I want to reclaim the word “awkward*.” I don’t mean awkward in the sense that you and your bro want to celebrate a particularly good play in a sporting event so you go in for a high five and he goes in for a fist bump. I mean…
Shit. What is the actual definition of awkward anyway? Let me start over.
To me, the word “awkward” has been watered down way too much in recent years. Much in the way that skulls somehow got painted pink and bedazzled until they stopped being symbols of death and transmogrified into cutesy decorations fit only to be worn by ridiculous teens, “awkward” is now just a dismissible foible instead of the status-maintaining safeguard it was installed to be.
To be awkward is to fail to grasp the simplest of human interactions and customs. It doesn’t denote a lack of intelligence or anything. Just a certain…”not getting it.” While existing around other creatures of the same species tends to be a no-brainer to most, to some it’s a grueling gauntlet of unavoidable peril, crushed feelings, misheard words, misunderstood intentions and a general pain in the tokus.
You know. Awkward.
I’m awkward. Really awkward. There’s nothing cute about it. It’s not an “oh you!” kind of situation. I don’t comically bump into things while I walk in a clumsy, yet endearing way. Example? Here’s a conversation between two normal people (I assume):
Bob: Hi Deacon! How are you today?
Deacon: Salutations Bob!** I’m doing alright. Can’t complain. I’m just on my way to the store to buy napkins. Bye!
Now, here’s a conversation with me:
Bob: Hi Josh! How’s it going?
Me: Shit man. It’s already two in the afternoon and I’m not nearly as drunk as I should be.
Bob: Well, maybe you should consider putting your pants back on. You’re starting to scare the Chuck E. Cheese employees. Not to mention the kids.
Me: But this is the best way to see the flesh decay and fall off of my rotting bones as the inevitable march of time slowly destroys us all!
It’s not fun. It really isn’t. I’m in a perpetual state of befuddlement about even the most basic things. Like facial expressions. A real grumbacher. Are people supposed to practice smiling in the mirror? Probably not, but I do. Getting the ends of my mouth to curl up takes practice. Plus I find that people are less put off when your face isn’t just a blank slate, (by the way, people who smile at nothing in general when their faces are in a resting state scare the shit out of me.)
Also, tact can be a fairly alien concept to me. I’ve been accused of speaking without taking into consideration such foreign notions as other people’s feelings, or how my words may come across. I have enough trouble trying to convey coherent thoughts and ideas; making sure my words go down with a spoonful of sugar seems like extra credit for me. Gotta crawl before you can walk. I’m not tactless in an “I keep it real” way, just an “I don’t know any better” kind of way.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the spectrum. But I know I’m not. That’d be a cop out. An easy excuse for my uncouth mannerisms. Then things I say and do could be quickly waved away as the behavior of a buffoon. I could walk up to somebody and just piss myself while maintaining their gaze and they’d just give me a gentle pat on the head, a reassuring “there, there,” and send me on my way, knowing I tried my best and I’ll probably get Jell-o later as a reward.
I’m just awkward.
And it has cost me a lot. I routinely bungle friendships, relationships, napkin-buying jaunts, etc. A life that’s a comedy of errors is one thing when it’s directed by Truffaut, or if it happens to Ignatius Reilly, but it’s demoralizing when it’s your actual life. It’s frustrating, because as far as I can tell, we’re all looking at the same 3-D illusion, but only you guys can see the goddamn schooner.
The answer, by the way, is not to “get out there and interact more,” with people. That’s callous advice, dispensed by those who don’t understand the problem enough to care about a solution. That’s like telling a nerd that if he wants to get beat up less by bullies, he needs to hang out around more bullies. That’s a recipe for pummelings galore. I’ve found that the best solution for me is to stay away from people. I’m never going to figure out how to be less awkward. And you normies will never be tolerant of somebody who’s confusing and contrary, seemingly for the sake of shits and grins.
So I try to limit my social interaction. Because I know better. Being “awkward” may sound like some opportunities for hilarity, but it’s not. It’s not a good thing, no matter how you slice it. And if I have to live with the never-ending and sometimes far-reaching consequences of my awkwardness, then I’ll at least own it.
I’ll own all the awkwards.
*Don’t even get me started on reclaiming the word reclaim.
**”Salutations”. See? I already got the hellos wrong. How do you people do this?