Temerity Jane
11. 02. 2011

I had a brief discussion with Swistle yesterday, about how taking someone up on sincerely offered help is really awkward. That is, take our current situation. For the first week of Butt Rust, when we assumed it would just be a week, we had several people say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” And we’d respond, “Oh, we’re just fine!” or “Will do!,” with no real intention of taking anyone up on it. Because it would feel awkward. Even though the offering person was being quite sincere.

Phil and I talked about it, too, last night, realizing that since Butt Rust would be continuing indefinitely, all of the normal household duties PLUS a lot of the remaining “get ready for baby” duties were going to fall to him, in addition to his full time job, plus the work outs required to keep in shape to meet the standards of said job, plus some extra work for a softball tournament he’s doing. There is going to come a point where someone says, “Let me know what I can do to help,” and we will need to reply, “Well, actually…”

And that just feels awkward. And I know it’s not just me, because Swistle totally confirmed it.

But that got me thinking about other seemingly normal things that just make me feel really awkward. Things that other people seem to do with absolutely no issue. Things that are REALLY NOT A BIG DEAL, but for some reason, make me feel entirely conspicuous and like the whole world is watching and commenting on my behavior.

As I love to do, I am once again calling upon the “I am a completely average person, therefore, a good portion of other people MUST feel the same way” theory. Either you will ALSO feel awkward about some of the exact situations I am about to describe, or you have your OWN seemingly normal acts and circumstances that make you feel like you are on display in a very obvious way, and of course, you will tell me about them.

First? Food on trays. The Tray Walk, if you will. Carrying food on a tray NEVER fails to make me feel like the most glaringly conspicuous, awkward person on the planet. As soon as I pick up a tray loaded with food, a spotlight shines down from above, directly on to me, and the rest of the lights in the area dim for effect. ESPECIALLY if there is also a drink on the tray. DOUBLE especially if the drink is in a glass, not a cup with a lid. (the kind with a hole for a straw, not a sippy cup. I don’t drink from sippy cups. I’m an adult.)

Maybe it goes back to school cafeterias, with the fear of being THAT PERSON who drops their tray in front of everyone. I don’t recall ever BEING that person, but I’m pretty sure the fear of being that person is stamped into everyone who ever ate in a cafeteria full of peers waiting to seize on some kind of weakness.

I think, though, that it more has to do with the whole kind of posture and positioning of tray carrying, combined with food. You’ve got to hold it right out in front of you. Like for inspection.

“Yes, I do, in fact, intend to eat this food that I have selected for myself. I am holding it out in front of me because there is no other way to hold it, and I know you are evaluating me. And possibly waiting for me to drop it.”

It’s like putting all of your tastes and habits right out there for people to LOOK AT. The Tray Walk is the WORST.

Next? Free samples. Not like the kind you get in the mail, or in a promotional bag from somewhere. (Motherhood/Destination Maternity – please don’t stop handing me individually packaged prunes. I love you. For your prunes.) No, the kind you have to walk up and get. Like at Sam’s Club or another grocery store.

I don’t know what it is with this one, but I suspect a combination of two factors.

One, I feel as though the sample person is immediately judging and labeling me as someone who enjoys a free tiny piece of ham on a toothpick. Even though EVERYONE enjoys a free tiny piece of ham on a toothpick.

Two? How VERY CLEAR it is when you really have no intention of buying the offered tiny food on a toothpick, but you want to eat it, because come on, free tiny food on a toothpick, right? And then you have to decide if you’re just going to eat it and walk away (and say “Thanks,” of course, as we are not HEATHENS), or if you’re going to do that thing where you stand there and pretend to consider it, and maybe ask how much it is, and then pretend it’s just not in the budget this week. Or you can pretend you didn’t like it when you CLEARLY DID. Or you say something like, “I’ll think about it and come back,” when EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’RE NOT COMING BACK.

Oh, and worse? When you and your husband or whoever BOTH want to try it because you really, truly ARE genuinely interested and you have to go and get TWO samples, and then make a really obvious big deal about how your husband just went to grab a pack of toilet paper, and then over do it by giving way too much detail about how he picks out the toilet paper because he has very specific toilet paper needs and you try to get out of there before you find yourself LISTENING TO YOURSELF describe his toilet paper needs.

Food samples, y’all. Fraught with awkwardness.

Lastly, a common one. For the ladies. So you go to the lady doctor, and you undress the business portion of yourself, and put on the little drape. You know what I am most concerned about in that situation? Not the fact that there are about to be stirrups and possibly a spotlight. No. The clothes.


