Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Awkward Blob

People are an interesting sort of specimen. In all my years of wisdom and learning (18 years, if you really want to know), I have never met another species as intriguing and as complex as humans. They are able to express so many emotions, develop so many sets of skills,  make advances in all the world’s innovations, and so on and so forth.  In all the successes of the Homo sapien, however, I find the most fascinating one to be the natural, yet somehow unnatural, capability of people to take any situation and make it exceedingly more awkward than it has to be by means of stiff silence, inappropriate moments of speech, or the making of gestures that are--well, just odd in the sight of others. However, it has been my understanding that people do not have to excel in the expertise of gawky behavior; in fact, it would be beneficial if more people would not allow themselves to participate in it.

There are several different locations and groups in order to find oneself in a situation of exemplified awkwardness.  College is a particularly good place to recognize these perfected moments of discomfort. (*Note that I mention college because that is where I am in life right now.)  Alright, so imagine going to class (especially the first day of school.) 
You want to make friends so you take a seat in a pretty good location--just in the middle of everything--in hopes that someone will sit beside you.

In a few short minutes you realize class has started and the closest people to sit next to you are exactly one seat away in distance.  Since they are not directly beside you, no initiating conversation has been made nor introductions placed; and as you look around the room during the class discussion, you are constantly reminded that you feel weird about the glances you are making with those two people that you never really got to meet.

This is a typical situation for any gathering amongst strangers in an auditorium-like setting; in fact, it is very similar to my first day of college.  The situation provided, however, is not necessarily the first person’s fault ( the one who sat down and found themselves with a radius of empty seats surrounding them).  While that person could have taken initiative and said, “Hey, come sit by me! No need to be shy,” the people coming in and taking seats exactly one seat away seem more responsible.  Their thought process, no doubt, is concerned that by asking to sit by someone, they would magically cause some worse situation, than sitting next to a stranger. Now, I understand that in reality people are not perfect, and some even like their space when it comes to sitting in a crowded room, but that is certainly no excuse for negligence.  Of course, we find ourselves on both sides of the awkward situation: sometimes we’re the one making it awkward, other times the opposite party is making it awkward, and in really great situations--it is a group effort! My question is, what’s so hard about just talking to people and being friendly? It really is not that difficult, and I am positive the results would only be beneficial. Of course, not every single person chooses the shy route when found in potentially disastrous atmospheres.

While shyness definitely plays a role in the transpiration of clumsy events, the results of people who have no filter for when things are appropriate or not seem to provide much stronger cases of repulsion and disbelief amongst an audience.  What I mean by this, is that there are many times that people talk because they do not want things to be weird. So, they give away more knowledge than what people actually want to hear, leaving their listeners in a perturbed state. I once experienced this in group function at church, and I am not going to lie to you, I am amazed at the amount of information people will share with others.  So, my church group was having an activity one night and we were at the part where one group of people have “the spotlight,” which basically means that they present something to everyone else so we get to know a little bit more about them.  This particular group consisted of 3 girls asking 3 boys several general questions about themselves (like one of those old, lame game shows). Everything had gone alright, you know, questions about what their best date was or whatever other marriage-related topics they could think about, until the last question came up. One of the girls spoke up, “What is your most embarrassing moment?” DOOM.  The first two boys had decently bad experiences, but nothing too terrible, and then “Patchy” answered (his name is not really “Patchy,” of course. I’m just protecting his identity). Of course, he felt inclined to tell us his actual most embarrassing moment: him eating some foreign food that inevitably did not agree with him, resulting in him having an explosion of diarrhea while cooking dinner the next night.  That’s right--no filter whatsoever with “Patchy...” and I’m not just referring to his toilet.
Besides the challenge of one-sided awkwardness, I think it is safe to say that awkwardness can come equally from both sides.  Whether it is a date where you quickly discover that you share no interests at all with the person, or a situation I’m sure I have experienced: walking into someone, muttering some unidentifiable words because you were caught off guard, and both of you confusingly make movements you had no idea your body could make, in order to move out of each other’s way and get back onto the path to your destination. These moments are pretty common, though, and while we may not put much thought into them, they are still very apparent (and very uncomfortable). All in all, classic, bumpy, inescapable routes of the common person. 
(Check out this site for more REAL awkward moments from REAL PEOPLE! Include your own moments, if you would like as well!)

There are those of us, however, who can break the bonds of social entrapment; whether it is a natural gift or the product of self-motivation, I do not know, but it is possible. I have witnessed the talent of several people, who simply are immune to shyness or overbearance.   They go to a party and completely open themselves up to people they have never met before, they go to school their first day and initiate conversation with whomever they feel like talking to at that moment; however, most importantly, they talk, and they do it without saying something out of term.  The leading cause for socially awkward situations can most often be pointed out specifically to a lack of conversation.  Now, there are also plenty of cases where people say too much (we’ve all had that experience on one side or the other); but for the most part, this is true.  Whether we, as people, are afraid of receiving judgement from others or just feeling inadequate, our efforts at avoiding awkwardness fail us with every word of silence we do not take the courage to break.  

So, why continue in pointless attempts at a graceful facade, if they are not working? Take a chance and sit next to someone you have never met before.  If you are afraid of human contact with strangers, pretend like you have never felt afraid a day in your life.  You have immeasurable capabilities. When walking by someone, just smile and say, “hi.” There’s no doubt about it; the human race will find itself stumbling less on the path of life when the people stop looking at their own two feet, and look up from the ground to talk with each other.  


  1. People looking at their own too feet, or worse yet looking only at their cell phone with headphones in completely disconnected from human contact. A lot of sad things I've witnessed as a student, teacher, observer and it's getting worse.

  2. This is a sad fact. I hate being with friends and they continually text when we're hanging out. So rude. I don't think kids understand rules of respect anymore... tsk tsk

  3. Your blog reminds me of "Hyperbole and a Half"!

    I hate when people leave one seat empty. When someone does that, I have to talk to them!

  4. Not going to lie, I'm probably one of those people that make things awkward, but not to be awkward, I just like my personal space. I hate bumping elbows and other things like that.

  5. I absolutely love your illustrations. The purple guy foaming at the mouth is amazing.

  6. I agree with your thesis based on just your pictures. Those were so awesome. Congrats it was an incredible paper and with the drawings you would win the vote of anyone. Good Job!

  7. All of you are fantastic. I really think the pictures are the best part! (Actually, I hope that that is not true, but I still loved making them.)