Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Growing Up Awkward
These days it seems the word "awkward" has taken on a life of its own in pop culture. Everything is awkward: walking around campus on a Monday morning, reading in public, and the Jonas Brothers. So many things and actions are awkward now that people themselves are actually becoming awkward. I, apparently, am one of these people. Worse yet, I proclaim myself as such. The real kicker is, I am not even sure what "awkward" really means, especially not in the context of becoming a whole person. When I really got to thinking about it, I think I most associate the word by being random and occasionally flaky. However, back in the olden days (and by this I mean like the 1950s, so more like our parents days) I highly doubt people were describing the introduction of their television set into the otherwise barren living room as "flaky." So why all of the sudden is there such a mass flooding of awkward things and people into our society?
Being the most completely out-of-tune-with-pop-culture person I know, I decided to turn to the one resource that could possibly tell me what exactly it is that makes me and an empty seat at a bar "awkward." To my delight, Urban Dictionary was very informative on this situation. Here are two definitions that I think really hit to the core of my quandary:
1. a) Ungraceful; ungainly
b) Clumsily or unskillfully performed
c) Marked by or causing embarrassment or discomfort
2. A word used by...girls in a situation in which they feel weirded out by the presence of a confident young guy trying to make conversation.
Well, there you have it. I am ungraceful no doubt, clumsy for sure, and unfortunately have caused my fair share of embarrassing scenes for myself and others. As for the second definition, there is no more clear example than the Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears' of the world. And those, my friends, are the folks that are shaping our culture. Ergo, why everything is now awkward. It all fits together now!
Yet, there is one thing missing from this whole equation. Something that we all tend to include in our everyday definition of "awkward," but that Urban Dictionary does not, and I am sorry but I cannot go against the one source that finally clued me in on what The Tool Academy really is. That thing is the "cold shoulder." Contrary to popular belief, the cold shoulder is not awkward. It's just rude. Now, the cold shoulder has also evolved in its definition. It used to mean ignoring someone who was beneath us or who lost your most prized Ace of Base of c.d. and never replaced it. In today's world though it also means acting like as if you have never met the person. Before going too much further, let's just clear the air: We are all guilty of doing this to someone. However, there is a huge difference of having a bad day and not wanting to talk at all, or even just not quite sure if that was actually someone you me,t and just blatantly deciding to whip out your cell phone and reply to an imaginary text message.
Unfortunately, I have met my fair share of people who receive a lot of imaginary texts. Or at least I think I have... It always seems, according to them we have never met. Nothing is more funny, or dare I say "awkward," than when you meet someone for the umpteenth time as though it were your first and when posed the question to you both, "Have you ever met (insert name)" and you giddily reply "Yes, just the other week at the baseball game!" the other person replies, rather fiercely, "No." Expressionless and done with the conversation. On to the next time you shall meet again.
They are a very bewildering breed, these selective introduction people. It would seem as though they would run out of things to act like they are distracted by. Yet, they are very innovative. Just today a girl I have met 546 times was passing by me, and just so she didn't have to give a look of acknowledgment, she all of the sudden got completely tangled up in her headphones. I'm talking all the way from her wrist to elbow. Clearly that was going to take up at least a "hello" and probably a smile of her time.
That's all it is really. A "hi" and a smile. It's stupid and corny to say (hey, I'm awkward, I can be as stupid and corny as I want) but a smile and a little recognition can make the day a little more bearable. Possibly even less awkward.