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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Cowboy Code: Chapter Eight (I think) - The acceptable second look

So with all this talk about being sprung and what not, I thought I'd offer the latest chapter of The Cowboy Code: the unofficial guide to man behavior and motivation. And let me preface this by saying I'm not doing this 'cause I'm in the dog house. I don't believe in dog houses, except for real, literal canines. But if I did believe in 'em, I'm not in one. Mrs. B and I are just fine, and we keep it that way in part because I have no problem sharing with her the sacred contents of The Cowboy Code. It is the grown-up version of The Chictionary, a guide I lived by in college.

That being said, in a couple of earlier posts I've briefly mentioned guys looking at other women in public. Usually it came up 'cause we saw some other guy doing it and not even trying to hide it, and we got a laugh out of that. Naturally, those situations led to me being asked if I ever look.

My answer was that yes, all straight men look at other women. I didn't say we all lust after other women - apples and oranges. But we do all look. And any straight man who says he never looks is a liar, and his pants are on fire. And if your trousers are "burning" you need to see a doctor, because you've probably been doing more than looking.

But the look has different incarnations, one good, one bad:
  • The innocent look - You are, for example, standing in the mall staring straight ahead, zoning out as you wait for your wife (or girlfriend, etc.) to finish browsing a rack of clothing, and suddenly another woman walks across your line of sight. Instinctively you focus and you look. It could have been a juggling chimp or an elephant on a unicycle crossing your line of sight. You look, because something interesting caught your eye. It doesn't matter whether you like or dislike what you see, whether you find the other woman attractive or not. It matters that you don't put much thought into it and that the look does not turn into a stare.
  • The heat seeker - You are, for example, standing in the mall waiting for your wife to finish browsing the same rack of clothing and you take advantage of the "opportunity" by swiveling your neck like a periscope, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever is in your range. You do this, because you know your wife (or girlfriend, etc.) is not paying attention and you can get away with it. Tsk, tsk.

So here's the deal ladies: The problem is not the look, because we all know the first look can be innocent. As I explained to the missus, who I'm certain thinks I'm insane, the problem is the second look and, more importantly, why that second look is taken.

If, for example, the second look is taken 'cause a guy is so wowed by the other woman that he has to see more, more, more, that is a bad second look. It usually turns into staring and ogling. Most guys with sense are smart enough to not take that second look.

However, there is an acceptable second look. Let's say a guy is heading down the sidewalk and he looks up in time to see a what he believes to be a pretty woman walk past him in the same direction. He catches up to her, because she stops or slows down.

Ladies, he is going to take a second look when he catches up to her: but it will be aimed at her face. It's not necessarily 'cause he's trying to flirt or can't control himself. He will look at her face, because he wants to know if what he saw walking away was the complete deal. He will be tortured (for a few minutes, anyway) if he doesn't find out whether she's attractive all-around, or whether just from the neck down.

If you see your man taking this type of second look, ladies, don't be too upset with him. Asking him to not do it is like asking him to stop reading on page 299 of a 300 page book.

But guys don't you take advantage of this acceptable second look either. All looks should be limited to a glance. A glance means a split second. Anything longer than that and you have some 'splainin' to do.

Thank me ladies. It's not often you'll get a peek inside The Cowboy Code. Like "sprung," this one's on the house.

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  • It's a hard wired into men's brains to look. Also, if a woman bends down and her cleavage is hanging out all bets are off.

    Thanks for verifying cowboy code.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 3:06 PM  

  • My husband and I have talked about this one a lot. I don't mind if he looks at women. I don't even mind if he appreciates what he sees. You've got it right: no lingering glances. Especially not with tongues hanging out.

    I don't think it's fair to expect men to not look at women ever again just because they decided to get serious with someone.

    Is this supposed to be secret?

    By Blogger Angelina, at 3:46 PM  

  • My (other) black friend (who cheats on his wife) had something to say about the way I look at women.

    "You're worse than a black guy," he says. "I mean, you're kind of like a dog."


    Well, you're just scratching the surface here for Burnettiquette purposes. When I had a lingerie model-looking gal on my arm, I used to hate the looks SHE got while we walked down the street. And there's always the conflict when another man catches you looking at his girl.

    What's absolutely worse is when she wasn't that pretty and you were just feeling charitable.

    By Blogger Matt, at 4:01 PM  

  • JB
    I think the Cowboy Code intones too much thought into the behavior of men. By making it sound like this behavior is avoidable or even should be, you're setting a lot of people up for fights.

    Ladies--when your man looks at another woman, it's like when your dog licks his balls in front of guests or stops suddenly to scratch. He can't help it at all. His brain is hardwired to react to interesting events in the field of vision. If he were a hunter-gatherer, it would mean he would see more prey and provide greater amounts of meat--women would then seek him out as a provider and feeder of children over guys who had poor eyesight and bad hunting skills.

