I was at the gym the first time I realized that my eye-contact avoidance was working against my dating game. One of the cute trainers approached me in the elevator. “I saw you yesterday,” he said. “I tried to say hello to you, but you ignored me.”
My face burned with embarrassment. I had seen him the day before, too, and even though I could feel him looking at me, I couldn’t look bring my eyes up to his. “I must have been in my own world,” I lied, knowing I had just been hiding behind my sunglasses.
In that moment I began to wonder how my interactions with guys I was interested with would change if I made more of an effort to look them in the eye. How many guys had "nevermind"-ed me because my gaze showed that my interest was not in them? If I had looked at the cute trainer instead of away, what would he have said to me? Thanks to a downward gaze and big sunglasses, I would never know.
Living in New York City is a perfectly terrifying, place to practice making eye contact, but I was up for the challenge. I started to do things like taking off my sunglasses when I was inside, and looking around the bar instead of huddling up with my girlfriends. It felt really strange, but I kept at it.
I began to notice that when it came to my dating game, avoiding eye contact made me feel safe, and looking guys in the eye made me feel super vulnerable. Eye contact in a bar situation kinda felt like making the first move!
But, something interesting happened. As I opened myself up and made more eye contact with guys, they’d look back at me, giving me two choices: Keep staring like a deer in headlights, or smile.
I (mostly) went with option two. Sometimes the guy would smile back and then go back to whatever he was doing, and sometimes the guy would smile back, say hello, and things would progress.
I quickly saw that avoiding eye contact can be a defense mechanism for me — a way of keeping myself from being rejected — but as my eye contact increased, so did the connections I made with potential suitors. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my single-girl insecurities and I forget that guys are also trying to figure out who’s interested in them. I have so many expectations and dating standards for guys, I think its only fair for me to put myself out there a bit too.
Even in my current relationship, just taking a second to look at him and smile connects us in a way that I love. So, the next time you see a guy or girl you’re interested in, make eye contact. If you’re a feeling extra gutsy, smile too. It may be uncomfortable at first, but for me, the payoff is always worth it.
On her blog, Plus Size Princess, CeCe Olisa has detailed everything from what it's like to be the only big black girl in a yoga class (fine, thanks!), to her adventures in plus-size dating in the Big Apple. Now, the New York City transplant is lending her poignant, often-hilarious voice to R29.