I practiced for the school spelling bee for weeks in the fifth grade, and when the big day came, I spelled my way to safety through a dozen rounds. Eventually it was down to me and one other kid, standing in the front of the auditorium while the whole school sat and watched. My opponent had just flubbed a word, and if I spelled the next one correctly, I’d win the whole thing. A kindergartner in the front row held her breath while I walked up to the microphone.
“Corral,” I said. “C-O-R-R-A-L. Corral.”
If the socially awkward person has one natural predator, it’s doors. (By dint of being socially awkward people, of course, we have many more than one predator. If the entire world weren’t actively trying to murder or otherwise humiliate us, we wouldn’t be socially awkward.)
The real problem with doors is that there are just so many of them. We literally cannot leave the house without facing one or two. What’s that on that bus? It’s a door! What’s this outside your office? Another door! And here, welcoming you home each evening like the cruel, snapping jaw of some enormous, horrible beast? It’s your front door.
Yes, they’re a tricky species, doors — waiting to lock you in or out of rooms, maim your extremities and your loved ones, and open onto still more awkward situations.
In the last month, I have received five Facebook friend requests from boys I knew in high school. “Knew” is a strong word in this case, because they have all been people that I knew of — we didn’t hang out in the same groups, we didn’t speak more than once or twice a semester and I can’t say I’ve given any of them much thought since graduating six years ago.
Maybe it’s been long enough that those facts have faded beneath an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for these guys. Maybe those four interactions we had stuck with them all this time and they felt like I would be a worthy addition to their Facebook feed. Maybe my shirts have been too low-cut in my profile pictures. Whatever the reason, they’re hitting the “send request” button and leaving me to stare at my computer screen in confusion.
I don’t know what to do because I can’t really justify not adding them, but I also know that if I’d wanted their virtual friendship, I would have sought it in 2008. I turned to the social media coordinator at my local university for help.
I once heard a story about Sir Walter Raleigh that goes like this: One day Sir Walt was hanging around on the street, as English aristocrat/poet/explorer-types were wont to do, when Queen Elizabeth herself appeared. The queen was so busy resenting her late father for beheading her mother, reversing her crazy sister’s religious policies, and avoiding marriage that she failed to notice her entourage was rapidly approaching a giant mud puddle directly in front of Sir Walt. (Actually, I think the puddle was the size of a man’s cloak, and maybe even smaller. It definitely wasn’t the end of the world, is what I’m saying.)
When she finally noticed the squishy antagonist, she slowed down and paused, probably mentally berating herself for not wearing her royal wellies. In that brief moment of hesitation, Walt whipped off his brand-spanking-new cloak and laid it across the mud so the queen didn’t have to soil her shoes. Queen Elizabeth looked at him regally, crossed the puddle via cloak, and went on with her day. I like to imagine that she rolled her eyes when she was past him because it was the 16th century and she was stepping in way worse stuff than smallish puddles all the time, but apparently the gesture floored her and after that, Sir Walter Raleigh was a favorite in her court.
I bought an etiquette book last weekend because I’m kind of punk rock.
T.S. Eliot once said, “It’s not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.”