More than a few people have said they were either scared or intimidated by me. I was never told in person, but always through a friend, or through Ilyn, or through a Facebook/Twitter post or blog entry. To be honest, I’m not really too surprised. I have been told I had this mean look in my eyes as far back as college. “Ang sama ko raw makatingin.” is what a few classmates have told me. At first I had no idea I was doing it. And when I realized I did, I understood why I did it.
It really started further back than that. It started from the time I earned the very first money ever in my life. It was 1980 and I was 12 years old. Well, it was actually kind of a job from my mom, who asked me to do some cleaning and she would pay me for it. It was the first and last time she paid me for job she asked me to do, but still, it was a novel experience. Feeling flush with 10 whole pesos in my pocket, I walked proudly and happily to Recto because I wanted to buy something for myself at National Book Store.
Before I got there I was stopped by this guy with a plastic letter punch gadget and asked me what my name was. Two of his companions came up behind me to probably keep me from running. He asked me what my name was again. Young as I was, I knew what was up. He was going to force me to buy a small plastic sticker with my name punched into it. The price per letter was insane. The guy was huge, and the two behind me were huge. With no way out, I gave them a name. A Chinese name so it would be short. I mean, if I gave them my real name, I’d be broke and I’d end up even owing the guy.
I still ended up losing all my money anyway. I went home sad and frustrated.
And I vowed it would never happen again. I was probably going around with this happy go lucky stupid little innocent look on my face and it just screamed PERFECT VICTIM. My solution was, if ever I was going to go back to Recto or any place that was not absolutely safe, I would carry the meanest look and meanest scowl that my face can muster. It was hard because my face just wasn’t used to it, but with enough practice, it quickly came easily, specially when I’m in Recto, remembering what happened before.
A couple of years later I found myself back there, packing the meanest, ugliest scowl and dagger eyes I can manage. I was once again going up to NBS to buy something and then I saw some guy start to approach me and then backed off. I could see it out of the corner of my eye. It was kind of a small victory. Coming out of NBS half an hour later, I was sad to see that the guy had accosted another stupid innocent kid who was me two years prior.
The trick worked so well that wearing the scowl and the dagger eyes became quite a habit. A habit I couldn’t shake.
Even after I was told about it by my classmates, I tried very hard to shake it off, but it somehow just became a part of me. I still try very hard not to do it today when I’m out at signings or conventions because well, other people have since come out to say that they were afraid to talk to me because I looked mean, I look suplado, and I don’t smile.
My opinionated nature online and my occasional angry flareups in my Facebook posts, tweets and blog entries probably help that impression along.
In my defense, I would probably look crazy if I just smiled for no particular reason. Tell you what, please be assured that I only look this way, but I’m actually a nice guy. I may only seem grumpy and mean, but I think that’s just a defense mechanism that’s built up over the years and kept in place by bad habit. If you talk to me in person, I won’t bite your head off. If you want to take photos with me or if you want me to sign your books that’s perfectly fine, even if there’s no event or signing.
I just feel bad at all the comments I get like “Oh I saw you earlier but I was too shy/afraid to approach you.” when we could have had a nice time talking instead.