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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Column: Awkward turtle

So the other day I ran into this guy who may or may not have been in some class I’ve taken within the past two years. The following awkwardness ensues.

Random person I barely recognize: “Hey! How are you doing?”

Me: “Oh hey. What? Are you talking to me?” (Note: remove headphones on iPod.)

Random person: “Yeah, how are you? How’s life?”

Me (intense thinking): Oh great. That dreaded phrase. No, not the “hey” part, but the “how’s life?” part.

Me (after the awfully eternal silence): “Uhh … hmm … it’s been awesome. Great. Fun. Same old.” (The list of vague adjectives goes on …)

Random person (refusing to shut up and walk away): “Ohh … hmm … that’s nice to hear. How interesting. So what have you been up to? How’s life?”

Me (again, intense thinking, but this time with uncontrollable fidgeting): Oh great. No way. Now, really? You’re gonna ask me again? Like I already said, it’s awesome. Fun. Same old.

What am I supposed to say?

One, I can barely remember the person, let alone recall him to be a friend I had any background with. Two, are you really expecting me to give you my 30-second life story for the past however many months or years since I’ve seen you last?

And so the scene plays out with surface chatter as I attempt to remember what exactly he already knows since I can barely remember the last time we even met.

Of course, I can’t just say, “Dude, I can barely remember you. Who are you again?” That’s just plain depressing.

But I wish I could get myself to say that, or at least, “What’s your name again?” Because as the conversation progresses, the quality of my replies gradually deteriorate from bad to irretrievably dreadful.

The situation is one word: Awkward. Actually, no, it’s not even that. It’s awwkkwarddd.

I realize it may just all be in my head. Deep down in the depths of my soul I’m quite the awkward turtle at times – anything can be awkward to me, especially after numerous replays. I mean, sitting by my editor, listening to my attempts at being humorous be repeatedly read out loud and edited is super awkward. That’s cringe-worthy awkward in my head.

It’s like that saying about life. You know, the one that goes, “Life is just one damned thing after another.” (Well, you probably wouldn’t know, since I just Googled “Life is … quotes” and that was one of the millions that popped up.)

But instead of life being one damned thing after another, it’s more like, life being one awkward thing after another. Then again, some may equate awkward with damned.

Seriously, sometimes it feels like life consists of one awkward event after another stringed together by mundane daily life: awkward conversations (try talking about constipation and poop over lunch and getting blank stares in return), awkward confessions (and I’m not talking about the Catholic kind) and awkward silences (make me want to bolt out the door even if there is no door).

The awkward moments just stand out like annoyingly long coughs in the middle of a lecture. You want to either get rid of them ASAP or get the heck out of the place.

So assuming it’s not just all in my head (as likely that it is), then how exactly am I supposed to avoid these awkward situations?

I could totally announce “awkwarddd!” at the top of my lungs each and every time there is a long, uncomfortable silence, thereby either erasing any awkward tension or maybe simultaneously increasing it tenfold.

Of course, I could just sprint out of sight whenever I’m about to hear some odd truth I would rather not know, leaving the awkward-inducing person to ponder his existence. Or I could always just move to Antarctica and mingle with the polar bears before they become extinct from global warming. That all sounds quite reasonable, no?

I guess my final option is to actually deal with these awkward moments. I could reply calmly, thoughtfully and coherently all while maintaining a poised demeanor and steady tone of voice.

But oh, how difficult that would be. It’s way too much effort on my part. I’d rather just live in a cave – or maybe a nice, comfy turtle shell will do.

TIFFANY LEW is on the lookout for anyone who wants to move to Antarctica with her, although that would defeat the purpose of avoiding awkwardness. Contact her at tjlew@ucdavis.edu if you have any solutions.

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