Perfecting the Bostonian Stink Eye

There’s nothing quite like a Monday morning. Determined to press forward with a good attitude, despite limited sleep and still longing for the comfort that is my pillow, I decide I will conquer the Monday morning blues. And then, I step off the subway and I am greeted by none other than the high heels and designer knockoff suit worn by someone adept at doling out the Boston Stink Eye!

Tour books of the Boston area are generally missing an important section – that of explaining the Boston stink eye. While old buildings, history, beautiful parks, and glimpses of Betsy Ross are part of the Boston experience, it will be the odd visitor that doesn’t also experience what I call the stink eye. To be sure, other places may have this, but they certainly haven’t perfected it the way the Bostonian has.

To explain the stink eye, I would love a video clip. There is, in fact, an online dictionary entry (not limiting the eye to Boston) that describes it this way: “a facial expression of disgust, disdain, or disapproval” but I’d like to expand on that limited definition.  It’s a particular look and it comes in two ways. One is when the eyes of someone are staring right at you, but through you, as though you don’t exist. You are, in a moment, reduced to an ant that can be squished. The second is more obvious – the eyes begin at your feet and slowly travel up your body with disdain, stopping to make eye contact, curl the lips and go back down the body again. It is not pretty. While both types hurt, the latter has the ability to fluster more and sometimes reduces the recipient to tears.

For a long time I thought it was me. That somehow I had that peculiar ability to bring out mockery or disdain. I questioned what I was doing wrong and wondered how I could keep up with the unspoken rules of Boston. And then I realized something big. It isn’t me! It’s part of Boston. Along with the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, New England Clam Chowder, coastal beauty, Paul Revere, the North End, and the State House – it’s as much a part of Boston as those more lovely and picturesque things.

So what to do with the stink eye? Passers through can cope because their focus is on other things, but for those of us that move here and, like damn Yankees, stay, it is a more difficult dilemma. The old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans” or “If you can’t beat them, join them”  and there you have it. I have learned with the best of them and I now know how to give a good old self-esteem reducing Boston stink eye.  Scary, isn’t it? I never thought I would stoop to this, but it’s survival of the fittest and fit I have become.

The good news about all this is that I never, ever use this on tourists and visitors. I reserve it for the Bostonian. The more Bostonian they seem, the better my stink-eye. Critics may condemn, but only until they have experienced this for themselves. After that we’ll talk.