I’m a fairly awkward person.
I’m that particularly difficult combination of introverted and shy, and while I do enjoy social occasions (especially when they involve people I’m comfortable around), they can be that bit harder for me than they are for the “Normals” amongst you. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to overcome my social awkwardness, and a lot of the time I no longer even notice it myself. (Confession: IT’S ALL AN ACT.) There are some things, however, that are pretty much guaranteed to make me feel instantly awkward: here are just a few of them…
Expect me to engage in social kissing and hugging
When you’re an awkward person anyway, social kissing is just THE WORST. Seriously, isn’t it THE WORST? It’s such a minefield. Some people kiss you on one cheek, some on two. Some people do that “three cheek” kiss, where they do a super-fast left-right-left. Some people don’t want to touch you AT ALL, and when forced to engage in air-kissing, will recoil the second they enter your airspace, making you wonder if you have cooties or something.
Some people change their “awkward social kissing” approach from day to day, so you never know quite what to expect – you go in for the usual double-cheek-kiss, only to discover that today they’re favouring the single-cheek approach, or, worse, are not doing social kissing AT ALL. Either way, they’ll look at you like you’ve tried to attack them, and you’ll feel like the most awkward person who ever awkwarded. The next time you see them, you’ll remember that they do single-cheek-kissing now, but they’ll recall that you tried to go in for the double last time they saw you, so you’ll both mess it up again, and a situation you didn’t think could possibly be any more awkward will somehow manage it. Woe!
I HATE social kissing and hugging – especially when it involves people I don’t know very well, or am meeting for the first time. (Distant relatives are the worst: you often don’t know them AT ALL, but you’re related to them, so you’re expected to assume a level of intimacy that’s just super-weird for everyone involved.) I know it’s nice to hug people you know, but everyone else? Can we just NOT?
Force me to open gifts in public
There are few things I find more awkward than sitting in the middle of a group of people, all watching intently as I do my best to provide the appropriate reactions to opening gifts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I very much appreciate the gifts, and am very easy to please in that department (The fact that someone bought me a gift AT ALL is enough to make me want to give them a super-awkward hug) – I just hate being the centre of attention while I open them: especially when faced with That Person who feels the need to constantly apologise for their gift and do the whole “It’s just a small thing, you probably won’t like it!” thing, so what should be a pleasant experience becomes weirdly stressful as you reassure them over and over again that you like it. SO. AWKWARD. If bridal showers were a Thing in the UK, I’d probably have eloped…
Turn up at my house unexpectedly
I like having guests – when I know they’re coming and have had time to prepare for them. If you turn up unexpectedly, though, you’ll probably find me unshowered, with no makeup, and still in my workout clothes – bonus points if I’ve ACTUALLY worked out in them, and am a hot, sweaty mess because of it. My house will also probably be a bit of a mess, and I’ll be out of milk, sugar or anything AT ALL I can offer you. You may think nothing of all of this, but I’ll be horribly embarrassed by it, and will want my dirty floors to open up, swallow me, then spit me back out, but with makeup and clothes that aren’t lycra on. Please let me know if you’re planning to visit me: it’ll be so much easier on all of us…
Draw attention to my awkwardness
Some people, when faced with a quieter-than-average person (i.e. ME) will feel the need to draw attention to this, and demand to know WHY the quiet person is quiet. Often they’ll do this repeatedly, and will make a Great Big Deal of It, to the absolute mortification of the quiet person. I call this the “Spotlight on James Brown” effect, although by “James Brown” I obviously mean “Amber McNaught”. There I’ll be, sitting there perfectly happily, not a care in the world, when suddenly it happens. “LOOKIT AMBER!” someone will say. “She’s SO QUIET! Why are you so quiet, Amber? Are you OK?” Then all conversation will stop, and everyone in the room will turn to stare at me accusingly. Now that the conversation is All About Me, I’ll normally go bright red with horror, at which point my interrogator will switch tactic to, “Ooh, she’s blushing! Lookit Amber blushing! Why are you blushing, Amber?” And then I’ll jump out of my chair and karate-chop them to the ground. In my head, obviously.
Respond to my email or text with a phone call
I’m phone-phobic in the extreme: I absolutely hate the things, which is why I favour email or, at a push, text message, as my preferred means of communication. The internet has obviously made life a whole lot easier for the phone-phobics amongst us, but there’s always That Person, isn’t there? You know, the one who’s all, “I got your email, but I thought it would be easier just to call you than reply to it!” Well, it may be easier for THEM, but it definitely isn’t for me – especially when they’re calling on a cellphone with bad reception, which means the entire conversation consists of both of you going, “WHAT? WHAT? SORRY, DIDN’T CATCH THAT – CAN YOU SAY IT AGAIN?” JUST SEND ME A FREAKING EMAIL, PEOPLE! Quite apart from anything else, I like the fact that email allows you to get everything in writing, and gives you time to work out what you’re going to say – on the phone, I’ll be so busy trying to pretend I’m normal that I’ll forget everything you said to me. On the plus side, I’ll also probably agree to anything you want, just to get you off the phone, so if you want to borrow some money, you know what to do…
There is, however, one thing that’s even worse than phone calls:
Or Skype. Or any kind of video call, basically. Lately I keep getting emails from PRs or marketing people, or sometimes even just students wanting to interview me for their dissertations (Yes, really.), and they’ll be all, “Can we jump on a video call to discuss this?” Which just makes me think, what’s wrong with them? Why do they hate me? And is there ANYTHING more awkward than being forced to look at your own stupid face in the corner of the screen (And why does that camera always make me look like Voldemort? No, really, WHY?) while you try to talk to someone? Because, honestly, I don’t think there is – but if you think you can beat the sheer awkwardness that is the dreaded video call, I’d love to hear from you!