First? I, the person who loathes folding more than anyone else in the world has ever loathed anything, will absolutely MAKE SURE that my clothes are folded perfectly on a chair. PERFECTLY.

Second? The underpants. You know as well as I do that YOU HIDE YOUR UNDERPANTS in that stack of clothes. The doctor KNOWS you were wearing underpants. He’s about to get really familiar with your underpants AREA. But GOD FORBID anyone actually see your underpants SITTING THERE.

Third. You know it. Socks. On? Off? Tucked inside the shoes? Nothing is more awkward than trying to make the socks on/off decision. Because immediately upon undressing, the socks that were JUST FINE when you left the house are now the most hideously embarrassing and awkward thing about you, even as you are MOMENTS from displaying all of your downstairs equipment to someone who might be wearing a head lamp.

That has to top the list of many people. Deciding what to do with all your clothes and accessories at the lady doctor. And of COURSE they’ve seen it all before, but we’re talking about MY underpants and MY socks here. They’re different. You know what I mean.

So, Internet. Tell me. What completely normal situations make you feel like the most awkward person on the planet? Things that EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD handles like it’s totally nothing, when to you, it is a DEFINITE SOMETHING. What circumstances and activities and events make you try REALLY HARD to pull off a casual, “I’m totally normal and fine and this is just no big thing!” attitude and feel like you’re failing a really obvious way and EVERYONE KNOWS?

109 responses to “Maybe I am just an awkward person, but come on, you are, too.”

  1. Kate says:

    Hah! I totally hide my underwear. I also live in fear that the nurse/doctor will return before I’ve finished getting undressed.

    I’m okay with carrying trays, but feel somewhat awkward taking food samples. Feel VERY awkwars accepting help, so generally just don’t. But a weird one that’s got to be unique to me is when someone calls me and I’ve been asleep, and they ask if they woke me up. Even if it’s super late or early, I feel some bizarre need to pretend that I was awake. Like, even though it’s 1:00 am, I never sleep! I’m always awake.

    Also, text messages from people other than family saying “I love you!”. Even from my closest friend, who I genuinely do love.

  2. Dianne says:

    Well, I hope I don’t set y’all back, but I’m judging you! I don’t get the food sample thing. It always seems to me like the people taking the samples are acting like they will starve without the samples. I don’t ever eat any food samples because I question the cleanliness. (I haven’t seen it in awhile, but I used to see samples that people would reach in and grab themselves-like cut fruit at Whole Foods or cheese/deli samples at the grocery store. I keep picturing all the germs on that food. yuck.)

    Meanwhile, I have my own phobias. As I’ve gotten older I flush if I get embarrassed at all. I try to throw in some funny quip and my red face gives away my discomfort. Awkward when trying to portray being relaxed and comfortable.

  3. Kirsten says:

    Buying more than one bottle of wine in one purchase, makes me paranoid that people think I’ve got a bit of a problem with the drink.

  4. Kristy says:

    Nodding profusely along to the underwear thing. I fold them up and hide them in my pants legs then fold those over, lest someone decide to move my neatly folded pile of clothes & they fall on the floor.

    Could agree with Kirsten more on the buying more than one bottle of wine & Wulfa on the bathroom thing. I HATE shared bathrooms, especially at work where you can run into coworkers and I am uber-paranoid that they’re standing out there being all judgy about noises and length of time I am spending in there, etc. and so on. I believe all bathrooms that you have to remotely share with people you see on a regular basis should be single bathrooms only.

  5. Rhy says:

    I TOTALLY have one that you will recall, TJ…Metro. Metro is awkward. Everything ABOUT Metro is awkward. Standing smashed up against other people, hoping that you aren’t accidentally bumping someone’s personal regions when the packed train screeches to a halt and everyone slams into each other. Asking the person on the aisle seat to move so you can get up and get off the train, even though you really have no choice. Squeezing your way between people to get onto/off the train, because oh my gosh people can’t just be PATIENT and wait their TURN without shoving and frantically pressing towards the door. Making sure you are pressed RIGHT up against the side of the escalator if you’re not walking up, so that you cannot possibly be in the way of anyone walking up the left side. Feeling like a jerk for holding up the line when your farecard won’t work, even though it’s Metro’s fault the scanners are busted half the time and you had no way of knowing.

    Gah. Metro. AWKWARDNESS.

  6. B says:

    I’m a first-time commenter, but I had to come out of hiding for this post. Mostly because I feel awkward almost ALL THE TIME.

