The Adventures of Awkward and Dysfunctional
Cornellian Recollections

November 10, 2014

I have a bruise on my right shoulder. Yesterday, while walking toward the stretching mat in Noyes, I recognized a guy from class. I prepared myself to wave and say hey in a friendly but oh-so-casual manner. Instead, I rammed my right upper humerus into the wall. So in place of “hey, what’s up?” I moaned “OoOoh.”

“Awkward is endearing,” they say. At least that’s what I tell myself as I stumble away from yet another almost unbearably uncomfortable situation. Perhaps awkward can be endearing, but often it’s just inconvenient and unflattering. I’ve made a pattern of conspicuously awkwarding my way through life, and I’ve come to accept it as a gift.

For the social butterflies out there, or those in denial, allow me to enlighten you about one of the manifestations of awkwardness. No matter where you go on campus, you will have a number of vivid memories associated with every location, so that in passing through, you will have the opportunity to relive each and every humiliating event, sweaty palms and all.

Take Noyes recreation center, for example. Within the fitness center alone, I’ve had many “moments,” and the shoulder bruise-inducing bumble was one of my most graceful.

The other day, as I was working out, I noticed water erupting from the neighboring elliptical. I looked over and realized that the girl next to me had just taken a sip of water and promptly choked on it. I turned to make eye contact with her and smiled widely, intending to impart the gesture with some implicit words of solidarity, something along the lines of “I know you feel silly, but it’s happened to all of us. I’m smiling because I’m on your side.” Unfortunately, my well-intended gesture was not received as anticipated. Judging by her immediate scowl, the girl must have understood the smile more along the lines of “You look so stupid right now. I’m totally laughing in your face. “

And then there was that time last year when I saw Ryan over by the multifunction rope pull down thing (how do you even use that anyway?). I’d seen Ryan around campus enough times to decide he was the most beautiful person at Cornell, but this particular day I had my mind set on telling him just that. I walked over and said, “Hi, I’m Katherine, and I know you have a girlfriend, so I’m not trying to hit on you, but I just wanted to let you know you are the most attractive person I’ve seen at Cornell.” (To be honest, I don’t understand why society must equate frankness with awkwardness, but that is an issue for another column.)

Sometimes awkward situations occur because I provoke them, but other times they really are unavoidable. Like the time my bodily functions betrayed me in the middle of a Hindu push-up. I had my headphones in so I didn’t know if my fart was loud enough that my neighbors on the stretching mat heard, or if I could play it off as someone else.

Though these situations have at times left me humiliated, frustrated, and wallowing in both physical and psychological discomfort, I have also come to appreciate the silver lining of the big, obnoxious cloud that is awkwardness. One benefit of awkwardness is its ability to put the recipient at ease and in fact boost his or her confidence. I have noticed that immediately upon detecting the awkwardness of one’s fellow interlocutor, one immediately abandons all needs to impress him or her. I have actually participated in conversations in which I was the less awkward of the two. From these conversations, I walk away bubbling with self-satisfaction and giving myself a pat on the back for having “won” the conversation.

I used to think only of myself in the wake of my awkward encounters; I’d reflect on, regret, and cringe at the things I did and said, considering only their effects on me. But now I focus on others; I consider myself a Good Samaritan of sorts, allowing others the opportunity to feel socially superior. I now can proceed in my awkward existence confidently, knowing that I am boosting egos everywhere I go.