Are You A Socially Awkward Black Girl?

January 18, 2012  |  

So on Friday I caught the season finale of the web series Awkward Black Girl and it was all right. I admit that I am a little bit biased as I wanted to see J choose neither of the guys and opt for singlehood, but nevertheless it was a fun series.

I remember the first time I fell in love with the show. The main character J was at work and found herself in the hallway; again, with a new coworker she had already said “hi” to early in the day.  “Should I say hi again? She knows I’m here,” J says in the internal dialogue she’s having with herself.  After playing out different scenarios in her head on how to avoid the awkwardness of the double “hello,” the new hire pretends to read an eye chart. J, enthusiastically runs over to the girl and says, “Wait, you’re awkward too?”

I have had those moments and several others mentioned in the series. In fact, the hallway scene seems so familiar to my own interactions with people that I actually contemplated suing her for unauthorized use of my life’s funny moments.

There are a lot of folks that can relate to being the nerdy, geeky, and most definitely goofy black girl in a world where being Black is often equated with coolness. However to be awkward and black means a lot more than dancing to the beat of your own drum. And it is more than dressing differently or the taste of music one may have.

I’m here to tell you that there is an entire group of folks, who despite their normal appearance, fail daily at normal day interactions with other folks. For example, these folks show up way too early for parties and stay way too late; they don’t know how to tell a waiter that they got the order wrong so they begrudgingly eat it; they’re unaware of very basic social graces like smiling and shaking hands or even saying “hello.”  Sometimes they give the appearance of having abrasive personalities and are known for saying things that are both rude and inconsiderate. This might explain why Issa Rae, the star and creator of the web series, gets into funny standoffs over staplers, tries awkwardly to hold conversations at parties and writes hilarious X-rated raps in her bedroom.

I come from a long line of socially impaired people.  My grandma is virtually a hermit, not because of health issues, but because she decided a few decades ago that she had enough of socializing and retreated to the comforts of her kitchen, where she sits days on end, watching TV and reading newspapers and magazine.  My uncle has a tendency in normal conversations to break out in sound effects like the guy from Police Academy. And the funny part is he doesn’t know that he does it. And my mother, well, she has always had difficulty maintaining close relationships to the point that I haven’t heard from her in more than a year.

With that kind of legacy I’m surprised that my younger brother and I managed to function in life as well as we have.  He and I have contested that we are not as socially awkward as the rest of the clan.  However, the truth is that I tend to be very awkward around people.  In general, I am a very reserved person, who likes to spend time alone. I go eat in restaurants alone, I go to the movies by myself and I also travel alone.  In those chance encounters where I am forced to interact with people, I tend to fade into the background in environments and amuse myself by watching other people “have fun.” When I do open up to folks, I tend to say things so abruptly that it comes off as rude or dismissive. This usually leads to arguments and near-fights.  Oh, and I have a tendency to flat out lie to people with big personalities.  I once blurted out to a girl, who was going on and on about her aura (don’t ask), that I had written a Hollywood script. Of course, I hadn’t.  And I don’t know why I said it.  In retrospect, I think I just wanted her to shut up. Awkward.

And those, who can get past my abrupt ways, are then turned off by my encyclopedic knowledge of every topic under the sun as well as my ability to treat every conversation on whatever topic as a mini-debate. I mean nobody likes a know-it-all, right? Likewise, I get overly excited when discussing things like books. I really like books. And I treat movies and music as things to be studied, not necessarily enjoyed.  Those sorts of personality traits get me a lot of side-eyes from potential female friends and the brush off from male suitors. However, while most people rely a lot for their self-esteem on being good at socializing, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I kind of relish in being awkward. Sure my clumsiness can be uncomfortable for most people, however, for the few friends – and I mean all two of them – it can be quite fun and entertaining.

There was a time when I had worried a lot about my social inadequacies.  Those few years were some of the most paranoid and anxiety-ridden times in my life.  But as I got older and began to embrace my little intricacies, I began to realize that real life isn’t about fitting into the normal stereotype of what society considers  “normal.”  It’s about accepting yourself for who you truly are and letting the chips fall where they may. And like J on ABG, I am quirky, clumsy, sarcastic and at times insecure. But like J, I have good friends, all two of ’em, and I’m someone who knows how to to laugh at myself and occasionally get the guy.

