awkwardness is good, actually

For some reason, there’s this ideal way of being where no one is awkward. Where you make a decision and follow it through to a T, where no one stumbles and says the wrong thing or accidentally spits when they talk, where you don’t second-guess your actions. Everything you do, is intentional, deliberate, and in character.

I guess I get the reason(s). You want to be this put-together person, and awkwardness betrays this effortless persona. Awkwardness catches you thinking, deliberating, anxious; trying to decide who you are as you are being that person. You appear taxed and in your head, rather than yourself out in the world. It’s like you’ve missed a step in the order of operations for living a human life: first you’re supposed to decide what to do, and then you’re supposed to do it. When you’re awkward, it’s like you’re trying to do each step at once and end up bungling both.

But I think there’s beauty in this mixed activity. Humans think, and they are always trying to think better. And when we’re awkward, that’s exactly what’s going on. We see an awkward person in thought, trying to make their reality coursing around them match what they perhaps caught as something that could have been going better a second later. We see in our awkwardness, the way our minds react in live time to the serial of reality that plays out in front of us, and the discordance between the world and whatever happens inside our minds. We think, ‘oh no, not like that,’ and then awkwardness ensues. There’s a sense in which we should perhaps be more comfortable with ourselves and our foibles, and a way of being where this kind of reflection is best left for after the full event (the dinner, the conversation, the saying of goodbyes) is fully over. This betrays confidence, and we are suckers for confidence. But I think there is room for us to grow to love awkwardness too, because awkwardness can be inward reflection in the best sense. It indicates a person concerned, someone trying. Attempting for something to be better than it is. It is an impulse that we laud when we see it romanticized in songs or written words, but whose existence we are wretched towards when we see it enacted. Of course, maybe it’s the wrong setting for such an impulse. But why?

There’s a wise saying, that if the other person isn’t at least a little nervous on their date with you, something has gone wrong. Nervousness begets awkwardness, they are cousins (it’s a bit of a screwy analogy). And both show intention, concern, and thought. (hence, the saying is good.) I’m simply a fan.

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