Who are you looking at?

7 Sep 2020

Walking back from the shops, I thought what a field day Desmond Morris would have if he was alive. Older Moodscopers will recall the excitement and controversy that surrounded the publication of “The Naked Ape”.  


The significance of facial and body movements in ape and man gave us all a chance to play at amateur psychology. I recall chatting to a young man, when some girls laughingly pointed out the hidden message in his stance  (legs apart, thumbs tucked into belt, like Paul Hollywood). He blushed, as did I.  


Who are you looking at?

Now, our body movements are becoming less fluid and easy, as we try to keep  distance. In shops and other places half our faces are covered. Is this affecting feedback to the brain, and our mood towards each other? The bit of chat one would previously have had with the shop staff or customers in the queue has stopped. For some, this would have been the only conversation of the day. I can’t get out fast enough, to remove the mask and wipe the sweat from my face.  


A lady I was talking to has been welcoming the return to school for her two children. Now she may refuse, and it has nothing to do with fear of Covid. Her kids are aged 8 and 11, open friendly youngsters who confidently chat with  peers and adults alike. A letter from the school suggests that the wearing of masks for the pupils is being considered,  she fears this will have a bad effect on their emotional well-being. I very much agree.  


I have noticed that people make far less eye contact when muzzled. Eye contact is often the cue for other interactions, a smile, a scowl, a greeting. I thought texting and phoning had affected how we react to each other, but masks take it to a new level altogether. It  gives me a taste of what my Aspergers partner must experience. He has difficulty recognising some people as it is, and as for reading emotions from their facial expression, forget it. A common conversation between us might go “How did he seem?” “Er, ok I suppose, why?” “Well, was he cheerful and friendly?” “How should I know, ask him yourself!” 


I made some small mistake following the  supermarket arrows , nearly bumped into a couple. It was impossible to tell from their faces if they were cross, were the eyebrows raised in annoyance or shared fellow-feeling? All the tiny facial movements that diffuse irritation are hidden. Given the level of belligerence that seems to be around at present, I can imagine trouble arising. I gather the car park at the local supermarket is now the scene of regular shouting matches and rude gestures.  


I have been looking at Covid masks that have silly animal faces. I think I will get one. It may raise a smile, you never know. Maybe if I transgress people will think, ”Oh bless, look, she’s a harmless eejit with a piglet mask”. Then again, there is one with a fierce snarling Gorilla, would that keep me safe from the angry brigade?  


Oh Brave New World!    


A Moodscope member.

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