 

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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  • Tia

    Thank you for writing this! It’s nice to know I’m not imperfect or abnormal or some alien. I am who I am, my quirks make me alluring and interesting. Its a gift and a curse. *shrugs*

  • Looking at this woman’s story in the way that she describes herself, she has a lot of traits that are consistent with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. In fact, her personality traits are very similar to mine.

  • there is this very strong and (often wrong) stigma attached to being a ‘black girl,’ in general. People expect you to be loud and aggressive, basically whatever they seen on Jerry Springer and not IRL. The reality is a lot of us are just as uncomfortable about ‘those’ types of black women as the people outside of the race are. Like others here I am quiet and reserved, I read books and do knitting (no I’m not old, 32, LOL). I am considered socially awkward and have so many troubles connecting in painful social situations — that I’ve given up and just live alone now. I don’t really see any reason to put myself through that anymore. ty

  • I am socially awkward I have social anxiety and I have literally 1 on again of again friend and a horrible love life..I haven’t always been this way but growing up in san abusive household and getting picked on a lot has made me this way.Black people don’t seem to fathom the idea of us having these type of issues.I’m in college now but my experience in High School was horrible I didn’t go to anything no prom dances and I hated pep rallies.I hated presentations so much that my gpa suffered I had no friends at all I would be quiet as a mouse at school then be loud as hell at home.My brother and lil sister are socially awkward as well but my 2 youngest are not.I love this article but there are socially awkward people that don’t want to be this way.With my social awkwardness I feel trapped in my own body this is not me at all this is not who I want to be!This article was a bit funny but my situation isn’t.

  • Jamie

    I love you and your awkwardness and this article! I am a white awkward girl, have had more than one of those awkward hallway run-ins, and this line really rang true with me…

    “And those, who can get past my abrupt ways, are then turned off by my encyclopedic knowledge of every topic under the sun as well as my ability to treat every conversation on whatever topic as a mini-debate. I mean nobody likes a know-it-all, right?”

    Only, I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding that side of me and putting on a faux chatty social butterfly face when with my non-know-it-all friends. I guess I was pretty good, because they let me in a sorority in college.

    I, too, am becoming more comfortable in my awkward skin, but I found myself in my latest ended relationship comparing myself endlessly to him because he was the complete opposite. He had DOZENS of ‘cool’ friends and I just ended up feeling too insecure to date him.

    I will check out the web series for sure. I usually don’t post novellas as comments, but this article struck a chord!

  • This reminds me greatly of me. But on top of all this I happen to be very attractive (so I’m told)(Oh, and I’m mixed with white- so I’m supposed to be exotic? like just black being cool),so I feel like guys don’t like me, I talk excessively about those same kind of topics, don’t really watch TV (analyze them more), ramble,hard time focusing, had 7 college dorm roommates, spend free time researching online and yeah you get it. But I love reading articles like this about real people b/c I was being to think I something was wrong with me. But I guess I just have to learn how to not try to fit into stereotypes (or try hard Not to fit into any stereotype) and love myself as being awkward. Btw I love your hair! =)

  • Bri

    I loved reading that:)

  • im also glad that i read this. I always thought something was wrong with me until I realized you dont have to have 1000 friends or be known 2 everyone. Just as long as you are happy with yourself thats all that matters.
     A lot of young people just want to “fit in” even if it means not being themselves. I have a friend who is constantly finding herself with the “wrong guy” and I discovered that she doesnt act her true self, the diamond that she is, around this guy instead she chooses to act tough, rude, and grown so thats what the guy gives her.
    I feel as though my shyness is a good thing. Its my thing:)

  • Miss_Understood

    This is funny…I’ve never really been awkward socially, just goofy lol. Awkward Black girls do make me uncomfortable-they’re always so strange and sometimes come off as standoffish.

    Either way, its good to accept your own idiosyncrasies.

  • Paigenc05

    I am so glad I read this blog….I was recently told that I “make my co-workers uncomfortable”  and I was asked to smile more.  I feel as if I am being asked to be someone I am not, but you know we have to do what we have to do to please others.  Glad I am not by myself.

  • Is It 5:00 Yet?

