"If you go to the beach, and you're totally dressed like you're going to Fashion Valley -- like Cheesecake Factory, with your blond hair all styled, and perfectly manicured, and pink and light blue -- people aren't really going to give you the eye-contact thing. They're just kind of, like, 'What are they doing here?' You know? But when I come out with my ripped jeans and my old T-shirt and my hair's all messy and I'm in my flip-flops, I think people on the beach are more likely to feel comfortable approaching me.
"I mean, a really good example was when I went to a Gwar show downtown -- they're like heavy metal with puppets, and they spray the crowd with blood -- and I was dressed in really cute tight jeans and a white tank top, and everyone else there was dressed in black with studs and piercings. So I was like the blond person in the white shirt, and everyone else was looking at me like, 'Huh?' So I was a little bit less comfortable making eye contact with these people, because the situation was intimidating. I was different from everyone else.
"I've noticed the guys in San Diego seem a little intimidated, too. I don't know if they think the girls are out of their league or what. But sometimes I'll make eye contact with a guy, and you know he's checking you out, but he won't come up to initiate conversation. It's really weird. Even if you maintain eye contact for a couple of seconds, and it keeps happening, that person won't even come up and initiate conversation with you. And that's weird. Maybe I'm intimidating to them. I don't know."
Sandie Zuniga, 25, lives in Bonita. From San Diego, just moved back from Michigan after going away to college.
"Usually, I say, 'Hi,' and I smile as people go by. I think it's normal to make some friendly acknowledgment. But in certain other settings, it might be different. If I thought a guy was checking me out, and I wasn't really interested, then I probably would avoid looking back at him. Or like now -- I'm sitting here studying, and I'm more involved in what I'm doing, so I might be less receptive to eye contact.
"But I would say that most people around here are generally pretty friendly. If you're walking down the street or standing in line or doing something in an open social situation, people will smile back, and you can have that moment of 'Hey, what's up' and acknowledging each other.
"So I do generally smile and acknowledge people who walk by, although I certainly don't go around checking people out and doing the whole 'Hey, smile, checking you out' thing. I think if a guy is blatantly checking me out and doing it in a way that's not just friendly and considerate, then I would be a little more standoffish. And I would say, in general, if I'm in a situation where I don't want to be hit on, then I'm not going to be as inviting."
Marylin Haidri, 21, lives in Hillcrest. Three years in San Diego, from Northern California.
"I usually never make eye contact. I'm usually pretty shy. Passing by people in the street, I always look at their knees. I always thought I was unusual because I have so much trouble with eye contact. I've been trying to work on this. I even tell my friends to sit across the table and stare at me and see how I do with it.
"I feel badly that I'm so scared of eye contact, but it's just so intimate. Eyes are very expressive, and I feel that when I look at someone, maybe they can read a little bit of what's going on in my head. It's a scary thing to do.
"I'd be really embarrassed if a guy was looking at me. And I'd only check out a guy if I was pretty sure he wasn't looking back.
"One thing I've noticed about eye contact in San Diego is on the college campuses, no one looks at each other. It's like everyone's in their own little bubble. You're isolated moving through a crowd. You glance, and everyone's staring straight ahead, either over everyone's head or down at their knees like I do. I've been on a lot of campuses around town, and it's more or less the same at all of them."
Michael Marchand, 23, lives in Pacific Beach. Six years in San Diego, from Ukiah, California.
"I might try to establish eye contact with a girl. Depends whether I'm interested in her or not. Probably I'd exchange just general pleasantries, a smile, a nod, a slight wave. Real brief. Just fleeting glances up and down. But never a straight stare-down. For instance, now I'm eating a bagel, and perhaps I'd take a bite and just kind of look around. Take a glance until perhaps the glance is received back in my direction.
"More often than not, I think eye contact is returned. Perhaps not in a provocative sense, but usually just kind of like a pleasant 'hey.' I think people here in San Diego do that, in general. Not as much as where I grew up, but Ukiah was tiny, and everyone knew everybody, so there weren't a lot of random people. But I also lived in Spain for a year, and I would say San Diegans are generally more pleasant when it comes to general niceties such as just saying, 'Hey, what's up.' More than Europeans, and I lived in San Francisco for a year, too, and I'd say more than San Francisco as well. San Diego just seems to be a little warmer than the Bay Area or Madrid.
"But I've also been privy to being ignored or not looked at by girls in this town, although I can't say that I've been damaged by it, but I'm definitely aware of it. And it makes you feel a little slighted, like, what's the problem with just being friendly? If I don't know someone, then I try to be as cordial as I can be, as a rule. I do feel that I'm more apt to be friendly and responsive to slight gestures than others are, and it kind of bugs me. I've seen a lot of that 'committed/not-responding' stuff, and it makes me wonder. I like people, but it seems a lot of people don't, and they prefer isolation, which is an attitude I'm not used to."