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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