How do you roll your eyes?
August 26, 2017 7:19 AM   Subscribe

My daughter's friend told her she rolls her eyes wrong - she just looks up instead of rolling them around in a circle. I have the feeling that a brief upward glance (rather than the more dramatic circular motion) is actually the most typical everyday eye roll. But I have no evidence to support this belief. Give me actual evidence for or against my gut feeling. How do you and the people you know perform an eye roll?

(If you're not in the US, that might be helpful information to include, since this may vary from place to place.)
posted by Redstart to Society & Culture (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak for anyone else's eyerolling, but it's a circular-ish roll for me.
posted by obfuscation at 7:25 AM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't roll - I look up and kind of to the side.
posted by Lucinda at 7:28 AM on August 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

From Virginia, eyes go straight up and then to one side.
posted by os tuberoes at 7:29 AM on August 26, 2017

Do not roll. I look up and to the side usually with mouth grimace. To me looking straight up is more of a "Lord help me, when will this ever end?" sort of expression. Up and over is more like "This fucking guy, AMIRITE?" sort of expression
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 AM on August 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

A google image search for "eye roll gif" may be instructive.

Though there frequently is side-to-side motion, I believe the evidence shows that that is not a *mandatory* element, whereas the upwards motion is. And I have always believed that the actual circular "rolling" motion the term refers to is up and into the head. (And, for a creature endowed with fantastic powers of sarcasm, would presumably then continue into the back of the head until the pupils reemerged from the bottom.)

In other words, you roll them along an axis which passes from side to side, through both eyes, not around axes which protrude straight forwards out from the center of each eye.
posted by floppyroofing at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

My 14 year old usually just does the look-up style eye roll and I find it more offensive, because it indicates that to her, I am not worth the effort of a full roll. It's extremely effective and if you get a similar feeling from your kid, then they're doing it right.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 AM on August 26, 2017 [18 favorites]

Don't roll. Just tried - I can't even do it ; how to do you move your eyes in a circle? That seems like it would take an proportionally-excessive amount of effort and time. I've always just sort of looked up and raised my eyebrows to indicate 'eye rolling'
posted by cgg at 8:00 AM on August 26, 2017

I look to the top right. For emphasis, I hold for a few seconds and grimace.
posted by bunderful at 8:20 AM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm from the UK. My eyes look upward briefly, with corresponding eyebrow raise; if I'm being emphatic, though, my whole head makes a sort of roll at the same time, chin up first and then a sideways jerk, usually turning to the right.

I find I can't picture what my friends do, just hear the sound each usually makes to accompany an eye-roll.

Moving my eyes in a circle feels like an optician's test - very unnatural.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:21 AM on August 26, 2017

The extent of my eye-roll is directly proportional to the intensity of what I'm feeling - from a strictly upward glance at the least, through a quarter-circle roll (never more and usually to the right), to an accompanying slight head movement in the same direction as the quarter-circle roll at the most.
posted by ClingClang at 8:24 AM on August 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

You can actually do the whole thing with one eyebrow if you want to be more subtle.
posted by rd45 at 8:25 AM on August 26, 2017

Just tested :D

I look up and to the right, with a slight roll but I tend to close my eyes slightly as I do it the roll isn't really "visible." A full roll all the way around the outside seems weirdly exaggerated.

I'm Canadian but I doubt it makes a difference for this.
posted by quaking fajita at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

As an expert, both are valid but the semicircle conveys a feeling of "oy gevalt" that nothing else approaches.
posted by katrielalex at 8:29 AM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Up = oh gawd not this
Roll/look right = amirite
posted by forforf at 8:38 AM on August 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think Liz Lemon best covers it in this 30 Rock clip.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think my default is ClingClang's quarter-circle-roll: I glance up and to the left, and then roll from there until I'm looking up and to the right. But I'd recognize any of the range of expressions ClingClang describes as "eye rolling."

(I hope this isn't too question-the-premise-of-the-question-itself, but… these are preteen or teenage girls, yes? "You're doing this wrong and literally nobody ever does it that way" means "There are three of us in this conversation, two of us do it the same way, and we've decided to pick on the odd one out." Throwing evidence at that sort of situation doesn't do much to change it. I think a helpful parental message here might be "Yeah, totally, you're not doing it wrong, they're just exaggerating so they can pick on you. That must be so annoying. It's fine to change little stuff like this to get people off your back when they're being obnoxious, or it's fine to keep doing it how you're doing. Both are good.")
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Exactly once can I remember having seen someone do the full circular eye roll, directed at me, and I will never forget the extra rudeness that it conveyed.

My point: There's no wrong way, but circular seems to go above and beyond your average eye roll.
posted by wats at 8:55 AM on August 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I look up and to the right.

At least I used to. After reading all your answers, I have now overthought eye rolling and can now no longer perform it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:56 AM on August 26, 2017 [16 favorites]

Also relevant: age. I must have done 99% of my lifetime eye rolling in middle school and early high school. Frequent use seems sort of childish to me.

Anyway, I glance up quick, sometimes then slide/roll to the right, never the left. The quick motion up is sufficient, especially in context.

