All Articles Tagged "social cues"
Hello. How are you? And what the hell is your problem?
That is what I always want to say to you individuals who walk into the office of my job, the home of my mother (as a guest of a sibling or other family members), or who I KNOW I’ve met on a different occasion who probably remember me too, BUT DON’T SPEAK. No “Hello, I’m looking for…” no “Hey, how you doing?” and not even a doggone head nod that without words still shows you acknowledge those around you. Cat got your tongue?
Allow me to blow off some steam real quick. I don’t know about anybody else, but my mother always taught me that when you walk into other people’s homes, or anything that doesn’t belong to you and find yourself exposed to others, you should be ready and willing to throw a greeting someone’s way. And movies like Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood taught me, in simpler yet hood-complex terms, that fools need to make themselves known when they roll up in someone’s spot. Point. Blank. Period.
Yet and still, I’ve watched in awe as the friends of my nieces and nephews waltzed into my mother’s home on Thanksgiving evening and barely opened up their mouths as they made jokes that only my niece could hear. I’ve watched people with a false sense of entitlement walk into an office full of folks and just start waltzing around, staring into glass offices, looking for people like they own the place instead of simply saying, “Hi, sorry to bother you, but I’m looking for ___.” Instead, somebody has had to end up saying, sometimes in a hostile manner, “CAN I HELP YOU!?”
And who else has tried to smile, wave or say hello to someone they’ve worked with on a project, met at an event, know through mutual friends and more, only to have them play you like Boo Boo The Fool? My first full-time job and whole college experience was filled with moments where I would slave over a project with a classmate, joke about the most random of things in the process and get a good grade together, only to have that individual pass me at the gym, walking on campus, or in a new class and pretend they hadn’t seen me before and didn’t know me from Adam. Sadly, I can count about one person (outside of the black people I worked with in Afro-American Literature classes only because of a lack of diversity) who actually made a conscious effort to greet me and talk like we were old friends outside of assignments. What’s more sad is, he’s become one of those Anti-Obama ranters who acts a damn fool on Facebook and make me wonder if I should delete them from my friends list quickly and quietly before November…And don’t get me started on the folks that sit next to you in cubicles but will see you on the street and be ready to walk in the opposite direction.
I’m not asking for a “HEY GIRL HEY!” or something over-the-top, stereotypical or something that requires me to divulge everything that has happened in my life since I last saw you, but Lawd knows I hate trying to be the bigger person to say hello to a phony baloney individual who tried to walk past me with their head down on the sly like our eyes didn’t meet. Nor do I appreciate having to ask a guest who they are when they are walking up into my ish, or place of work. I know technology has made a few folks scary about having human interaction and you’d prefer to text me “hello,” but lack of home training also lends itself as a reason why anyone would find this behavior okay. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t speak, but it sure as hell is rude. Please, do better.
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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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