    Your man's interest in exciting objects is therefore the result of years of human evolution and instinct, just like the pee shake. A woman, no matter how she looks, is an exciting object. Unless it is clear from a peripheral glance that a woman looks like Big Momma, every woman will get an eye check. It says nothing about his feelings or his concern for you. It does not mean he no longer loves you or loves you less. It means he is alive and alert--something every woman looks for in a potential mate unless her name is Anna Nicole.

    So if you constantly harp about the looks given to other women, it is an indication that you are overly self conscious and insecure and these traits are unnattractive in everyone, male or female. The man's reaction to seeing another attractive woman is similar to a woman's reaction when confronted by jewels. You stop, go oooh, and then go back to your life.

    Men, I do agree that the look can't linger or double dip when in the presence of your lady. Obvious ogling of another woman while with your lady does say something about your relationship to her, but ladies, it does not say as much as you think. What it says about the relationship is in direct ratio to where the relationship is. Boring run throughs of dinner and work talk every night for months or years will warrant an ogle, if for no other reason than to change the rut. But ogling during the third week of new hot and steamy while you're fellating him in the backseat on a side street--he's a dog who has not had his fill of different women--don't get serious.

    I speak on this subject from years of experience and lectures directed toward me

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 4:03 PM  

  • Sometimes there are other reasons for the second look. Like "Is her shirt so low cut that I just saw her bra?" So you look again and confirm previous sighting.

    Again, as long as you linger there everything is ok.

    And, you can't cross the street, climb some stairs and lean over a railing to get the second look either.

    By Blogger Jay, at 4:25 PM  

  • Oh yeah. Thanks for commenting on my blog. I'm gonna put yours on my blogroll. If that's ok with you?

    By Blogger Jay, at 4:26 PM  

  • Hammer, you are correct. We're hard-wired.

    Angelina, it's no secret. Or at least it shouldn't be. But from what I've observed lately it warranted a little reminder;-)

    OK Matt, I call you on this one. I want to know what your "other black friend" meant by that. Is he suggesting we (black guys) look more than other men? If so, he's gonna get ex-communicated for perpetuating a dumb stereotype.

    Ah, see BD. That's where you and I differ. I haven't been lectured on this topic at all. No need, 'cause I know not to let my gaze linger. This post was to you (ha ha ha ha ha ha!) and all the other guys out there who didn't know when to blink or turn their heads, and to the women who might still be kidding themselves into believing their man doesn't look.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:29 PM  

  • Jay, LOL, the stairway thing is right. I think that would give most of us away. And that is true about the "did I just see that" second look. You have to take it to confirm the "outrageousness."

    And by all means add me. I'd be honored. Thanks. When I get to my house-keeping in the next day or two I'll reciprocate.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:31 PM  

  • For the record - women look, too. I ogle men all the time, but I know how to do it so they can't see me doing it.

    But I do hate being stared at, and it seems to happen often, and it's particularly gross when it's someone old enough to be my father (late 50's and older). And it can make a guy who would normally be attractive seem repulsive.

    But the normal second look - now that's just flattering, particularly if it comes with a smile and a nice "hello".

    By Blogger bc, at 4:34 PM  

  • By the way - I do notice a difference in terms of the race of the men looking - men of color (particularly black and latino men) have a much higher ogling rate, in my experience.

    And we are not monkeys - bad behavior can be controlled.

    By Blogger bc, at 4:36 PM  

  • BC! OK, so you think Matt is right? Interesting. OK Matt, I sort of apologize. A certified woman has confirmed your theory. Still...

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:43 PM  

  • I look at pretty women, too.

    Sometimes, I'm admiring the hairstyle or the clothes or wishing I had boobs that big, or whatever. Sometimes, I'm just thinking "bitch." But, I look.

    Can I get a cowboy hat? :-)

    I'm white (duh), but I do notice a difference when men of different races give me the once over. Generallyl speaking, if I catch a white guy, he'll look away very quickly. If I catch a black guy, he'll hold my gaze and smile. I prefer the latter. It makes me feel like he's looking because he enjoys the view and not because I've got dirt on my nose or something.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 4:47 PM  

  • SWF41, this is fascinating to me. Interesting, so guys of different races look for different durations and with different emotion - some shame, some interest? Hmmm. I have some more research to do. OK, Matt. You're off the hook.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:51 PM  

  • LOL! I posted this Axe ad awhile ago that gives men some advice on the how-to's of ogling.

    By Blogger Lee, at 4:58 PM  

  • James, the guy reall said that. You really think that's a dumb stereotype? I mean, I think we're arguing about two different things.

