” Just me, a (semi) grown ass woman, about to gob it from the top tier of cinema seating all the way to the bottom… probably plummeting to my death.”
The Urban Dictionary defiinition of socially awkward is an individual excessively afraid of social interaction due to some form of peer rejection or personal choice. Presenting a form or different forms of ‘uncomfortability’ when around others.
My definition… is me.
I am baffled by some people’s inability to read social situations and behave accordingly. I am baffled. (eventhough I am probably one of them)
As a socially awkward entity, my life is narrated by awkward situations that entail either me reacting terribly to other people or other people not being able to fathom when our social interaction has gone past its expiry date. Sometimes the life of a socially awkward hermit crab can get… well, awkward. So I thought I’d share a few and see if anyone else has had any horrifyingly uncomfortable social situations when you are dying for the social version of a toilet pass.
My colleague and I have the task of approaching people professionally and asking them if they would like to participate in our research project by providing audio samples. During our walking round of the library, she points out a group of three guys, two of them look South-Asian. Perfect! We need two participants for each sample and they need to be South Asian because our research is looking specifically at the South Asian youth vernacular and the influences of Indian English. We approach them and I deliver the scripted lines that we must state when asking if they are willing to participate. In mid-sentence, the guy on my left cuts me off,
“you again? I recognised you but you didn’t recognise me”
I stare blankly, recognise him from where? He explains that I interviewed him last week and I thank him for his contribution and as I am about to ask if his friends would like to participate instead, he remarks that I came intentionally to see him again.
Out of all the people I interviewed last week, this buffoon seriously thinks that I specifically remember him. I continue,
“yeh. okay, so nevermind then. I’d like to ask if your friends would be interested in participating unless they have been interviewed last week also…”
As I turn my attention to his friends to tell them about the project, he interrupts, again,
“You’re just doing it to get boys innit”
I stare at my colleague in disbelief. There is nothing more insufferable than a man who thinks he can read me or question my character. I don’t know where he is from but he does not seem to understand the whole professional conduct thing and that this is not bloody Devdas or something. Maybe social conventions aren’t a thing in asshole land, maybe there it is normal to behave like a self -righteous little shit.
Yes. I am doing a degree of my choice and conducting a research project that goes towards credits for my final grade and could possibly help in independent research for a dissertation all because I fancy you. Yes, sir, you got it, correctamundo! The outer me smiles politely and bites her tongue before walking away. The inner me, however, whips out a puppet mini-me and in the sincerest fuck-you-fashion proceeds to talk to him through the puppet, telling him about an empty jar that I have with his name on it. It is reserved for when I castrate him and then for my next trick I will gift him the removed articles as a token of my affection. Puppet Shazmeen encourages me to give him a whack. I’m a pacifist, however, my attitude isn’t. I tell her to pack it in and I laugh to myself as I turn to walk away, knowing that I handled the situation maturely.
My inner sarcasm and wit are underappreciated; these scenarios are far more comical in my brain than they are to everyone else who is witnessing the same events.
As a habitual writer and note-taker, I carry my notebooks (yes, multiple) with me wherever I go and write whenever I find the time. It is cathartic and helps clear my head. I had noticed for about two weeks that whenever I sit in a certain place that the same guy would tot along and sit in near proximity and proceed to stare at me until I left. I sit in the same place every Monday for an hour before my seminar, it had become a recurring pattern and so had the presence of the creepy guy with the staring problem.
For the fourth week in a row, I continue with my notebook and sit, in excruciating social awkwardness, as he stares into my soul. It has been twenty-five minutes, should I call security and tell them that my paranoia is leading to believe that I am being followed and watched by some perv? My Muslim radar suddenly bumps into tune… SHIT, what if he’s a jinni?! I tell myself to calm down, that I am overestimating the situation and if I walk away and come back maybe he will have gone. I walk downstairs to the canteen and take my time picking sandwiches, none of which I like. I can see from where I am standing that he has left. I’m not overestimating. No, he isn’t a jinn but as I am about to head back up the stairs he appears out of nowhere and stands in my way to ask me something. I can’t hear, I have my earphones in and Maher Zain is far more interesting than whatever this lanky dude would like to say, I’m uninterested, I have important things on my mind.
