If I deserve to ever get a PhD thesis published in my life, it would be on the topic ‘how to fail at being a socialite/ how to practice being a socially awkward person.’ While it takes about half a decade of experiments to become a PhD scholar, it has been a little over two decades already, while running my experiment called life. It’s taking too long, partly because I can never work in the ideal condition of ‘not meeting people.’ From striking a conversation to building a good relationship, I’ve had the privilege to experience, witness and observe the following challenges in my life or in the lives of people around me.
1. Striking a conversation
And if I get rewarded for my ‘PhD’ with a Nobel prize, I’d spend all the money to find and kill the person who first initiated the most annoying and useless question, ‘what’s up’ to initiate a conversation. Most annoying. Period. 12 out of 10 times, the reply I’ve ever given or received to that insane question is ‘Nothing much. You?’
Plus acquaintances – You’ve that one person on facebook that is not a celebrity to anyone but you, you creep. (You know who I’m talking about.) If only they knew how much you stalk them. Sigh! You can never initiate a conversation with that person because you’re afraid you might get ignored or the person might not be interested in you.
Minus acquaintances – The ones who try to initiate a conversation with you and by the law of universe theory, you either forget to reply to them or you deliberately ignore them, pretending to act busy.
Either, we find it difficult to build a meaningful conversation. Trying to get to know someone better or to catch up on their life is the worst idea ever. Technology was supposed to make communications easier but if you look at my chats, you’d take my number out of pity. Most often my conversation chats look like a for loop with a break after 3 lines each. But I guess, I’ve learned a way to tackle them all. How? Read on.
2. Awkward acquaintances
Things can get tricky or embarrassing when you find an acquaintance walking towards you about 100m away. You either pretend not to have seen that person yet (maybe, they stole the love of your life, they were the love of your life or they are your distant relative who is sometimes annoying or their very presence burns your heart, namely your ‘frenemy’) or you have already waved at each other and looked away shamelessly not knowing what to do till you got closer.
What after you meet? A handshake or a hug? If a hug, straight or sideways? I’ll turn 100 and I wouldn’t have figured it out yet.
Awkwardness is the rule. Stating Tim Urban’s theory here: ‘The word “acquaintances” is derived from the word “awkward” to mean “people you’re awkward with” and was originally spelled “awkwaintances,” but then they changed the spelling to try to make things less awkward.’ Even worse is running into your ex. I have become an expert at ‘I saw her but pretended that I didn’t.’, each time I run into any of my ex(es). While I kept lingering in the ‘she never saw me’ mode to avoid the fear of being ignored, she made me feel like an amateur with her extra-ordinary acting skills.
3. Approaching a woman
Most of the 80s and early 90s born guys were stuck right in the middle of ‘talking to girl is a crime’ and ‘not having a girlfriend in school is a shame’ during the school days. While some became players and a few got married, the rest of us are still beating around the bush. Till I was 15, it was a norm among the guys to tease a guy talking to any girl. When you slightly developed feelings for a girl while at school and she became your everything in less than an hour, your friends made sure the whole world knew, saving you the time to grow your confidence.
After having never approached a girl till the late teens, a few guys prefer to stay in the ‘don’t approach a girl’ zone while most others achieve the tag of being labelled a ‘creep’ or a ‘desperate’. Thanks to the patriarchy, for those few guys need to always approach most woman(respect for the rest) first. And those few guys refrain from even dropping a message often for the fear of getting either of the above mentioned not-so-prestigious-but-sick tags or because they believe that they will lose their self-respect.
When I hear that a 13 year old just broke-up after a serious relationship, my mind shows me memories of the time when I was 13 and my teachers used to threaten me with a punishment of making me sit next to a girl if I did anything mischievous. More than a punishment, it seemed like a moment of embarrassment in front of my friends. I’m 23 and I don’t know what a serious relationship without compatibility and the ability to lead a mundane life(minus love, travel, sex, money) means. Neither the immature late teens ‘I love you forever’ fairy tale nor the ‘let’s fuck and forget’ early twenties lifestyle qualify.
4. ‘Crush’ed chances
And you know when you have a new crush,there’s this incredible feeling inside you where even before having a conversation, your crush seems like your soul-mate and you have this pre-planned timeline where you think of the perfect lines to impress her or the beautiful places you’d visit together or the lovely pair you’d become just to make others jealous and you don’t see all that happening because who has the nerve to treat a crush just like another human being and not an angel from heaven? Well, guess what? All of those seemed to happen in real for me and then, I woke up.
Well, the reality is different. My ‘crush’ experiences to a great extent have so far resulted in disappointment either because my crush never matched my expectations or my crush believed ‘infinity’ is an actual number when it came to the time she took to reply to my messages. I sometimes wonder why is it called ‘crush’? Is it because you crush your chances? And what’s sad, nobody understands the word ‘no’. Some people can never say ‘no’ to anything directly(say, for coffee,date or number) for the fear of being rude and to the rest, a ‘no’ is still a maybe.
If only, the frequency at which I find a new crush matched the frequency at which I touched my books during my studies at college, I’d have been the topper, hands down.
5. ‘Leave me alone’ closet
And then there are days, when you have morning blues and you don’t feel like talking to anyone. That’s when your distant family member from the next galaxy will visit your house or your tier-III friend will call you up, asking for a favor. You’ll decide to leave your ‘leave me alone’ closet with maximum curses possible. There are times when right in the middle of an amazing gossip session or the idea about changing the world in your social group is taking place and you just wish you had imaginary earphones.
We can’t handle most of the above situations because of the ‘what will s/he think of me?’ problem. We care so much about what the bloody world thinks about us that we compromise on building the right conversations with the right people. The next time I want to initiate a conversation, I’ll go for it. Will s/he reply to me? Will she marry me? Fuck it. Just ping a couple of times and I’ll see how responsive, the other person is.
The next time, I’m part of a boring conversation or if an alien pings me, I’ll say I’m busy and end the conversation rather than not replying. And if I want to build a meaningful conversation, I’ll definitely not say, ‘what’s up’ to sound like a an idiot but I’ll rather experiment by asking awkward or thought-provoking questions.
Wait! In case I get my thesis published, will I get to say I successfully failed at ‘how to fail at being a socialite?’