I have been having the most awkward conversations lately. It seems like every conversation I have taken part in over this past week has been extremely awkward. Like, bordering painful.
This morning, for example, I was walking through the hall of the English department on campus and I noticed that the professor who left the message about my small fortune’s door was open and he was sitting there at his desk, so I just popped my head in and said this:
Hi, Dr. So-and-so. I just wanted to thank you for your nice message you left the other day.
He looked at me blankly, so I figured he must’ve forgotten me from the class I took with him a couple of semesters ago.
I’m Camille, I said. I won third prize in the writing contest?
Oh, yes, he said, well you’re welcome.
And then he just kept looking at me and I sort of panicked. I didn’t know what else to say besides thank you, and I had already said that, but I had his attention so it would be weird just to end it there. I stammered around for a few more excruciating moments, mumbling something about how his message had made my day, said thanks again, etc., and then just sort of shrank out of bounds from his door frame.
It was just bad in an all-around way.
And but see the reason I know it’s me with the problem instead of Everyone Else is that I am the person all of my conversation partners have in common—I am the one being awkward, the lowest common denominator. I don’t see them going around talking awkwardly to each other. Everybody else is totally normal and cool. I am the weird one.
I don’t know what my problem is.
Yes I do: I’m socially backward, a little bit.
I get too used to communicating virtually, too used to hitting the delete button when my thoughts don’t come out right, and I forget that things just don’t work that way in real life. I’m all the time starting sentences and then stopping them mid-speech, correcting my words, qualifying my sentiments. I can see people’s eyes glaze over after a few minutes of talking to me.
I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to talk to me, either.
I think what I need is some kind of intensive month-long program where electronic devices of any type are strictly prohibited, where I spend hours every day re-learning the fine art of when, where, and exactly how to drop appropriate jokes, and graceful ways to end a conversation without making excuses like, “Well, it’s been nice talking to you but now I have to go soak my cankles, it’s really quite urgent,” or just hovering around awkwardly waiting for the other person to go away.
I need social rehab.