Don't make me look at you.

You may not know this about me, but I'm quite shy. Yes, I know. Shocker.

In large groups, I'm the one who observes the action and laughs when appropriate (i.e. when everyone else laughs.) My freshman-year public speaking class was more terrifying than a room full of butterflies. I think my heart actually stopped once. Or maybe I just had the hiccups. Regardless, s-c-a-r-y.

What gene am I missing? And who can I blame it on? Somehow Mom and Dad forgot to add in a bit of the "ability-to-speak-before-more-than-three people-at-once-and-not-turn-bright-red" gene. Gee, thanks.

I mean, honestly. My palms sweat. My cheeks flush. I stutter. Say the wrong thing. But there is one thing worse than speaking before a group - and butterflies, maybe. And that thing is eye contact. Whoa.

Something about eye contact frightens me beyond belief. You wait. If you know me, take notice next time you talk to me live in-person. I'll look anywhere: your forehead, that spot on the wall, your shoulder, my hands. Anywhere but your eyes. I get a creepy feeling. As if the person looking at me can see everything that's running through my mind, and I just cannot have that. What if at the exact minute we're speaking, I'm wondering to myself what I'll wear to work the next day? Or when the conversation will end?

I mean, really. I think eye contact is a direct link to the soul. And quite frankly, I don't want you to see mine.

It's much too intense. Nerve-wracking. And now that I'm writing this "aloud" for everyone to read, I realize how bizarre it is. There are exactly three opportunities when it's appropriate for me to look someone in the eyes:

1) that, like, .8 seconds before a kiss (but even then is subject to negotiation)
2) a staring contest (I always lose. Always.)
3) and when I'm exactly 159,087 percent comfortable with a person (that list is quite short. And, I think, consists only of Mom, Dad and my Sister)

You know that feeling you get when you're in a crowded room, glancing around, people watching? Suddenly you connect glances with a stranger, and you're slightly embarrassed for looking? Instantly, you both look away. That's how eye contact feels to me all the time. I don't know why. I can't explain it. But I promise I mean no harm.

I need to just walk around in sunglasses like that kid in Big Daddy who wore them to be "invisible" because he was shy. Then I could make all the eye contact in the world and no one has to know. It's like being a kid, thinking that shutting your eyes real tight would hide you from the bogeyman. If I can't see it, it can't see me.

Instead of my soul, people would see their own reflection staring back from my aviator sunglasses. And that, friends, is a little more amusing.