This is my 700th column. Yes, I number them for no other reason than they are easier to find on my computer.
People number things like birthdays and anniversaries to remind them just how long it’s been since they could put their toes in their mouth or look at a member of the opposite sex with something other than mild interest.
Sometimes when you think back on those years, what you remember are awkward situations. Why is it that these embarrassing moments are the ones that stick with us the longest?
It’s interesting to note, however, that none of us found it awkward when someone saw us sucking on our toes (when we were babies, that is). That’s because, at that time in our lives nothing could embarrass us. We wore diapers and drooled into our strained peas, for goodness sakes! What could possibly embarrass us? It was great!
Then we grew into kids who told the kind of “jokes” that nobody laughed at. That was awkward. We even included a potty word guaranteed to provoke laughter, but… nothing. Most of us handled it by crying or throwing a tantrum.
By the time we graduated from Middle School, we’d had plenty of awkward situations. The problem with Middle School is that the other kids had suddenly developed a memory. If you accidentally broke wind after completing the long jump in gym, they never let you forget about it. This was a situation where people laughed when you didn’t want them to.
In Middle School, it seemed that there were so many awkward situations that awkward became normal.
High School was also a minefield of awkward situations, but most of us were learning how to avoid them. It was a matter of having control over when people laughed at you and when they didn’t. However, it was not without its stereotypical social blunders. Dating came with many rules. The number one rule seemed to be that dating was strictly for those without acne.
Then we became adults. Adulthood is one awkward situation after another, especially if you choose to have children. Still, you can’t blame everything on your children. Adults do a fine job of getting into awkward situations even without an ankle biter around.
Before you even get the hang of attending weddings for your friends, you might walk into the wrong church where a memorial service was being held for a complete stranger. Hey, there was no casket! How could we have known? Still, how do you make a graceful exit after you’ve gone into a silent, tear-producing laughing fit? That’s awkward.
Newly minted adults might try to keep up with Christmas and birthday cards, because that’s what adults do, right? If someone passed away that we actually knew, we understood that we should send a sympathy card. But what if you sent a sympathy card to the husband of someone who, as it turned out, was healthy as a horse (and, by the way, still living)? That’s awkward.
What if you hugged someone who didn’t know about the three-second rule? Is it rude to let go before the other person is done hugging? Maybe, but it is definitely awkward.
Awkward is needing to go to the bathroom while having a root canal.
It’s a mom helping her teenager shop for an athletic cup.
And who knew that when someone says “You have a good one,” it’s a suggestion, not an observation. Yeah, that’s awkward.
I think I may be allergic to being uncomfortable. Typically, I turn red and start stuttering incoherently. But, ironically, as much as I dislike feeling uncomfortable, if it weren’t for awkward situations, I wouldn’t have had 700 things to write about.
Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker. You can reach Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit her website http://www.lauraonlife.com for more info.