    I’m like a black version of Lucy. I’m always tripping or doing something silly. Usually in party scenes, I stay behind and watch – sometimes it takes a lot to approach someone and talk because I am hesitant in nature. Lol and when I do finally speak, I say something silly or stupid.

    • 2YET

      IS IT 2 YET LOL-LEAVING WORK EARLY, YAY!!!

  • guest

    This really is me…..i used to be bothered by being called “anti social”,by my family and family friends , so i decided to try being funny, outgoing, and the people pleaser just to make friends, and to be perphaps percieved as being normal……and after many years of trying to be someone different, and now an adult, i finally gave up trying to be someone i’m not, and now enjoy more time at home alone, than being the girl would, and although this has resulted to me loosing all my friends except one, (whom i talk to once or twice i two weeks), i just realized i’m not depressed,like people think i am, but i’m actually happy and well just like shopping alone, would rather go to the movies with my parents and siblings, than with relatives or family friends, and i’d rather talk on the phone for hours with my siblings, than spending with people that i don’t feel comfortable  being around with, and also i’ve also learnt how to cope with anxiety around people, especially around men, by just being calm, and avoid being a clown,which usually ends up being embarassing

  • Dcarter910

    YES!!! 

    Great article!!! I didnt know how many socially awkward sisters it was out there. I am personally attracted to y’all more so than anything thing else because you many be socially awkward but if you can really be patient and get to know them, socially awkward sisters are so loving, Super Intelligent and always have a knack for seeing the details behind the details…the stuff that everyone sees but no one wants to talk about or the stuff everyone thinks but for some reason it never occurs to you that there is a reason that they dont speak those thoughts. Being a socially awkward brother, I relish the thought of marrying a kindred spirit one day. We can make love and then talking about the most random stuff until its time to make love again, or we can just hold each other and ponder why our favorite underware is the first to get a hole in it or why we keep losing one sock every time we wash clothes, or why does it always rain the day/night you step out in a new outfit? Great Article! Wish more brothers would just admit they are awkward too instead of running to white women in an attempt to hide it or justify their incompatibility with sisters. 

    • Is It 5:00 Yet?

      Funny you mention the underwear with the holes….I had an experience this past Sunday night. 😮

    • J.J.

      It’s encouraging to know brothers like you exist. I’m glad you posted. My brother is just as socially awkward as I am, but I just figured we’re unique. Thanks to the webseries I now know that I no longer have to be so isolated and that perhaps I will meet more kindred spirits someday 😀

    • April29

      I’m with you brother! I have come out of my shell quite a bit and am not AS awkward as I  used to be, but I believe there will always be some level of awkwardness.  I’m okay with it though because I think what makes people interesting is their idiosyncracies.  My sister always says I’m anti-social (and she told me everyone in the family thought that), but I actually suffered with social anxiety much of my life, so I really just felt like that made me MORE awkward because I knew they all secretly thought that of me.  That really just caused me to withdraw more (with my family anyway) because I felt like they should understand if I have a condition that caused to be that way.  Anyway, I choose to hang around people who aren’t judgmental and who are encouraging, and I can be myself.  I am not sure I want to marry someone like me (socially awkward) only because I think you learn more from people who are different than you and I came out of my shell and grew, because I dated someone who was the opposite, and to have fun with that person, you have to open up a little bit because they are more socially confident.

    • Jamie

      I don’t understand why ‘running to white women’ is a diss on black women. If two people are compatible, have mutual attraction, and like each other, it’s just that. It’s not a slight on black women. Same goes for any interracial pairing. Your comment is ignorant, but unfortunately, one I heard frequently when dating my ex-bf of Jamaican descent.

  • Tasha

    In the words of J, “I get you!” I especially know how you to feel with the random knowledge of everything under the sun. People call me up to ask random questions all the time and 9/10 times I know the answer. It’s okay to embrace your awkwardness. And it’s definitely genetic because my whole family is awkward.

