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Spoofs & Satire

Photograph by Klaus von Kries

Read My Body Language

When you fold your arms or cross your legs, you unconsciously send a message that reveals your true thoughts. How to read my physical cues.

Perhaps you’re one of the many people eager to know more about me. The real me that I strive to keep hidden. If so, you can learn all you want simply by decoding the nonverbal and often unconscious messages I send.

For instance, if you see me lift my eyebrows, it means I’m curious about something. What I’m wondering is: How much longer until you leave? The higher my eyebrows are raised, the more impatient I am for you to be gone.

If I repeatedly brush my hand across my mouth, it means I’m straining to block my true feelings from slipping out. (These true feelings could take the form of an expletive-ridden catalog of everything I find objectionable about you, or merely a cutting remark about your shirt.) There’s also a subtle variation of this act in which I intentionally jam my entire fist into my mouth.

If you happen to catch me staring, you’ve either (in the case of females) attracted my sexual interest, or (in the case of males) ticked me off somehow. I’m thinking very hard about approaching you with an awkward pick-up line or punching you in the solar plexus. You can sense that I don’t have the guts to do either, though, which is why you’ve got that knowing smirk on your face.

If I’ve tilted my head slightly to one side and appear to be deep in concentration, it signifies that I’m mentally running through my lengthy and creative list of excuses, trying to find the one that will get me away from you soonest. Someday I should save myself the trouble of going through this and just write them all down.

On the off chance I’ve used up all my best lies and see no possibility of getting away, you may detect a minor slouching of my shoulders, or a barely audible sigh, or a series of punches to the wall that doesn’t end until I’ve fractured every bone in both hands.

If I tap my feet on the floor or drum my fingers on the desk, it means I’m playing a favorite song in my head. Not just playing it—blasting it at full volume. If I’m leaning toward you and nodding with a big grin plastered on my face, it means I’m having a good time and possibly hoping we could go out and get some beers after work or something. (This example is purely hypothetical and will never in fact happen. I just wanted to put it in here in case I’m starting to sound too antisocial.)

If I’m standing with my feet placed shoulder-length apart and my legs bent slightly at the knees, it probably means I’m hitting golf balls at the practice range. Is there a club in my hands? There you go, then. Try not to speak to me during my backswing. Or any time before or after.

If I tap my feet on the floor or drum my fingers on the desk, it means I’m playing a favorite song in my head. Not just playing it—blasting it at full volume. I may be looking right at you and watching your lips move, but trust me, I can’t hear a word. So why even bother? You might as well just get up in a huff and go back to whatever it was you were doing before.

If, walking away in a huff, you happen to catch a reflection of me giving you the middle finger while your back is turned, don’t confuse this with body language. Because it didn’t even happen. It’s just your imagination or a trick of the light. You can confirm this for yourself simply by turning around to face me. Just don’t do it too quickly.

If I wrinkle my nose whenever you walk into the room, it means I’ve begun to subconsciously associate you with a certain smell. A field of freshly laid manure, perhaps, or a pile of festering garbage. Actually, there’s no need to start sugarcoating at this point, is there? It’s the manure. Definitely the manure.

If I conspicuously fail to make eye contact, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that I dislike you. It could simply mean I find the very act of being in your presence a mind-numbing, soul-crushing torment the likes of which make death an appealing alternative.

If I should ever start to blink in Morse code, it means I’ve finally discovered a nice, safe way to express my contempt without having to openly confront you. If you’re one of the few who actually know how to read Morse code, I’m sure my impotent rage will make you smirk again. Which only proves how justified I am in loathing you. You and everyone else.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you find me gazing off into space with a wistful half-smile, it means I’m having that recurring daydream in which I’m the sole survivor of some horrible apocalypse, the last man left alive in the entire world who must live out the remainder of my days in peaceful seclusion. Please don’t interrupt.

Ralph Gamelli has been published in The Big Jewel, McSweeney’s, Monkeybicycle, and Yankee Pot Roast. This is the part where he’s supposed to put down some little joke, but as always he refuses to bow to societal expectations. More by Ralph Gamelli