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Attention: You're Being Scanned

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 23/02/2016 Kathryn Atkins

I call it the once-over. It's an art perfected by women of all ages. I've actually seen little girls as young as 3 doing it in the grocery store and at birthday parties. I don't know when we learn it, but we do. I've decided it's one of the few instincts left in human beings, as I have never personally seen an animal do this to another animal because dogs, as an example, have another way of checking each other out. The once-over is as I said, evidenced in very little girls and is buckled onto them as clearly as their shiny black Mary Janes. It's a quick flick of the eyes. Swipe -- it's done. Well guys do it too but somehow it's not the same, is it?

When you're the "scan-ee" on the receiving end, it's like an ultra fast, but vertical airport scanning experience. It's as if you had been blown through a metal detector or an x-ray machine at a speed (literally) of the blink of an eye. Nothing is quite as penetrating or quite as disarming when you're on the receiving end.
You can almost feel it.
2016-02-15-1455578354-7904087-photodune4439907beautifulwomancoversmouthwithhands.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-02-15-1455578354-7904087-photodune4439907beautifulwomancoversmouthwithhands.jpg Meanwhile, as the scan-er, your goal is to attain the most detailed level of examination without getting caught: You have to perform the scan so the victim doesn't see you doing it. But your target knows -- she feels it just as you feel it when it's done to you. So you try to pretend you're not, and she tries to pretend she's not. Sometimes, though, the worst thing happens. Your eyes lock on the other woman's eyes, your timing just right or just wrong, so that her down-and-up scan and your down-and-up scan coincide exactly, and you're both caught in the act. You each look away, sometimes blushing lightly, pretending you hadn't been doing what you were doing, although your arm might as well be shoulder length in the cookie jar. It's a time-honored contest -- a battle of speed and cunning. You try to take in as much as you can as quickly as you can before she sees you're looking. She's doing the same thing, and the game is afoot.

What are we looking for?
We take in fabrics, nail color, skirt length, stocking runs (if they're wearing any), unbuttoned buttons, falling hems, fashion statements, style gaffes. We look for hair length, hairdos, and grey hairs. We look at jewelry and accessories: hats, scarves, belts, glasses, shoes and purses. We look to see if they match or not, and try to see if they're name brands or rip-offs. We are curious and catty all at the same time. The problem is, sometimes you don't know whether she's looking because you look good, or because you look horrible. "Did I wear the wrong thing?" always runs through your panicked mind. You look down to make sure you have the same color shoes on. (Been there. Done that. They weren't.)

Looking at what people are wearing is fun. We do it unconsciously. Sometimes it's mean, mostly it's a game, and in some circles it means war. It's all of those things. Just don't get caught. It's embarrassing.

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