In case you missed it the first time, the DEconstruction blog will periodically post articles from issues past worth reading. Here is the Back Issue…
Guide to… How to Remedy Awkward Situations (Spring ’07)
by Amy Saltzman
Every day there are stories centered on it, people complaining about it, and Facebook groups dedicated to it…the awkward situation. If you haven’t fallen victim to the plight of the awkward, you probably don’t get out of the house enough. It is an unavoidable complex that plagues students and adults alike. So how does one avoid things like an embarrassingly long silence or ill-timed laughter? I have experienced enough awkward moments to be blackmailed for the rest of my life, and while I haven’t perfected the remedy, I have found that there are ways to flee the scene with minimal damage done to your pride. Here are a few tips and pointers that may help to make it through some of the most well-known awkward moments.
Awkward: You’re walking to class by yourself when you see a friend of a friend. You figure you’ll make friendly conversation by slowing your pace and talking to them. All goes well until about thirty seconds into the conversation when you get done asking how their week end went and how their classes are going. This is when awkward silence makes its debut, and you’re forced to walk side by side without anything to say, staring ambiguously at random objects and wishing you had brought your iPod.
Remedy: When all has gone sour, try and split from the friend as soon as possible and take a detour. Any brick path away from them is a good path, no matter how far from your class it may be. Even if you are a few minutes tardy, it is a worthwhile sacrifice for the sake of avoiding the walk of awkward hell.
Awkward: You’re walking to your second class when you get to the double doors of the building and are faced with a dilemma. There are people walking behind you, but they’re neither close enough to hold the door for or far enough to close the door behind you. You decide to be nice and just hold the door open, assuming the people that are following you will get the hint and speed up their pace. Instead, the people go so slow you swear they’re going backwards, but they already caught your eye with a silent acknowledgement that you will hold the door until they feel like getting there. Meanwhile, you end up holding the door so long that you look like the old people that Walmart hires to greet customers.
Remedy: Just let go of the door. Odds are that one of the ridiculously slow walkers will all of a sudden morph into a marathon runner to catch the door and maybe slip you a dirty look. Avoiding eye contact works and hoping that they’re not in your next class works best. If you feel like it’s already too awkward, just pretend you see a friend, make the “Oh, hey!” wave, and dart off on your way.
Awkward: You’re leaving class and you head for the double doors signaling your freedom. However, this time someone holds the door open for you. You say “Thanks!” a little too excitedly, but just let it go. However, then you realize that there are two pairs of double doors, and they hold it for you again. You say “Thank-you” once again, or maybe you mumble something incoherently, but either way the person in front of you gives you a bit of a weird look or awkward laugh because they don’t know if they should respond or ignore you that second time around. Meanwhile, the joke’s on you.
Remedy: Try not to take it too personally. Saying “Thank-you” twice tends to be a bit of an overkill, so maybe the second mumble is a more appropriate gesture. However, if the person makes an effort to cock their head around to face you, they probably want a double dose of gratitude. Just try to be the first person to make it to the double set of double doors next time (however be weary of a second occurrence of the previous awkward door-holding instance).
Awkward: You finally have some time to relax in your room, and even though you may be hungry or have to pee, you instead begin checking Facebook. You’re cruising through the news feed when all of a sudden you see that a Facebook friend has just uploaded a ton of pictures. Before you know it, you’ve spent twenty-five minutes mesmerized by a screen filled with pictures of people you don’t even know when all of a sudden something breaks your concentration. There’s a, “Oh, hey” from behind, and you realize you’ve been caught in the act of Facebook stalking by the person who you were currently stalking. And the mortification has only just begun.
Remedy: Try arranging your body in such a position that enables you to cover up almost the entire screen without looking obvious about it. However, if they have already caught you red-handed, try and start conversation that leads them away from your dirty deeds. If the picture that is on the screen is of a foreign country they visited or a vacation they went on, it’s okay to comment like, “Oh yeah, I just happened to see this picture of you from (insert name of place), and I have been wanting to go. How did you like it?” Warning: this approach will not work with drunken weekend pics at Shaggy’s or some thing of that genre; then it just sounds weird.
Awkward: After some further procrastination and maybe a nap, you decide to go work out because you still don’t feel like doing homework. You are at the gym, and there’s some moderate traffic with sweaty girls on bikes, sweaty boys checking out the girls on bikes, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile you’re minding your own business doing some hardcore crunches and actually beginning to take the workout seriously. Then all of a sudden the constricting muscles twist and pull in such a manner that out of nowhere it happens. You just farted. The horror contained in that split second of loud, free-flowing air is almost impossible to describe.
Remedy: Play it off by trying to move your shoes around on the floor in hopes of making a scuffing sound that also resembles a fart. If it works, you can hope to have earned yourself the benefit of the doubt from anyone whose wandering ears caught your melodious surprise. In the best case scenario, everyone around you has their iPod on, and wouldn’t even hear a bomb drop.
Awkward: You head to dinner to meet up with some friends and are pleasantly surprised because it turns out that a larger, more general group of friends has decided to join the dining festivities as well. You guys are chatting away and you’re reminiscing with an old buddy whom you wish you kept in touch with more often. While asking how things are going, you slip in a personal note that you could have sworn they had told you about, such as, “Oh, and I’m really sorry that they had to put your dog, Smokey, to sleep over winter break.” However, from the look in their confused, glazed eyes, you realize the damage that’s been done. How did you actually know the deep inner turmoil resulting from the death of man’s best friend? Your friend hadn’t mentioned the incident to you after all; their Facebook status had told you so.
Remedy: The name of any close mutual friends should be mentioned right now. If there is a chance that this acquaintance may have told anyone else about Smokey, hopefully you’ll mention the name of the mutual friend that they confided in. If you are able to convince them that you heard the story from a friend of theirs, it is a more socially acceptable alternative to admitting your Facebook obsession.
Awkward: You’re trying to get something to eat, but tonight is burger night at the dining hall, and the lines look more like American Idol auditions than dinner in Delaware. You finally are able to get out of the mess of students, and as you try to crane your neck to see over the crowd, someone catches your elbow with their tray. In what feels like an hour, your glass makes a slow, terrible, descent from your tray to the hard floor. You watch it tumble, already cringing with the knowledge of what is going to happen next: it smashes into tiny glass daggers on the floor. Everything stops and not a sound is heard; the entire dining hall has seemingly turned into the Morris Library and you feel like the obnoxious kid on the cell phone.
Remedy: Based on numerous past and current studies in this field of awkwardness, there has yet to be an official remedy for this situation. Until students conquer their impulsive urge to applaud at the first sign of broken glassware, there seems to be no sign of hope.
Although these are only a small spattering of the immense variety of situations that that awkwardness may assume, I hope that they give you an idea of how to make a classier exit when everything that could go wrong, has. Sure, there are still going to be Facebook slip-ups, regrettable hookups, and continuous situations that make you shake your head and ask “Why me?”, but preparation is your best bet to dealing with awkwardness is a less awkward fashion.