    I totally second you on carrying a tray anywhere. It’s just not natural. I’m clumsy anyway (I fall down. A LOT.), so trying to balance a tray full of precariously balanced dishes AND walk at the same time? Not the best idea. The other two aren’t as big a deal for me, although I do make sure I fold my undies INTO my folded jeans, so even if I pick up my stack of clothes for some reason, the undies won’t fall on the ground.

    Far more embarrassing than the prospect of my doctor seeing my underwear is the REALITY of my pastor seeing my underwear (not on me at the time, thank GOD.) My wonderful senior pastor and his wonderful music pastor son (now very good friends of mine, but who I did not know well at the time) helped me move into my new house. I had not completely emptied my dresser prior to the move because I was moving from California to Alaska and the cost of the move was calculated on space, not weight. So of course, when we emptied the shipping container and the two of them were moving the dresser, they tilted it accidentally and the top drawer SHOT out. There went all of my unmentionables. Right into the snow. Let me tell you, there is NO graceful way to bend down and retrieve a hot pink satin bra or lacy thongs from out of the snow in front of your pastors. Even worse when they try to help.

    There are a multitude of other, more ordinary situations in which I routinely feel unnecessarily awkward, but I’ll leave you with the first one I could think of. I feel totally uneasy waiting in line alone in a busy place (the bank, the DMV, Starbucks). What do I do with my hands? Where do I look? Donotmakeeyecontactwithmeplease. An outgrowth of this is waiting for someone at a restaurant. I always feel like a fool sitting there, waiting for the other half of my party, so people won’t think I’m dining alone. Even worse is when you think they may have gotten to the restaurant before you so you have to do the room scan, maybe wandering around a little to see all the tables while the hostess waits. I always feel like everyone is staring, as though they have nothing better to do than pay attention to the awkward six-foot-tall blonde girl who looks like she’s lost and hungry. They’re not there to eat. They’re there for the sole purpose of STARING. AT. ME.

    I won’t offer you platitudes about your Butt Rust (I don’t know. I’ve never been there. And it’s not like it would be the same for you anyway.) I’ll just tell you that I’m hoping for the best possible outcome, and I also hope my comment has at least made you chuckle. (Seriously. Pastors. Snow. Bras Everywhere.)

    B Reply:

    Also, that might be the longest comment in the history of comments. I, too, am an awkward commenter.

  7. C says:

    I’m not alone!

    I, for one, always keep my socks on at the lady doctor, because I always wear my cutest socks (usually knee-high green M&M socks!) to give me confidence. Then I usually tell them about my sock theory. Then they usually look at me like I’m crazy.

    It’s great!

  8. Erin says:

    OMG! At my last lady dr appt, I totally wasn’t thinking when I dressed myself. I was wearing a dress and flats without socks, and about halfway there I started thinking, what if my no-sock situation causes sweaty feet? OMG what if the doctor is inches away from my feet and they are SMELLY? So I stopped at Wal-greens and bought socks (had to get a 6 pack of course) and stashed a fresh pair in my purse.

    Not only that, but when I walked in, she was like, oh, you can just leave your dress on, just run in the bathroom and slip your underwear off! Well, great, but…. HOW do I hide my underwear now??? I ended up taking off my cardigan just so I would have something to wrap them in.

    I am sure they were like, “what is up with this strange girl, she was not wearing socks a minute ago, and where did her sweater go???”

  9. Lauren says:

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one that’s weirded out at the lady doctor! Yes, I know it’s a “normal part of being a girl”, but I didn’t sign up for this.
    Underpants and bra tucked in the stack under the neatly folded pants and shirt. Socks tucked neatly inside the shoes and matching the foot from which each came…don’t ask, I’m one of those that should really just take a clean pair of socks with them and a baggie for the dirty ones that just came off my feet. In fact, why have I not thought of this before? *Einstein moment*
    And I agree with Kristy on the shared work bathrooms. Ugh.
    Oh, one more–the new extra flimsy lids at fast food restaurants. You’re standing there, holding up the soda line while trying to get the stupid thing on, and people are looking at you like you’re stupid…meanwhile, you’re looking at them apologetically and trying to convince them that you’re not stupid and lid-deficient when you knock over your drink and have to go back to square one. A certain recently-class-action-sued taco restaurant…I’m talking to you. New, more secure, sturdy lids, please.

