I Don’t Know Why I Say Good-bye or Hello

“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.



Filed under About Mom

32 responses to “I Don’t Know Why I Say Good-bye or Hello

  1. It’s like you took the mumbled words right out of my mouth! I, too, can be socially awkward. Glad to know I’m not alone! I’ll probably be going over the spelling and syntax of this reply all day, hoping that I didn’t say anything too boring or stupid or annoying. *sigh* Carry on. Don’t mind me.

    • Do you spend ten minutes rewriting every comment before you post it for fear of sounding like an idiot, or worse, offending someone? That may be another post. (I hate when someone writes about grammar and spelling because I am a copy editor and it never fails: I comment about it and make an error in the comment.) My mind exhausts me. Glad to know I’m not alone! Or, sorry to know you suffer too!

  2. I can so relate to this post. The worst for me is if I’m in a situation where people already know each other and I’m the new kid on the block. Like at playgrounds. I’m not great with small talk if there’s a big group.

    And going back to school has been hard. During class breaks, I’ll follow all the kids out to the lounge and they’ll all sit around and giggle and I try to make conversation with the older students. I usually start blabbing like an idiot and once I start, I can’t stop. So I feel your pain. I think, “What did I just say? It didn’t make any sense did it?”

    • I’m particularly good at blabbing. That’s the point when foot enters mouth. Sometimes I just like being quiet, and feeling like you have to say something is the worst. Overall I don’t think I come off as badly as I feel, but there have been times, many times.

  3. I can relate to this post. I babble a lot or ramble too much. And when to end a conversation? I’m mostly quietly though.

  4. Jonesingafter40

    I am envisioning some sort of 12 step support program for people like us to work our way through various social situations. We could get lots of practice at meetings introducing ourselves, “Hi, my name is ___ and I’m socially awkward.” 🙂

  5. lisa

    I think that’s everybody at some point. I’ve even forgotten to introduce myself completely but I usually just shrug it off because I realize I’m a goof ball.

  6. I used to be painfully shy. And then I found the secret.

    Whenever I felt awkward about entering into a conversation with strangers I’d open with “don’t you hate trying to figure out what to say to a stranger?” Turns out, everybody hates trying to figure out what to say to a stranger. It’s a great ice breaker.

  7. NANCY

    I really thought you might be writing about me for a minute! I once said “you too” when someone told me happy birthday …. so awkward! I still wonder if that’s the thing they most readily remember about me! It is comforting to know I am not alone!

  8. You should Google Brian Regan and his “You Too” routine. I definitely relate, and I think you would, too! Uh, have a nice day!

  9. LOL. I had a social jumble of my own today. Meeting the teachers always puts me on edge. I don’t know why. I always feel like I am ten and I am going to be put in detention.

    • We shouldn’t be stressed about teachers, especially now that I am older than half of them! I think it’s the rush to say hello, knowing that someone else is waiting behind me (and overhearing my goofs), and the whole feeling of dread of going back to school–that’s what’s going on with that whole social mess.

  10. You are not alone, I feel like this ALL the TIME! Lol 😉 Especially when I’m nervous…

  11. True- and good point about the exits, those are difficult. I fumble and something like, “Great seeing you, I better go *mumble something incoherently gesturing over there*, bye!” What I actually mean is “I’m done with this conversation and now I’m going to stand over there now, preferably by myself.”

  12. omg i’m terrible! i talk and i talk and i talk and i’m like a hamster i keep going until the other person’s eyes look wild and dizzy but i can’t stop and i keep going and going and look – cheese! – i tangent and run circles… oh i’m a mess. if we ever meet, let’s just quietly nod and write notes to each other. 😉

  13. This post makes me feel vastly better. I find myself making a lot of the same silly social blunders, and I’m always (mentally) bashing myself over the head for days–which leads me to avoid much socializing so I can avoid much head-bashing. A vicious circle. At least I’m not alone!

    • Nope. Now we can wonder whether the person we are talking to also feels the same way. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about that before. In the moment, I always think it’s just me. Maybe thinking the other person is secretly in anguish will help get me through. 😉

  14. *Laughing* – This was like reading something I could have written some years ago. The babbling, banging of head against mental walls, ..
    – But I got a really good hint from an older friend, and it helped me get better at smalltalk and introductions. Turn focus to the other person(s) instead of yourself. Notice their name, hair, clothes, profession, – and ask about it. Love your hair, dress, … How long have you been a teacher, etc.
    If you are lucky they will start babbling instantly… 😉

  15. Ha, I am totally like that too! I really try to avoid the mom huddles on the school grounds and when I can’t I always feel like I am intruding or babbling. Ugh.

  16. hehe I feel your pain! I was bad enough in England but now I have to do small talk at the school gates in French I’m even worse!

    The latest trend in the City now is ‘speed-networking’ – can you imagine anything worse?! Hundreds of suits crammed into a room with too much cheese and wine and precisely three minutes to introduce themselves to each other and impress before the bell goes and they have to do it all over again. It’s ALL hellos and goodbyes and none of the good bit in between! ouch!

    PS It has indeed taken me 10 mins and numerous spell checks/rewrites/idiot checks to post this comment. Sorry if I offended/sounded like an idiot/got my grammar wrong…! Glad it’s not just me…

    • I could never do speed networking to find any sort of relationship, though maybe that would be good practice for my hellos and good-byes?

      Sometimes it takes me so long to write a comment the way I like it that I scrap it altogether and just click the LIKE button. They are there for a reason!

  17. I relate too!!! Hate it! I have to wonder, though, if almost everyone has these struggles.

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