I hate feeling awkward. That’s an odd sentence because really who likes feeling awkward? (The hint is in the meaning). For me, it comes in social situations. I never know what to do, or say, how to behave, what are appropriate actions and so on. Socializing is like a mine field: ready to blow me into little pieces at any time.
Before I get to far into this I must take a minute to mention how lucky I am to be surrounded by a group of friends who ignore my ineptitude and make me comfortable. Enough so that I no longer feel like talking to them, or hanging out with them is a “social situation” it’s more like wearing a comfy bathrobe while chatting. Nothing uncomfortable there. And my friends are definitely to thank for that.
For me a social situation is defined as any moment where I have to speak to people I don’t know. Being at work doesn’t count (it’s a specific type of conversation where I know what to expect and how to answer the questions that will come up) so work is safe.
This is how most of my moments of total mortification (AKA social situations) appear:
Other person: “Hi, how are you?”
Me: “Good. You?”
Other person: “Great. Nice day?”
Me: “Uh huh.”
And then the deafening sound of crickets and air whooshing takes over the room. The silence becomes deadly, and we stare at each other wondering who will break first. Neither of us does, I smile awkwardly: which must come out as more of a grimace because the other person doesn’t smile back. The sweat starts to pool under my arms, my breathing speeds up. I can’t figure out what is appropriate to do or say. I stare at the other person until my eyes begin watering. The other person looks at me unsure why I am sweating, crying and grimacing at them. They then clears their throat in nervous reaction – not knowing if I am about to attack or pass out. With a great amount of unease we both look away. And the moment to connect, to meet someone new, to overcome my fear, is lost.
It feels like public speaking when I am trying to talk to anyone I don’t know (in case you haven’t guessed it public speaking is NOT my forte.) I never know what to say, should I talk about politics? (which I don’t follow) weather? (um…boring) drinking? (Not exactly appropriate with a teenager) sex? (Definitely awkward with a senior citizen or any stranger really). What do I say???
And to make it worse when I get uncomfortable really weird things come out…
Like the time I blurted out:
“My cat just died.”
Or “Gone on any dates yet?” (To a newly married woman.)
Or “I like butter tarts.”
Or “Cute kid. Can’t be yours, right?”
And so on and so forth. I guess I could look at it as a positive – my verbal diarrhea makes not only me cringe but everyone else now feels the same way I do. Uncomfortable. This is a positive to me because while they are tilting their heads in awe, the word bubble above their head saying “Did she really just say that out loud?” I can escape. And that is what I usually do – RUN AWAY!
So if you see me and I say something completely weird, inappropriate or awkward, just smile and nod. And maybe back away slowly – you never know what will happen next.