“I’m Karen. Nice to meet you.” Only it’s probably not, at least, not in that moment. I’ve probably said something strange, put my foot in my mouth, rambled on entirely too long, or sounded like a complete moron to someone I’ve just met. They’re scratching their head or anxious to just get away from me. Maybe not, but that’s the kind of first impression I think I leave. I stumble over words though usually not my own feet at least.
Good-byes aren’t any better. When to exit a conversation? My timing for leaving an evening of fun could use some smoothing out too. I mill around awkwardly. Should I jump in while these two are talking? “Hey, I’ve got to run.” Maybe it was rude, I don’t know.
Sure, I can carry on a lively conversation. It’s usually just the beginning and end I have a real problem with.
I think most of the time people don’t notice my awkwardness, but inside I’m a jumble of conflict. If I don’t have time to think about what to say, it’s even worse. When I met my son’s teacher, she introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Mrs. Smith.” I shook her extended hand and introduced myself as Mrs. Who says that? It’s not the 1950s. And I could have saved it by then coolly throwing in my first name, but my mind had already gone into panic mode and I’m not even sure what she said after that because I was busy mentally bashing my head against the wall. My only hope is that she met so many parents that day, she quickly forgot. That or she’ll forever think I like to be called Mrs., which I loathe, and call my son Beaver behind my back.
I’ve been as awkward as a teenager on a first date on my own interviews, the first day of the job, and on the playground as a mom. After school I often keep to myself because moms huddle around talking, and I’m not sure what the etiquette is on interrupting their conversations. Sometimes I say hello, join in, and things get really quiet. Hmm. And which group do I walk up to? Are they discussing something private or important? It’s too much to think about during my afternoon slump when I could really use a nap. Sometimes it’s not easy.
Meeting my firstborn didn’t go so well in fact. I’d been given something to help me sleep the night before. Unfortunately, it helped me sleep through the entire epidural, pushing, and birth of my son. And when I met him afterward, there I am on video, looking at him in my arms, smiling, and nodding off. Who does that?
Now that I have two kids, I try to set a good example during social situations. I don’t want them near my social awkwardness for fear it could be contagious. When I blow it, I just keep smiling or laugh and hope no one notices. But when I really blunder my words, who wouldn’t notice? When the host says, “Thanks for coming,” and I say, “You too,” it’s a bit of a puzzle. I lean to my kids and ask, “What did she say?”
Sometimes I nail it, that tough first hello after a fight and then everything settles and I can breathe again. Mostly I fumble and struggle with words and grace. So often I complicate hellos and good-byes that, honestly, I just hate them. Besides, it’s all that happens in between that I like best.