If we're doing straw polls, might as well included rotational direction. As I described above, I go clockwise from my perspective.

I just tried to do a counterclockwise roll and it felt weird and awkward.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:57 AM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just want to say first, this is one of my favorite questions EVAH!

I look straight up. But I'm 60, and have learned the wisdom of owning just a few understated but extremely eloquent gestures.
posted by raisingsand at 10:07 AM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I work in public service (where eye rolls about customers are not ok) so my default has become an eyebrow raise of both brows, which thankfully can be taken as a sign that you are listening.

That said, if I were to do an eye roll, it would be up and then to the left, accompanied by copious light blinks.
posted by donut_princess at 10:07 AM on August 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I never really thought about it, but now, like MexicanYenta, I have thought about it too much and cannot do it anymore.

(I also just tried various eye-rolls and now my eye muscles hurt.)
posted by sarcasticah at 10:23 AM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I look straight up, and let the eyeballs roll back down to the bottom. So from 12 to 6 on a clock. I just did it a few times and I have no clockwise/counterclockwise presence.

Husband rolls eyes straight up, keeps them up and shakes his head with a "I can't believe what I am hearing."
posted by kimberussell at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2017

I look up and slightly to the right. (Grew up in the Midwest USA). I have never seen anybody do a full circular roll.
posted by tuesdayschild at 10:43 AM on August 26, 2017

Look up and tilt head back slightly. A full 360 is outlandishly weird.
posted by SyraCarol at 11:14 AM on August 26, 2017

I am frequently unjustly* accused of rolling my eyes, and I have never done the circular thing.

It strikes me that your daughter's friend is being overly literal. As happens, sometimes, when one has read or heard about a thing but lacks actual experience. Your daughter may wish to explain this to her friend before the friend starts, um ...

(Sorry, all the examples I can think of are NSFW.)**

*also often justly
**feel free to flag this comment for deletion, if this AskMe is to be exhibited in Daughter-Friend Court.
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:25 AM on August 26, 2017

Another up-and-to-the-sider here.

I can't even do it ; how to do you move your eyes in a circle?

I can do it, but I've had practice. When I was young the eye-doctor prescribed all these eye exercises for us to do, a family of myopic glasses-wearers. He had notions that this would improve our eyesight -- and since his office was in a very nice Washington DC neighborhood, he counted famous people among his patents, including the President's daughter (but unfortunately we never ran into her there). One of his exercises involved facing a wall, sitting in a chair in the middle of the room, and tracking an imaginary spider as it walked along the floor, up one side of the wall, across the ceiling, down the other and repeat. That's what I think of when I really roll my eyes, as some have described in this thread. Note that these exercises didn't seem to improve my vision, but I never practiced them near as much as the doctor wanted. He wrote a book about his technique: You Can Improve Your Vision.
posted by Rash at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2017

I usually go with straight up or to one side or the other. If that seems insufficiently rude, I accompany it with a voila hand gesture toward the object of my derision, to an actual or imagined audience: "Regard. The specimen is engaging in the behavior described."

A full orbit is comparatively slow and laborious, and I feel like it comes across as super dramatic.

Can anybody do multiple smooth fast orbits, or is this a personal weirdness like tongue curling? I showed this to my friend and she begged me to quit it and then covered her own eyes and left the room, so I guess it's pretty horrifying looking. You unfocus your eyes and then sortof let 'em go and whirl them around.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2017

I look straight up and kind of jerk my chin up a little at the same time (sounds so weird).

I've never actually rolled my eyes. Tried doing it just now and it was really awkward.
posted by Ziggy500 at 12:42 PM on August 26, 2017

Up and slightly to the right. .Here's a giphy search for eyeroll. Seems like up is more common than a full roll.
posted by O9scar at 1:45 PM on August 26, 2017

I close my eyes, look upwards, and lift my brows in supplication until God gives me the strength to carry on.
posted by notquitemaryann at 4:27 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I do the circular with about a 120 degree arc. I've never encountered the "up down" roll, and I'm not sure I'd even correctly recognize it as an eye roll unless it came with an exasperated sigh or something.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:27 PM on August 26, 2017

Up and to the right? That's just weird. It's up and to the left with a semi-roll back to center along the left side. I mean, maybe if you're left handed up and to the right would make sense, being your non-dominant side, but for righties, up and left is the real power roll.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:09 PM on August 26, 2017

Depends what I mean. If it's a grim kind of "Are you fucking kidding me" eye roll, I just look up. If it's a semi-humorous comment on the absurdity of something, I roll up and to the right.
posted by HotToddy at 9:19 PM on August 26, 2017

US person here. Basically a look straight up normally. Actual revolving the eyes to the right only if I'm consciously making it really exaggerated.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:18 PM on August 26, 2017

I got accused of "rolling my eyes" once when all I did was blink real hard and look away.

I think this is a facial gesture in which there are many, many variants.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:18 AM on August 27, 2017

Thank you, everyone! My daughter is now convinced that she is not, in fact, rolling her eyes incorrectly. I don't pay a lot of attention to these things, so I thought it was entirely possible her friend was right, but it appears she's not.
posted by Redstart at 10:37 AM on August 27, 2017

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