I told a friend that I don’t believe in awkwardness, and he replied, “Have you met yourself?”
Despite this crippling reminder of my fallibility, I hold firm. This may sound hypocritical, as I am renowned for creating uncomfortable situations, but even if awkwardness exists, I will not acknowledge it.
Awkward is sweeping the nation. Its vector is not ticks, avians or rage — but regular humans, generally harmless but completely inescapable. Here is a list of some things I have recently heard referred to as awkward: saying hello to a professor, entering a room, Ichabod Crane and not being dead. I know for sure Ichabod was awkward; in fourth grade I memorized “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and forcibly recited it to classmates. But whereas Schoolmaster Crane is unaffected by our literary analysis, we mortals suffer when branded with the awkward label.
Don’t get me wrong; although I prefer being called creepy to awkward, it would be problematic for someone of my reputation to claim that awkward does not exist. That would be like the pot claiming black does not exist, or like an awkward person lying.
A few things are genuinely and inarguably awkward. These are: watching sex scenes with your parents (not just any sex scene, I am talking “Species 9” soft-core porn alien tentacle frantic mating); hearing about rejected tit sex invitations; realizing that the boy you bragged to about a new word creation that you posted to urbandictionary actually created the word himself and you forgot it was an inside joke you had when he was your boyfriend.
How many pleasant third-wheel moments have been ruined when the boyfriend runs to the bathroom and the girlfriend leans to you and says, “I’m so sorry this is awkward!” And surely I am not the only one who has experienced a successful conversation with a potential mate, only to hear an observer refer to it as awkward. Perfectly normal and sometimes funny or suave interactions are irreparably tainted with the awkward label. This ex post facto awkwardness ruins many a glorious triumph of conversational brilliance, perhaps with reality, but more likely with faulty judgment. Who needs this steady pounding at the self-esteem?
Awkward-goggles have even invaded the most private of spheres — the bedroom. Whatever visions be dancing in your heads during sex, be they King Leonidas or sugarplums … they have been replaced with Awkward. We have become so finely attuned to the awkward, so wary of its sneaky ways, that we are always on the lookout. And for nerds with tiny beds, this is rough.
Things that, historically, have been normal parts of sex — sounds, smells, fumbles, falling off the top bunk — are now awkward. The sex mantra of, “Cool, I am having sex!” has been replaced with “Is this awkward?” But if you eliminate the awkward from sex, you will not be having sex. Let’s just ban the awkward from discussions of sex. The exception here is, of course, the hand job, which actually should not be discussed at all.
Awkward’s popularity, like an amoeba, is self-perpetuating.
We create awkwardness in the attempt to avoid it. Yesterday I walked out of my college with an acquaintance. When we ran out of things to say, he sped up, then turned over his shoulder and said as a means of farewell, “Well, I guess we are walking at different speeds!” This fear of “awkward silence” is why I like to remain in my room for a few days after I get back from break. When I emerge, sans tan, the how-was-your-break questioning will have ended. People wonder, “What would happen if, when someone asks me in passing how I am, I actually just told them all my personal problems?” What happens is they smile, then tell others how you are a nutjob.
In avoiding the awkwardness, we rely on methods of protection and avoidance. These take the form of sunglasses, headphones, cigarettes and putting your picture on the sex offender Web site. Abstinence from human contact is the only 100 percent effective way to avoid awkwardness.
But one of the alternative methods for awkwardness protection is relationships. If we are never alone, all embarrassing moments are instantly transformed into inside jokes. The ability to enjoy inside jokes with oneself is a rarely documented, but treasured, skill. We don’t hear about it often, because these people rarely leave solitary confinement.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship, you don’t have to wait to run home and tell a suitemate in order to make it funny-not-pathetic that your leg got caught in the gate trying to kick it open. Your boyfriend would be right there, laughing as you wrench free. A romance without inside jokes means both people are really suave. Or that only one of them is gay.
It is not that I believe awkwardness does not exist — it is merely that I choose to rarely see or acknowledge it. In ninth grade I had several uncomfortable interactions regarding my first and very noticeable hickey. A friend said to me, “You can either keep wearing that nasty scarf or you can just say to the world ‘Bitches, I got my neck sucked!’” The awkward label is a means of self-protection just in the way the scarf was — so why not say, “Bitches, I just walked in on my roommate humping,” rather than, “Man, that was awkward.” Awkward is just less fun.
One time I has such an odd interaction with a boy for whom I broke my “no awkward” rule just so I could label him while complaining to a friend. The next day some gossip came floating back to me — completely unprompted he had brought up our conversation and described it as awkward. What a horrendous affront! Whether or not you believe in the limitation or proliferation of the awkward — there is one important question. Who is awkward, you or me?
The answer is always you.
Molly Green is feeling a little blue.