09 December 2006


I've been trying to figure out if sawk (social awkwardness) dwindles over time, or if it just worsens as we get older.

Most people would probably argue that the early teen years of voice cracks, the sudden need for deodorant, and unrequited schoolyard crushes are the most awkard. I used to agree, but I'm beginning to think otherwise.

The early twenties are also full of socially awkward moments. I think there's a dangerous assumption during this period that everyone has grown up to a certain extent. How do you react to twentysomething temper tantrums, baffling unawareness of current events, or complete neglect of general manners? Whining, ignorance, and rudeness to me characterize the classic cases of socially-underdeveloped twentysomethings. When some people seem at least somewhat grown-up, and others act like stunted pre-teens, it quickly becomes...awkward.

Middle age also seems to be plagued by sawk moments. I always thought the most awkward clashes arose between adults who accepted their age, and the mid-life crisis (sports car buying, mistress-shopping) types. It appears, however, that sawk can be stirred up even between adults in the same demographic.

Yesterday, for example, I was standing in line at a United Way charity lunch. The pasta was delayed, and the flock of mid-forties ladies around me was certainly not pleased. To pass the time, they gathered in for gossip, and somehow engulfed me in their circle. I honestly have no idea how this happened, but I suddenly found myself inescapably enclosed within a circle of sawk.

Lady 1: So, lady 2, I’m well. I’m assuming you’re well as well?

Lady 2: Yes, I’m well thank you. We’re all well at home as well. You know we’ve got the usual holiday hustle and bustle, but what else is new? [Side note: who talks like this?]

Lady 1: Oh tell me about it. The kids’ lists get longer every year!

Lady 3: Speaking of kids, Lady 4, is your daughter still…acting?

Lady 4: Yes, she is actually. She has the lead role in a production right now. We’re really proud, but we’re also trying to steer her towards thinking about University. But we figure it’s best to go along with it now, and let her give theatre a try.

Lady 3: Of course, it’s probably best to humour her for a bit. Let her figure out for herself that she has to go to school eventually. I mean, she definitely will once the acting thing doesn’t come through and the parental safety net is pulled out from under her.

Lady 4: I didn’t mean—

Lady 2: Come on, we all had dreams, didn’t we? I know I did until I turned 30, thought my life was over and the sun would never rise again. Then I realized that my dreams didn’t really relate to real life.

Lady 3: --People have no idea who they are or what they need when they’re young. Not even in their 20s. You just don’t have the life experience to know who you are or what’s right for you. It wasn’t until I turned 45 that I figured out who I was.

Lady 4: To be honest with you, I wish I'd done what she’s doing now. We’re actually very proud of her and we think she has a good chance of making a career in theatre. We just want her to get an education as well at some point.

Lady 3: Of course she has a good chance. But how many people do you know who are doing what they “dreamed” of doing?

Lady 1 and 2: Not many. Yeah, really, not many.

Lady 3: But we all turned out all right in the end. Like I said, we know who we are now, and what life is really about.

Awkward silence. Me, staring down and playing with my zipper, avoiding eye contact so they don’t realize I’m probably the same age as said daughter and start asking me about my life plans. Me, in desperate need of escape, backing slowly out of the circle and quickly budding the whole group to get my lunch and get the hell out of there.

After I finished my lunch I watched Lady 3 arguing over who had won the digital camera raffle prize. She was screaming for a redraw, claiming her son “had to have it” and refusing to take no for an answer. As I left I tried not to let the ladies’ conversation depress me. I really felt for the mom who was proud of her daughter, and had to listen to a bunch of acquaintances/co-workers project their crushed ambitions onto her daughter’s dream. If knowing “what life is about” means being rude and mean to a proud mom, and creating an incredibly awkward scenario (contained in which was an unwilling eavesdropper), then I have no intention of joining the ranks of those ladies. How do ambitious youngsters turn into sawky gossip hens?

Please, do not let a similar fate await me.

In other news, I am officially finished the longest paper I have ever written. One more to go, and then home for the holidays.

See more photos here.


Chad Nevett said...

Oh, the 20s are full of socially awkward moments.

I've been witness to many these past few months. I mean, take a group of people who not only HAVE to see each other because of school, but don't have much of a social circle outside of one another and then add booze. Throw a prof into the mix from time to time for added awkwardness.

Erin said...

I find those awkward moments with immature (or just plain rude) adults to be the worst kind of social ineptitude out there because I have no sympathy or patience whatsoever. With kids/teens, I can usually laugh it off as "they'll learn", but with adults, I just think, "You did not learn. And now you are an asshole." This particularly applies to bigots, sexists, uninformed people who state their opinions loudly, misinformed people of the same kind, loud people, people who swear in front of children/the elderly/strangers, and people who are rude to waiters/employees at stores.

This makes me sound like I hate EVERYONE. I don't.

Take care, Dallas, see you soon!

Mark P said...

I love how you found yourself standing in line in the middle of a Margaret Atwood novel.

j'tan said...

The performance world seems full of sawkwardness... from temper tantrums to lack of manners, and ESPECIALLY the baffling ignorance of current events. I don't understand how artists can live in a bubble -- what are we trying to do if not leave the world a richer and more beautiful place then when we came into it? How can we act with a blindfold and sing with a gag?

The ladies-who-lunch convo hurts my soul. It seems the only cure for the cynical is to stomp on the dreams of others. (And the only cure for stupid is... winning raffles?) "Like I said, we know who we are now, and what life is about." It's a pretty short equation, if she's got it all figured out.