Americans seem to like this phrase: “that’s so awkward,” they’ll say. “No! You can’t do that! That’s too awkward! You’re being awkward! Stop being so awkward! I wish, but man, that just seems far too awkward.”
What a f*cking headache, you are. And a pitiable headache at that. Allowing this meaningless cocktail of perspective and frivolous subjectivity to govern your life? Really? What does “awkward” even mean? What doesn’t it mean? Why is it so important to you? Why does the word leave your mouth so often? Why does it scare you so?
If this sounds like you, listen closely as I break it down. If it doesn’t sound like you, none of the following will resonate much at all; you’ll just think it sounds as foolish as I. However, if you have said the word “awkward” in the last 7 days, get the glasses out and read closely on.
Simply put, “that’s so awkward” is the dumbest phrase in the English language. It is single-handedly curbing the potential of your life. And here is why.
The fear of “being awkward,” shared by far too many of my fellow Americans, is derived from the notion of the existence of some arbitrary standard of normality. “That’s acceptable behavior, but that! No no–that’s awkward.” Sound about right? Sound like someone you know? Sound like yourself? I’m guessing it does. Let’s delve further.
This standard of normality–what is it? A set of rules for how to speak, how to approach members of your desired sex, how to network socially, or how to dress for a f*cking night out at the bar? Something like this. And if we deviate from this standard – if we break the rules – holy SHIT, we’ve fallen irretrievably into the fiery abyss of awkwardness. Game over. Pack your bags and head the f*ck home.
I think it’s easy to believe in this “standard of normality”; I think our American society feeds it to us. You can act that way, and you can’t act that way. That scares people away, and that doesn’t. That’s cool, and that’s not. I believe this is what the average American – if it’s even possible to speak generally and at the same time mildly accurately about an average American youth – is exposed to. I’d argue this a byproduct of a society, like ours, that preaches competition and inequality. If you want to get ahead, you must do things a certain way, and if you don’t – if you don’t fit the mold – you’re wrong. How awkward, eh?
Believe it or not, this “standard of normality” does not exist. There is no one way to do things–there is no one way to live your life. And believing that there is, and therefore believing that the word “awkward” has any real meaning, brings nothing but negativity.
The fear of deviation, or the fear of being awkward, will:
1. Shut windows of opportunity
2. Cloud your brain with unfounded apprehension
3. Unnecessarily drain mental energy
4. Lead you to baselessly judge others
5. Perpetuate this idea of a “standard of normality” onto your peers
The list does continue. In essence, believing in “awkwardness” furiously spreads negativity to yourself and to others. If this sounds like you, your quality of life has gigantic room for improvement. Regardless of who you are, I swear solemnly by this statement.
This post comes after spending 3 weeks alone on a bicycle, riding across Turkey. I’ve had time to think. I’ve been in some rather crazy social situations as well. I’ve been invited into the homes of pure strangers. I’ve asked a random man if I can sleep on the floor of his mosque. I’ve had the police take me to restaurants. I’ve had the town mayor pull strings to find me a place to stay. I’ve even had a dad loan me his pants so I wouldn’t offend Allah, and an old man give me a full-body soap massage in a Turkish hamam. The last one, admittedly, wasn’t that much fun.
Throughout these experiences, and compounded by my alone-ness, a few people always come to mind. These are bright people – adventurous, even – but they belong firmly in the “that’s so awkward” bunch. And to so many of the incredible opportunities and experiences I’ve been afforded while cycle touring Turkey, I can see them saying “no.” I can see them cowering to the devil of “being too awkward”–I can see them fearful of being and doing different. These people come to mind because of negativity they’ve previously spread to me–because of a bad memory of a time I or another said “let’s try that!,” and they said “no–that’s far too awkward.” And because of these thoughts – these nagging thoughts of cared-for friends – I felt compelled to write to the entirety of my readers on the issue. Turkey treated me like a king, and if I cared about the word “awkward” like I think so many do, I’d have never experienced its kindness in the first place.
“That’s so awkward” is the single dumbest phrase in the English language, and if it’s something you find yourself saying often, it would benefit you tremendously to forget all about it. This is what I’ve learned.
From a hostel in Georgia,
To be fair, ive used the word “awkward” within the past week – but not in the usage you describe! Half points for me, i think. not in the fear of becoming “awkward” but more in calling out awkward lulls of silences or when one response totally trumps the other, type.
but I do totally understand this and usually, ive been the one being told to be in that situation — though i really dont care.
have fun in georgia!
Thanks for the reply Eileen. I find the word to be truly toxic in almost all of its usages — “awkward silences” included. I find that it predicates self-consciousness, over-evaluation, and this aforementioned “standard of normality.” I really think the word should be done away with entirely, even though it may well have some trivial value and/or application. I think the word “uncomfortable” is far more effective, and far more healthy as well!
As an American, “awkward” is something I would constantly hear in University, and I found its effects on general behavior to be frighteningly substantial. I think most all of us would do better without it.
My question to you: What makes a silence “awkward?” Why? Is there a deeper issue in play?