Even the most self-assured people feel socially awkward. Nobody is 100% confident, 100% of the time. I’m coming to realize this more and more….we’re ALL socially awkward in some way. It just sticks out on some of us more than others.
I’m going to my thirty year high school reunion this weekend. I was telling everyone that I couldn’t believe I was 25 years out of high school. My friend corrected with me a jarring, “Idiot. It’s 30.”
Great. I’m awkward AND old.
It’s going to be fun counting up all the awkward triangle moments. You know, when you end up in a conversation with two random people and it becomes awkward fast and you can’t escape.
Reunions are a funny thing. You WANT TO GO because it’s nostalgic and you’d love to see old friends face-to-face instead of just on Facebook.
But you DON’T WANT TO GO because what will you wear? What will you say? What if it’s awkward?
News flash: It WILL be awkward.
Not all of it, but parts. But it’s okay! We all feel it. And nobody has died from making an innocent social slip. You just feel like dying in the moment. But it passes. I know this from experience.
Here are a few social situations to illustrate my point. Maybe you’ll see yourself. I can’t be the only one. (Please tell me I’m not the only one.)
- How is it so difficult to remember somebody’s name? It’s one word. I called my neighbour by the wrong name for several years until I finally clued in. When a different neighbour came over and introduced herself, I instantly forget her name and spent a year trying to coax her toddler into telling me his mummy’s name. He just kept saying, “Mummy is mummy.” Thanks for nothing toddler.
- I hug people who don’t enjoy being hugged. It’s not that I’m a lover of the hug. I suspect I go in for the hug to get it over with. I was at an event recently solo and spotted a familiar face (well, it was her red curly hair that tipped me off) I went over and inflicted a great big warm uninvited hug on her. When I pulled back and we were face to face, I realized this was a redheaded stranger. She was friendly despite my surprise affection and said, “It’s nice to see you”….pause…. “well, I’m just going to go fill up my drink.”
- I consistently botch the kiss on the cheek salutation—is it one cheek, both cheeks, on the lips? Where exactly are we kissing each other? Once I accidentally kissed a woman’s neck when we went in for a hug goodbye. Anyway you slice it, that’s just awkward and creepy. And the worst part—it’s happened with the same person on two separate occasions.
- I have conversations with people who aren’t even talking to me. They’re either talking to somebody behind me or they’re on their Bluetooth. This usually takes a few moments to figure out, but in the meantime I smile and wave like a complete tool.
- Placing people out of context is an ongoing struggle. I’ll see you at a party and know I know you, but can’t for the life of me remember how we know each other. Are you at the same swim centre as my daughter? Did we meet at that community BBQ last summer? Do you work at my dentist’s office? Did our avatars cross paths on social media? We’ll chat like long lost friends, but all the while I’m scrambling to figure it out. Eventually I’ll say something completely unrelated to this person (because they’re in fact not who I finally decided they were). And the awkward streak continues.
- If I think you’ve finished your sentence, I’ll jump in. And cut you off. I’m sorry. Conversations are like a dance and sometimes my timing is way off. Other times I’m listening to you, I really am, but then I’m distracted by something—it could be a thought or maybe something catches my eye from the distance. So I tune out for a tiny second. When I redirect my attention back to you and the very interesting thing you’re saying, I’m screwed. You ask, “Right? You’re smiling. Clearly you agree.” Dear god. What did I agree to?? This is when I fake an excuse to flee.
- Let us not forget the compulsion to fill lulls in a conversation. I do it all the time and people who know me well have come to expect it. Recently I hosted an adult birthday party. We were all uncharacteristically subdued. A case of being “life tired.” As we sat sipping our drinks, empty silences replacing animated chatter, I realized I should bring out the surprise birthday cake my friend had made. I leaned into her amid one of the lulls and said in a loud breathy whisper, “I have candles.” She turned her head slowly toward me and blinked a few times. “Okaaaaay… And why is this a secret?” She wasn’t thinking birthday cake in that moment. She thought I was randomly letting her know that I owned candles for no particular reason other than to fill the silence. “BIRTHDAY candles…for the cake!” Oh, the look on her face when it clicked. This is a “you had to be there moment,” but we laughed hard. Tears down your face hard. Sometimes awkward is awful, but occasionally it’s the best thing ever.