    All men do look--equally. But men of certain groups have a different STYLE. Maybe more direct. Okay, I'm basing this on a simple double-blind phase II international study that was NOT randomized.

    My bag. I mean, my bad.

    By Blogger Matt, at 4:59 PM  

  • Lee, that ad is crazy. I'm gonna print that out and mail it to all my buddies who are over 30 and alone, but not by choice.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:00 PM  

  • Matt, I don't wanna think about your bag. But seriously, I realize different folks do things different ways. I guess I'm bucking the trend 'cause I like to think I'm pretty graceful and subtle even about my glances.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:02 PM  

  • Sometimes I have to do a double take if a girls chest is really big or she is really pretty. But I swear I'm not gay!!

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 5:03 PM  

  • Sure, sure, Erica. That's what we all say about big chests and pretty. Wait a minute. It is what we say.

    Hmmm, back to the drawing board.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:09 PM  

  • I have a wandering eye too. I wear sunglasses.

    By Blogger mist1, at 5:13 PM  

  • Yeah, I stare at everyone, too. I like looking at people, period, particularly attractive ones. I just don't want to have relations with everyone that I see.

    By Blogger bc, at 5:18 PM  

  • When I was in my 20s and stupid, I would look at girls approaching me on the beach while walking with my significant other. The logic was, my S.O. cannot see my glance if she's along side of me, so what the heck? I found what the "heck" was when we came across a woman walking alone who was probably sick of guys with other women who ogle them down. When she was within striking distance, she said, dryly, Hi. How'ya doin'. As if to say to me, look, dork, you got a lady, and I have nobody. Mind your own beeswax. Today, my glance is much more fleeting. (Though I still laugh when I see the t-shirt that says, "Take a picture - it will last longer.")

    I had an interesting experience in the brief months my wife and I worked for the same company. I was on a walk with her on campus, and I would watch the guys as we approached them to see if they would eye her. Sure enough, they did. They probably figured I was just a coworker, so what the heck? I'm comfortable enough with my manhood and with our relationship to not be jealous, but sometimes, (just for fun of it, mind you,) I was tempted to whip around and say, "Are you lookin' at MY WIFE??"

    When my wife and I were on a cruise, and I would sneak a glance at the oncoming passengers, it was amusing to notice that all the guys were looking at all the women, and all the women were looking at all the other WOMEN!! It was as if to say, guys will be guys, but on a cruise, women are interested in what other women are wearing.

    By the way, BC, I'm onto your secret. Women look at other guys via store mirrors, window panes, and any other reflective surfaces. Guys, next time you pass such a device, check her eyes in such a reflection. Odds are they may be pointed at you.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 5:24 PM  

  • you know you really should publish this sh*t. i mean thats really really good advice for any man to ttake. and for a woman as well.

    i know because im a natural people watcher and i dont realize i'm doin it until its too late and i'm having to make up for it.

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 5:31 PM  

  • Mist1, sun glasses are good. I don't wear 'em to get away with woman-ogling.

    But, like BC and Yas say, I'm just a people watcher. In general, I can take my coffee and notebook and sit on a park bench and just study folks walking by. And I don't want anyone freaking out thinking that I'm looking for sadistic reasons. So sometimes the shades are a perfect accessory.

    Sarc, I'm a little jealous, I admit, when I'm out with my wife. I usually end up asking myself "are you as obvious as that guy was?"

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 5:38 PM  

  • Now that you let us peek into the Cowboy Code, do we owe you a peek into the Chick Code?

    Very well, this one may be unnecessary since you're married and all but here goes. Chapter One: Pretending Your Drunk and Signalling Girlfriends that It's time to go before you smack the idiot whose pickup lines stink worse than six-day old salmon.

    Don't thank me. I'm a giver.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 6:41 PM  

  • there is a whole other type of first look that you didn't even touch on, well-spoken,handsome and freshly scrubbed James. i will give you the scenario

    Couple is walking in mall, shoulder to shoulder, we'll say.

    Quickly approaching on the male component's side is a [insert voluptuous attributes here] female. As she closes her distance with the couple, said male component locks his gaze on the oncoming target's [insert voluptuous female attributes here]. Not only does he look, but as the space in between impending objective and said male decreases, said male’s gaze becomes exponentially increased as his neck now transforms into a rubberized telescope capable of 180° maneuvers.

    now that's just rude. :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:06 PM  

  • I don't mind a quick glance, although I prefer that it be stealthfully done. It's the lingering gazes that get my ire up.

    As a woman, I like to look too but I respect my man enough to not ogle in his presence.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 8:48 PM  

  • So Queen, that's the rule for women: pretend to be drunk so you won't be compelled to smack the tacky flirt? I will make sure my single buddies see this. Thanks for the peek.