Fast-forward to the second year and I have somehow befriended the creepy guy. I don’t like having male friends generally, I find men who aren’t my brothers irksome and difficult to be around, the friendship is entirely superficial.
We are having lunch, and although I usually don’t like eating with people who I’m not very fond of, he bought pizza and it is rude to decline if there is pizza. I eat slower than him, I’m a slow eater. But the way his lips smack together and makes that disgusting churning noise makes me want to whack him repeatedly with my plate. He slurps his cola like a child at a desi wedding. The smell of Cola makes me nauseous, it reminds me of vomiting when I had travel sickness in Pakistan once. Gosh, how am I here eating lunch with the person that has been notoriously referred to as the creep with the staring problem? I wrinkle my nose and pull a face every time he makes a masticating sound until he takes the hint and stops eating. I sigh in relief.
Long story short, we’re not friends anymore.
I’m keeping this one short for maximum effect. Just me, a (semi) grown ass woman, about to gob it from the top tier of cinema seating all the way to the bottom… probably plummeting to my death.
A couple stops making out to witness my death, they laugh hysterically whilst I grip on to seats to regain my balance. I try and call out to the guy standing in front so that he can save me but adrenaline has kicked in and I am panicking too much to find my voice. The guy, high as a kite (literally, there is no guessing, his eyes are red and he stinks of weed), turns around after I have regained my balance and asks me where I would like to sit. The couple are still laughing at me.
I nearly fucking died, and you turn around now?
I wait momentarily in the awkward silence as the high guy looks on unaffected. Puppet Shazmeen does not take her seat, she reaches out and pushes him, he falls down the flight of stairs that I just gracefully recovered myself from.
The uncle, the girl and the wardrobe
During my visit to Kashmir, I find myself absorbed in new crowds of people every day. Everyone in the village is related somehow. Today I am playing with a group of young girls who live next-door, all loud and energetic.
One of them is mute, she cannot speak but communicates impeccably with her eyes and hand motions and facial expressions. She is by far one of my favourites, she is mischievous and instigates every new game. She also looks like her uncle, a rather handsome young man who I have an aesthetic crush on. He has a smouldering gaze and all the girls in the village fancy him a bit. Today she is playing hide and seek with her younger sisters, she sees me sitting on the veranda and grabs my hand. I am now part of their game and I am on her team.
Her eyes say “this way! No. this way!” as she tugs me from one place to another.
Her sisters have all the good hiding places and she oversees hiding me, the game is played with a slight twist – you must hide your designated partner as well as yourself. The seeker is almost done counting and we still have nowhere to hide.
She tugs my arm towards a door and pulls me into a small cupboard room, it is dark. I am pushed into an uncomfortable corner and from her patting motion, I can guess that she is telling me to stay here. I feel a wooden object in front of me, like a door or a plank.
I hear the seeker say that she is ready to look for us, the youngest girls squeal with excitement and prematurely give away their locations. I hear them rallying as the seeker finds them one by one. Nobody has found me yet. Five minutes’ pass and I am still waiting in a dark corner with no idea of where I am. Another five minutes’ pass and I can hear the girls laughing and cajoling the girl to give up my location. I decide to wait a little while longer then begin to shout that I am surrendering. I giggle in anticipation, I can hear footsteps.
The plank jolts forward and I fall forwards, I balance myself and rub my eyes to help adjust to the light in the room.
“you found m- ”
Only now, I can see. It is not one of the girls. It is the smouldering village crush uncle.
He is holding open two doors and I am standing, utterly dumbfounded, between his arms.
The dark space where the girl had so excellently concealed me… was her uncle’s wardrobe.
I look around and see that I have wrinkled his neatly folded salwar kameez. I smile awkwardly and say nothing, I duck under his arms and run.
Oh fuck, how embarrassing. I run home and continue my day as normal.
The following day, I am walking in the yard and see the smouldering village crush uncle sitting with a cohort of my uncles and cousins. I walk past with my best normal face on but he catches my eye and smirks, I smirk too. We have communicated, like the girl, with our eyes. He says
“I understand how embarrassing that was, I won’t tell anyone”
“I am a living embarrassment, thanks.”
I walk away in silence, puppet Shazmeen falls about laughing at my socially awkward existence.