Thursday, April 8, 2010

Your awkward is showing...

What is awkward, what makes a situation awkward, and perhaps most importantly, are you an awkward person to be around? Some common forms of awkwardness, are: extended pauses (or to some, silence in general), calling someone the wrong a name, which is accompanied by the even more awkward attempt to explain why you have no clue who your talking to; or my personal favorite, the botched handshake, which is that dreadful tango performed by two guys trying to figure out how to shake one an others hand. And while it’s true that each individual has their own personal awkward moments that they experience in a variety of ways, for the most part, awkward is awkward, and it sucks.

First allow me to explain the handshake conundrum. The scene is as such: Someone you know is approaching in the distance whom not only are you decently acquainted with, but you are most likely going to have to talk to; and before there's talking, there’s greeting. With your peer approaching at a break-neck speed, you need to move quickly to guess which form of handshake you think he’s likely to employ. However, regardless of any prior knowledge you think you have regarding this individuals greeting preferences, there’s will inevitably be terrible confusion surrounding the whole ordeal. Is it going to be a classic handshake, or are you going to take back to 02’, and “pound it.” You could even go for a more complex sort of palm-slide-to-snap sort of deal. Perhaps even a “bring it in…” type man-embrace. With so possible outcomes, the uncertainty is the real killer; you’re never sure what’s coming, and your attempt to read the persons body language typically results in painful failure. But alas, eventually someone must take charge (it’s never me…) and just go for it, in hope that the other will follow suit. However, the reason this is one of the most awkward moments known to man, is that it never goes according to plan. One person dives in for a mafia inspired man hug, while the more germ conscious amongst us tend to opt for the pound. Now, the hugger is left to wonder why he was rejected in his attempt at male unity, and the pounder has to delicately choose how he proceeds, so as to not further offend the hugger. This will typically sour your conversation, and leave you wishing you had never bumped into this person in the first place. Next we have the delightful situation in which, during a greeting, you accidentally greet the wrong person.

So low and behold you are standing in the middle of Borders minding your own business, and you hear your name called. Whirling around, you realize who called you, because he/she is staring right at you. However familiar the face corresponding to the voice might be, there is zero chance in hell that you know the name. A unique déjà vu sets in while you search your soul for the name. “Is it Jeff? Jordan? No Jack! Wait no…” Or maybe it doesn’t really start with a J, even though you’re positive it does. What makes it worse still, is that he clearly knows your name. So what do you do now? Is there any suggested course of action? While typically only used to delay the inevitable, I do believe there is one useful tactic: instead of responding with “Hey (insert name here)!” You simply leave out the name, extend the “Heeeeeyyyyy…” and move swiftly into conversation. Who knows, ask the right questions, and halfway through the conversation you might remember their name, allowing you to deliver a solid goodbye. The only problem is that not knowing someone’s name is so insanely awkward, that you can barely form sentences, let alone revealing questions. Once they’ve realized that you’re not on first or last name basic, they feel worse than you. Furthermore, it’s your fault; so in the end you still feel, and appear, like an ass. So by this point you would assume that if you’ve gotten past the handshake and you knew whom you were talking too, then the rest of the conversation is a breeze, right? Wrong.

Perhaps the most traditional form awkward can take. It is experience by everyone, everywhere, and it can end a relationship before it even begins. I'm talking about, of course, the awkward pause; the most gut wrenching, thumb fiddling event to take place on this planet. Even when conversation seems to be flowing freely, one strange statement can come along and bring the whole thing to screeching halt. Adversely, an awkward pause can occur before the conversation even takes off. Anytime small talk fails to turn into real talk, it dwindles to no talk at all, leaving both parties in silent agony until someone issues an overly polite goodbye. However, my favorite type of awkward pause is when you begin talking about a certain someone just in time for him or her to walk in. Frozen like a one winged bird who cant fly south for the winter, you will forever have to live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not she heard you talking about how much of a whore she is, or what a dick James can be. There's no time limit on an awkward pause, someone could make a clever remark and re-right the ship, or the S.S. Awkward could continue to sail on for a couple agonizing minutes.

Armed now with a couple examples of awkward, I wish I could tell you that you’re better off, and that you will avoid any awkward moments; but you wont, and you’re not. The truth is that awkward will find you no matter where you hide, no matter who you are, without fail. It is an inescapable part of life. Sadly we often find that no matter how alike we truly are, as humans we are destined to occasionally feel uncomfortable around each other. Moreover, we live in a world filled with topics, and a pop-culture machine that tells us which ones to talk about, but we still can’t find any common ground. But the truth is, this is neither good or bad, it just is what it is. Because as long as we have the urge to interact with each other from time to time, awkward will always be there, waiting to rear it’s ugly head.

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