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  • Guest

    Loved this.  Thanks for sharing  🙂 

  • cabugs

    This is such a beautiful moment on Madame Noire that I just had to comment. It is so amazing to me reading the comments how many people feel they relate so well to this. Just goes to show that you are never alone; however, it is always hard to find those other ones like you because they are also trying so hard to look normal because they don’t know another one like them is out there. I’m not as awkward as the post describes, but I’m pretty close to there for many reasons including religion, my personality, and just who I am. But I always trust that I will be okay. I have one best friend and pretty much like the only friend I hang out with a lot, and at college I mostly have casual friends where we hang out only in certain situations and aren’t really close outside of that. Yea, I would say I am an awkward black (African :)) girl. Thanks for the post Madame Noire and Charing Ball!

  • F3ral Anarchy

    stop mistaking awkward social character to being nerdy or geeky.  they have nothing to do with each other.   some folks can be introverts or have some kind of mental condition and it causes this behavior. 

  • meh

    people always look at me weird when i say im going to the mall by myself or to a movie or out to eat.

    • J.J.

      I tend to travel extensively… by myself. People generally think that’s weird too. Apparently a female isn’t supposed to be on the road alone if she’s going far away from her town. (I don’t know if this also applies to flights… I can’t seem to keep up with societal norms and its changes.)

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  • Singersower2

    This completely my own story…..sigh…thank you for sharing.

  • Teri

    this is amazing how much I can relate to this.

  • guest

    I grew up painfully shy but later blossomed in my teens, but these days as I get older and have been around the block some… I’ve grown somewhat awkward in my dealiings with people and I’m becoming increasingly reclusive, mainly due to a bad relationship. I am slowly getting back on the wagon, though.

     I overcome workplace awkwardness, this by just being reaallly friendly.  I say hi to everybody I see in the morning, I greet the room whether anyone responds or not. I just stopped really caring. I say who cares if you say hi more than once… you dont really have to say anything if you’ve already greeted someone once… Why not just smile, nod and keep it moving.

  • Courtney

    That sounds a lot like me. I try to open up more, but it’s so hard. It is a struggle everyday for me. Especially since I have a job as a cashier, and have to talk to strangers everyday. I have to smile at them, and give them eye contact, and it is so awkward for me. Especially if it is a cute guy or a really pretty girl. I feel like I don’t measure up. And when I try to be more outgoing, sometimes it turns people off because it comes out as really awkward. And I tend to talk really fast and/or really low to people if I am saying something to them that I am uncomfortable saying, like asking them if they want to open a credit card, or if I am feeling nervous. Or if I am excited about something, I talk really fast too. Then people can’t understand me, and I have to repeat what I said again, causing more embarrassment on my part. My mother has paranoia, and we were very sheltered growing up. We never had many friends, stayed at home a lot, and were taught to distrust people. I am still trying to overcome the way she raised us.

  • Tchanielle

    This is me all the way. Thanks for writing this!!!

  • Shelley

    This article came at the right time in my life! I’ve been feeling down for being an outcast (have been since my school days) I am so socially awkward that I dread going to work each day because I don’t fit in. I don’t talk much or hang out with other people because it seems I’m always saying or doing the wrong thing. I have one best friend, but other than that the internet, computers, and books are my friends. My sister always tells me I’m a nerd. My brother tells me I’m the most random person in the world. I’m still getting to that place where I feel comfortable being “Me” but I know one day I’ll get there. This article made my day keep up the good work, from one socially awkward girl to another.

    • J.J.

      I’m in a similar scenario, only I learned early on not to spend so much time and energy behind trying not to be awkward. However… I am currently conscientious about it because I have a Valentine’s Day date. In a way, I want to impress. But if my date doesn’t like me for who I am perhaps it’s best to just be friends.

      I find it interesting that although my quirkiness causes me to have at least some common ground with people, I still don’t fit in very well. It would be nice to find a niche or at the very least be understood in everyday interaction.

  • ChelleBell

    I swear you just wrote my whole life story lol…it’s crazy.

  • Joni

    This article has restored my faith in this site! Love it and totally relateable!!! Good job Madame Noire!

  • This is so me. I rarely talk to people outside of my parents, my one friend and my brother. I find it hard to maintain close relationships with people. I am reserve (expect for when I am passionate about something). To be honest I just don’t like people all that much. 

    • SayCheese

      Me too.

  • Whitney

    Wow…you just wrote my life story. Lol 🙂

    • May

      What you said…

      • MISRA

        Same here!

        • DITTO

          DITTO!

    • Cmlluciano98

      Yep! That’s me too!