The awkward moment when...
Young and Restless
Awkward is the new cool. Thanks to the likes of Tina Fey in “30 Rock” and Zooey Deschanel in the role of her life, it is now endearing to be cringe-worthy. But (I say this with only a hint of irony and flannel) I was awkward before it was cool, before it was hip to be clumsy, to snort when you laugh, to be a little too earnest. Now I’m noticing that people, especially women, are actually proud to classify themselves as awkward in attempts to come off as quirky.
From my research (okay, my Twitter and Tumblr feed) I’ve noticed a trend of normal, well-adjusted women who are jumping on the bandwagon of self-proclaimed future cat ladies. There now seems to be a silver lining in casting yourself as someone only fit for feline companions. There’s a trendy new genre of self-deprecating humor where doe-eyed girls can’t seem to hold a conversation without tripping over their feet or sneezing on some guy’s face (I’m looking at you, Zooey). Quirkiness, a term once reserved for people with unique interests and idiosyncrasies, is now a way to describe those whose social development appears stunted in middle school. Upon embracing the trend, inane and skittish behavior is being mislabeled as charming.
And in case you are too beautiful and socially adept today, it still counts if you were a hot mess in high school. Photos from our formidable years that were once typically smuggled away or burned are now shared as badges of honor. We have Victoria Secret angels insisting they were nerdy and unsightly in high school, even though their incriminating childhood photos just reveal them sporting ponytails, glasses and high cheekbones.
I’ve noticed this strange competition of people trying to out-dork each other’s high school photos. “Oh, you think you were awkward? Let me show you this photo of me in my high school marching band uniform,” I have actually witnessed being said.
Maybe it’s the so-called “ugly duckling syndrome” which claims that those who blossom later in life have better personalities than those who were attractive all their lives that have us insisting we used to be dorkier than we really were. Perhaps we are mistaking awkward for down-to-earth and relatable. Whatever it is, there seems to be a growing desire to prove you have triumphed from an awkward phase.
A quick twitter search of #thatawkwardmomentwhen shows that the colloquial meaning of awkwardness has expanded to cover any fleeting moment of discomfort. Only one who laughed at a professor’s joke? Awkward. Ran out of things to say on a date? Awkward. Made eye contact with an ex-boyfriend on the bus? Awkward.
Excuse me for turning this into a psychiatric evaluation, but I think this mislabeling is often a way for us to ignore what’s really being felt. Awkwardness is more of a projection of how we think we are perceived, and less of what we emote. It’s easier to brush off a situation as awkward than to acknowledge what it probably was — humiliating, embarrassing or lonely.
The problem with awkwardness carrying a more positive connotation is that it serves as an excuse not to strive for personal growth and development. I am all for embracing your true self, but it’s not admirable to be socially, intellectually and emotionally inept. You are welcome to be shy, quiet, carefree and even aloof, but not awkward. Awkward is a cop out. Many times, an awkward situation is just a challenging one. Entering a room full of strangers, trying to keep up a conversation with an acquaintance, being underdressed at a party – instead of shrinking away, we should welcome these moments as challenges to overcome.
Erin Young is an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy senior. Her column, “Young and Restless,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.