for thinking that the girls are merely enjoying an innocent girlish kinship. But closer inspection reveals the cause for their play. They are staring at a short skirt on a passer-by. And the feathers are flying.

I admit to my own penchant for people watching. Actually it’s a thinly disguised delight in assessing stranger’s wardrobe choices. It’s very rarely conscious, but every now and again, I hear a disapproving ‘I can see what you’re thinking…’ from my manfriend. Naturally, I respond with wide-eyed innocence as the really bad leather jacket fades from my view. But I’m not a convincing liar and it’s obvious I have been caught giving the jacket in question a grade-A stink-eye.

Yes, I know it’s disgusting behaviour, particularly because the person wearing the jacket is probably on their way to donate it to the 1982 time-machine from whence it came. However, in my defence, ‘the look’ really is reserved for truly vile clothes. The ones that should never have been made or worn, even ironically.

As much as it can seem like harmless fun, ‘people watching’ carries risk. What if the wearer of the jacket mistakenly assumes the dirty look is for her? She already had a bad day. Her cat got stuck in the clothes dryer, her car broke down, and she was held up by a band of outlaws on horseback, all before work. She might know karate and have a little painful packet of revenge punches ready to go. Are you prepared for that consequence?!

What if a single look is amplified by three or four similarly outraged friends? They may want nothing more than to assist the beautification of the world through awesome fashion, but all that’s communicated is a bunch of ugly.

I will never forget being condemned by a group of girls enjoying themselves similarly. It happened a very long time ago, when it was still OK to wear oversized daisy sun-hats. I was walking along the street, wearing my favourite stretch blue skirt with gold embossing on the hem when a car full of girls approached behind me. “You’re fat!” one of them yelled as the car screeched past. I looked up in time to catch the eye of one of the girls as she pulled her head back into the blur of laughing faces and flying hair. Regardless of whether the words were meant for me, the judgement destroyed my sense of self-worth that day and tragically I never wore that skirt again.

Watching strangers is one of the great pleasures of life. I have an endless curiosity about my own species and all the freaky and gorgeous differences between us. But, like Macdonalds chocolate fudge sundaes, the sweet goodness needs tempering. It’s a matter of reserving my stink-eye for clothes on shop-window mannequins because they can’t be offended. And remembering that being hen-pecked by a bunch of birds is never fun.



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