staring into space in the presence of others

I’M A WRITER and ideas come unbidden throughout the day and night. If they’re good, they can keep me staring into space while I ratiocinate my through them. I have learned to cease and desist whatever I’d doing if these ideas come at an inopportune time, like when I am doing something that could be potentially dangerous. But the rest of the time I just let the ideas have their way.

The owner told me that he had complaints about my staring at women except that I don’t “stare” at women.

When I do let those ideas run wild, I often cease doing whatever I’m doing and just sort of gaze into nowhere and stare into space. My eyes appear fixed on something, but I’m not consciously focused on anything other than the idea.

A few years ago, I belonged to a gym for “serious” body-builders,  not for those seeking social contact as part of their workout.

Needless to say, I knew that any exercise involving handling weights was potentially dangerous, so when an idea came I stopped the exercise.

I did these whether I was using free-weights,  a Nautilus machine, or sometimes even when just stretching.

I would keep running if that’s when it occurred, running being a great method of cogitation-inducer. So, needless to say, I often phased out of my workout (I know—not good for the workout) and stared at nothing at all.


Staring at what?!!?

One day, the owner of the gym approached me and wanted a chat. He told me that he had received “several” complaints from the few women who worked out at that gym concerning my staring at them.

I had no idea what he was talking about because I don’t stare at women. I may flirt shamelessly with them but I don’t stare at them. At no time did the owner consider that there might be an alternative explanation for my “staring.”

Nor did he brook any argument or explanation from me. It was a warning that came with an implied threat that should I continue making the women uncomfortable I would have my membership canceled.

Can staring into space create a sexually hostile workout environment?

It actually to me a few days to figure it out, that I was staring into space, wrapped in thought. But I never addressed the topic with the owner again. Nor did I allow myself to stare there, as it was now a potentially dangerous activity.

And, like Carrie Bradshaw, I had to ask: Can staring into space create a sexually hostile workout environment?

I am sharing this because once again here in America we seem to go through an almost ritual-like series of sex-based witch-hunts. Lawdy Miss Clawdy, but some of them would be hi-bloody-larious if they didn’t make so much carnage, often to innocent bystanders.

Whether it’s the molestation of children in pre-schools or the rape of older children “discovered” through recovered memory therapy, we sure have some doozies here that rarely occur anywhere else on this planet. All well-intentioned, all catastrophes.

And we seem to be in the midst of another one that presumes guilt and bowls over anyone foolish enough to suggest caution  . . .

Doctored photo of a person staring into a way too close nebula at night.


This essay was originally published in 2013 as “Navel Gazing in the Presence Of Others,” which is weird because I never think of myself as navel-gazing, nor do I use the term in conversation. I have polished it up a bit and tacked a few paragraphs onto the end as it makes it more relevant.