    Yeah, Claire, from my single days - my very very young single days - I can attest that this particular first look is a neck-hurter.

    You know Grizz, the way the male brain works, we don't think a lot about the fact that you guys take peeks at us too.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:08 PM  

  • lol..too funny...thanks for the laughs!

    By Blogger savannah, at 9:18 PM  

  • No prob, Savannah. I aim to please.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:55 PM  

  • This was a great post! For some reason I feel guilty when I venture into second look territory. Every once in a while a third look presents itself but I'm able to resist. My male coworker on the other hand has managed to weave looks 2-9 into one seamless (albeit obvious)stare.

    By Blogger Michael C, at 10:20 PM  

  • So, what happens when a boyfriend catches his girlfriend looking at another woman? Do all of the same rules still apply, James Burnett?

    By Blogger 123Valerie, at 10:36 PM  

  • Maybe sublety is the key....glancing..good. Staring,'s not we women don't look either ya know.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 10:41 PM  

  • Yeah, Michael C., we're trying to avoid becoming your co-working. That obvious part is the deal-breaker.

    123Valerie, if you get caught all rules are temporarily suspended. You are busted and have to climb your way out of that hole on your own.

    Claudia, I'm gonna get that made into a poster "Maybe subtlety is the key" and hang it up at work.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:50 PM  

  • Evil Spock has the problem of trying to catch eyes and nervous smiles.

    Thanks for visiting Evil Spock's site, Evil Spock looks forward to your views at The Few.

    By Blogger Evil Spock, at 11:38 PM  

  • Evil Spock, I'm all about the Collective. See you in the hive.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:01 AM  

  • Ok, I can't add anything to what's already been said, other than to say that looking is normal, and looking is different from acting, and that all women look, they're just better at hiding it.

    Having said that, on the issue of who is more likely to be a dog; a good buddy of mine, former student, MUCH more worldly than I, who's been married twice (so he's been around) and spent 20 years in the army surrounded by guys of all shades and ethnic origins, tells me that EVERY Black buy he's ever known has cheated on their wife. Now, I'm sure it ain't so, but he swears it is. I would add that about 99% of the married guys I know have (when their wives were not around) talked about / looked at / ogled other women in front of me, on the web and elsewhere, but I'd bet good money that most of them would never actually do anything about it. Again, looking, or even boasting while in a group of other guys, is different from acting. There IS such a thing as integrity and honor.

    I mean, everything they know about human sexuality says that men are designed by nature to constantly think about and seek lots of partners. That's how the human race (the only real race, by the way) got to be what it is... a ridiculous ant hill like pestilence on the face of the planet, but I digress. They say that guys are wired to think about sex every few minutes of the day. Do you really think that he should be obligated to think only of you, EVERY FEW MINUTES OF THE DAY? No matter how much you love someone, you just can't shut off that sex drive once you've become wedded to a single person. So, to come down on a guy for just looking seems kinda petty, selfish, not to mention ridiculously controlling. It's like expecting him to answer the inevitable question with "Of course not honey, you're not fat at all", when everyone can clearly see that your ass has it's own friggin' gravitational field.

    Ok, I'm done, I'll slink away and you may vilify me. Burn me in effigy if you must. Guilty.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 12:50 AM  

  • That would be subtle... :)

    By Blogger Claudia, at 10:59 AM  

  • Fathairy--I disagree with the every Black man cheats statement. You should qualifiy it -- it should be every Black man this guy knows, which, regardless of his time spent in the Army, is still probably very small (unless his mother or father is Black and he was raised in a Black neighborhood). Young privates and other Army types may not be the best petri dish for a study on fidelity.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 11:38 AM  

  • Let me just say that men grossly underestimate the power of a woman's peripheral vision.

    We notice you looking. It's just a matter of whether or not we let it slide.

    [I generally do, unless I bring it up jokingly.]

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 12:07 PM  

  • FatHairy, don't worry. You're not banished. No need to slink. But I think I agree with BD a little on qualifying the all married black men cheat thing. Can't say I've ever heard that one. I'm not a pushover with these things, but rather than anger I have to admit I'm feeling curiosity, fascination even with these comments - just like those Matt made about black men looking harder or longer when they ogle other women. I'm curious as to people's personal experiences in this matter. The women have explained it. Can't argue with what they've observed one-on-one. But I wonder where the guys on this post get their authority on the topic.

    Anyway ThirdWorst, on behalf of all men everywhere thanks for not embarassing us by letting us know you're onto us.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:43 PM  

  • Man, I never said it was true. Just threw it out there, see if it would stick. Didn't mean to get it on everyone. Sorta what I do though.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 1:39 AM  

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