  10. Sonia says:

    I always leave my socks on at the ob/gyn’s. Once, my ob commented on my socks, and asked me where I got them. That pair happened to be a gift from my mom, who knits socks. Major awkward to have a conversation about MY MOTHER while the doctor is spelunking away.

    Oh, and the wine buying at the grocery store. I always do my grocery shopping on Sundays, and when I lived in Georgia, you couldn’t buy booze on Sundays. I don’t know why I didn’t just start shopping on Saturday, but instead I’d go first thing Monday morning to get a bottle or two of wine. And then I’d have to explain that I needed it for COOKING, which of course drew more attention to the fact that my toddler and I were buying wine first thing Monday morning.

  11. nonsoccermom says:

    I laughed out loud at the last one in particular. I thought I was the only one that obsesses about the state of my nearby clothing while totally nude from the waist down! And worse than the sock thing is the barefoot thing. The last time I visited my OB/GYN (who delivered my youngest so has certainly seen the most horror I have to offer), I didn’t think ahead and ended up wearing a pair of heels that are rather…malodorous since I wear them barefoot. So there I am, naked from the waist down, wetting paper towels in the exam room sink and scrubbing my bare feet in a desperate attempt to rid them of any perceived stench. Thank god the doctor knocks before he enters, is what I’m saying.

    Sorry about your Butt Rust, by the way. I’ve been reading but haven’t had the time to comment before now. Butt Rust sucks. I had a case of it (thankfully mild) myself during my last pregnancy and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

  12. Lindsay says:

    I think the eye doctor is awkward. When they put that instrument near your eye and it’s only about an inch thick and their eye goes on the other side of the instrument, so they look in your eye. So there you are with your old man eye doctor just breathing on each other for what feels like minutes…and then they do the same thing with your other eye. Also, the eye exam: Everything looks blurry doc. One is not better than the other and I am petrified I’m answering wrong and will end up with an “updated” prescription that is so, so wrong. I really need to ball up and get lasik.

  13. Rhonda says:

    I also get the free samples awkwardness, how do you not look greedy?

    Also awkward for me is asking for extra stuff from servers – e.g sugar or napkins.

    Another thing is my voice volume when talking to my boss. I don’t want to shout at her and the office is so quiet I think normal tone sounds like shouting. So I talk very quietly and then I sound nervous and very un-confident. No way to win.

    My last awkward moment is at the gym with the personal trainer. She’s watching me do the exercise usually from right in front. Where do I look? Do I maintain eye contact? That seems weird. But then I’m avoiding eye contact and that seems rude or even suspicious. Also no way to win.

  14. cakeburnette says:

    It is baffling as to why we feel the need to hide our underwear. But I don’t know a single woman who has EVER been to a gynecological exam that has not made perfectly sure the underwear is not visible from any angle.

    Also, (and this may be something you’ll have to consider in the future) when we PCS, I put all of my underwear and all of my daughter’s underwear in one of our cars for the move. I do not like the thought of strange packers touching our undergarments. The boys’ boxers? I could care less who paws through those.

  15. cakeburnette says:

    Oh, and when I worked outside the home, I had a phobia about pooping at work. I always worked in offices that had multiple floors, so I would actually go to another floor if I simply could not wait to get home.

  16. Kim says:

    Totally agree on the doctor’s office thing. I was in just a few weeks back and had done the fold everything neatly on the chair routine. Sitting there awkwardly on the paper table thing I glance over and can see just a hint of my underwear still showing from where I previously thought it hidden in my pants. Of course I didn’t have time to fix it before the doc came in and I kept staring at them afraid…of what I have no idea, but it was so awkward.

  17. Alex says:

    I do not do well with silence in a conversation. People who take too long to respond after you ask them a question MAKE ME SQUIRM! I know all they’re doing is thinking before they speak (a mostly foreign concept to me) but it still makes me uneasy.

    Please note that this only applies to strangers/almost strangers. I can deal with silence when I know the person who’s being quiet relatively well.

  18. Wendi says:

    I can relate to all of the awkwardness mentioned, OH YES. I also feel this way at garage sales…it is squirmingly uncomfortable for me to wander around looking at someone’s stuff while they watch me, and then leave without buying something. It feels like I’m passing judgment on their crap.

    On a different note, this site is pretty cool for any situation where people might want to help out but you feel awkward telling them what you need done:

    A little snippet to explain what it is:
    Families in crisis are often overwhelmed with many offers of help and phone calls to return. If you are looking for ways to help a friend or loved one, you can create a private community to organize well-meaning offers of help for meals delivery, rides, and visits … etc. etc. :)