Some people out there are innately cool. Whatever is happening, they know enough about society and its expectations to conduct themselves in an acceptable and awesome manner. They don’t get nervous every time they have to meet new people, they don’t worry for hours about making a phone call, and they don’t despair over the way they ordered a glass of water in a restaurant. They are the Samuel L. Jacksons of social situations, and I am one of them.
I don’t know what the opposite of Samuel L. Jackson is, but I think it’s either one of those really shivery dogs or me. Not every situation throws me for a hand-wringing, stomach-dropping loop (For example, eating Cheez-Its. I am so good at eating Cheez-Its I can’t even stand it). Unfortunately, there are some things out there that most people can handle with grace, but that reduce me to a puddle of socially-awkward goo.
I fervently believe there’s a level of hell that’s full of people standing awkwardly around a bowl of pretzels, trying to make small talk. I really hate parties. I never know how to dress, how to act, what to say, where to stand, or what to eat. A lot of my party-going time is spent standing in corners, staring at the wall across the room, with an expression that I think is a friendly, welcoming look, but which has been interpreted as a withering, “stay-away-because-my-best-friend-just-died” look. (Those aren’t my words. A stranger once described my face that way in high school.)
I spend a lot of time being awkward. It’s such an innate skill of mine that I’m thinking of turning it into a street performance act and making a little money. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill you can really brag about at dinner parties or after-work get-togethers. I demonstrate it for people instead, but no one really gets my art. The point is, I’m terrible in social gatherings of four or more. I can’t be the only one, either, so I made a guide. (I know I’ve been making a lot of guides lately. It’s all in the hope that they’ll help me, too. So far no dice.)
Stephanie Summar, Conjuror of All Things Awkward, Presents “How Not to Act at Parties”
Don’t rely on food to help you.
This is a rookie mistake… that I make all the time. I spend a tremendous amount of my life vigilantly avoiding food that isn’t bite-sized because I know the instant I put it in my mouth, someone will ask me a question or need CPR. At parties, however, I do the opposite. Some foolish part of me believes that if my mouth is full of food, it will discourage conversation. This is wrong. Exactly as you’re struggling to close your mouth over a piece of sushi the size of your fist, someone will ask how you know the host. Then you’ll both have to stand there in embarrassed anguish, while you plead with your eyes that they walk away so you can tilt your head back and swallow the raw fish like a pelican.
I’m writing an article which necessitated contacting and interviewing someone named Adam. All I knew about him was that he was significant to the story and he sounded all kinds of attractive over the phone. (Yes, people can sound attractive on the phone. I watched a documentary about it last night.) I was calling him Adam Expert McInterview in my head.
My freshman year of college, I had this ridiculously huge, kind of stalk-y crush on a guy I’d see in the cafeteria every so often. I’d stare at him eating his food and talking to his friends and think things like, “Why can’t I eat food that well?” (I found a potato chip crumb in my bra right before I wrote this, by the way.) Besides the way he ate pizza, all I knew about the guy I was totally in love with was one thing: his name was Adam. I called him Adam Stalky McStalkerson. You can probably see where this is going. Sadly, I didn’t put it together until about 15 minutes before the interview when I became terribly, disgustingly sure that Adam Expert McInterview and Adam Stalky McStalkerson were the same person.
What he said: “The dentist said he couldn’t believe I was still single with teeth like this.”
What I said: “Now you just need to find a lady friend with equally excellent teeth and have babies with teeth that make orthodontists weep.”
What he did: Ran away.
What I should have said:
5. Well, you know what they say about men with good teeth. Good… chewing.
4. You should make plaster casts now so you can have perfect dentures in case you ever lose your teeth in a terrible accident.
3. Did you know that herbivorous dinosaurs had peg-like teeth, the better to strip leaves off plants?
2. Did you see last night’s game?
1. Literally anything else.