We have all heard the tune from back yonder, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” and been transposed to the days of our youth. Back when innocence prevailed or at least it did on T.V. and we lived a life of “purity.” That has come to a screeching halt…that of no surprise…to those of you reading today. We continue to be fascinated with those around us, the scandals they embroil themselves with, and the filthy gossip we bat around like a good ole fashion spat between Robin Givens and Mike Tyson. The dirtier, scarier, filthier it is…the better! Right?
Seeing others flail about is fun…right? Taking me away from my own reality feels like a gift from the Gods…right? Giving me pause, for entertainment purposes, is a way of giving back for the hard work and pain I have endured…right? Which brings me to a classic example of gawking that I just have to share…
The other night I was driving downtown Nashville with my fiance when we past the Hustler store (on of all streets, “Church Street”) when we noticed a gentlemen staring or should I say gawking through the plate-glass windows. As we sat at the red light, we both took notice at the level of commitment or should I say intensity with which this gentlemen peered into the candy store for adults. We both looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, “He looks Normal” as if to say he didn’t look like a stereotypical weirdo. Shocking no…surprising yes….
…and it got me thinking about this fascination with what is just beyond our reach. It also had me thinking about whether or not it was gender specific or driven by idiots. Was it something that only degenerates do or was this display of sultry desire a mere expression of hormones going askew? And, if gawking at negligees is Normal or accepted, what other ways do we ALL gawk at life and what assumptions do we lather onto the object of affection and/or disgust?
If men gawk does it turn women off? If women gawk do men feel mighty? Does it lessen one and uplift the other? Is it different if you are single and are “gawked” at? Does it sometimes feel good to stop others in their tracks with what you have done or what you look like? And, are there different forms of gawking that are unacceptable, equal, and/or just different? Would we consider tabloid journalism gawking? If so, then are we all guilty of the sinful pleasure of gawking through a news rack?
Which brings us to the most appropriate and timely example….that of Mr. Tiger Woods. Millions probably watched Tiger’s apology today and formed immediate opinions. Many have been fascinated to gawk, I mean watch, the unraveling of an American icon. Now for many of you, this is an example of entertainment—not gawking. For some of you, like writers in the Golf world, boycotting is the approach of the day and for others it is mere water cooler talk.
Either way it presents as a perfect example for us to consider. Why is it that others successes and failures are far more entertaining and interesting than our own lives? Why do we get significant pleasure in the unattainable? Why do we want to bear witness (my apologizes to Lebron James) to salacious, scandalous, and murderous activities?
I must admit that I am the first to gawk at death on a Saturday night or two when I watch 48 Hours Mystery. I will say out loud that I am ready to, “…see dead people.” I say it with pleasure for entertainment and for my (I know I am not alone in this) desire to test out my detective skills.
I am not proud of my “gawking” and I want to continue to understand it. I think we would all do ourselves a favor by asking what it is that we gawk at and what are we truly going after. What lessons are we teaching our kids? How will they know when to intervene or will they just practice group-think and gawk with others when someone is in need?
Just recently a young girl was beaten in front of security personnel in Seattle and received no assistance or protection. Why did gawkers not turn into helpers?
Gawking can begin innocently. Gawking can merely be wishful thinking. The problem is that it sets the stage for an overall approach to life…One that places us on the sidelines of life assuming and placing judgment on people and circumstances outside of our purview and probably pay grade. Think about what you are gawking at and think even harder about the respect you are displaying to yourself and the younger generation looking for acceptable role models.