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June 8, 2012 at 2:51 PMComments: 8 Faves: 1

The Top 10 Most Awkward Places to Be

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

Hello and welcome back my little psychology nerd blog, Id and Ego.

This week: the top 10 most awkward places to be.

But before the fun stuff, I wanted to share my inspiration.

I just got back from a funeral yesterday. It was my grandma's, but it's okay. It wasn't a surprise. She's had cancer for over a year and she's finally not in pain anymore. But now, of course, as they will, polite people are asking me "How was the funeral?" and for the most part, as they will, I'm telling them about how nice the service was. This is otherwise known as the polite version of things. In reality though, COME ON.  How was the funeral? It was awkward – just like all funerals are. Even more awkward for me though, I think.

To start, I don’t come from a close-knit family. My mom has actually said before in absolute earnestness "We're not a HUGGING sort of family." and she means our immediate family as well as the extended. We really only see relatives at the obligatory times - Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas - so we don't actually know each other and when we DO, we're the odd part of our very conservative Christian family. My mom - the only sister of the 5 without a husband and the only non-practicing Christian, my 16 year old sister - the strange, Athiest, Asperger's relation that is always saying things and asking questions that lead to awkward silences and then me - the pierced, tattooed, dyed hair non-Christian that had a kid at 15 and now regularly skips even the obligatory gatherings when I can….Getting the picture?

To make matters even more strange, I ended up being the one to sit next to the very most emotionally distant member of my mother's side of family, the only member of our family who can sit watching golf and smoking cigarettes and make it through entire gathering without saying more than 10 words - and the one who also happens to be my grandpa that just lost his wife. -.-

We hadn't talked at all before the funeral, hadn't even greeted each other and I was sitting there worrying about whether I should try to say something, hold his hand or even.... hug him during the service. (Luckily though, it didn't come to any of that.) And this is all is not even to mention the awkward luncheon afterward or the subsequent transportation of that awkward dynamic to my grandparent's home.

YEP.  Funerals are awkward as butt… but at least I've got a good sense of humor to see me through it!

… eh?! :D

….. eh?!! :D

*crickets chirp*

… :/

Erm…so, on that uplifting note, without further ado and in no particular order, the 10 most awkward places to be…. ENJOY! ;D

#10. Hanging with Your Friend's Friends.

awkward partyEveryone's having a great time. Everyone's reminiscing, laughing and impressed with the wit of those around them, everyone that is, except for you - the friend of the friend.

It’s not that you don’t get along or that they don’t seem like interesting people. You DO. They DO. It’s just that every time you find some way to enter the conversation – a related story or insightful perspective you have to share– someone else the current speaker is more interested in speaks up. ALSO though, you couldn’t give two sh**s less about that one kid they all used to know or their inside jokes.

Contrary to popular saying, any friend of my friend, is NOT necessarily my friend too.

#9. At the Doctor’s Office.

awkard doctor's officeYou walk into that cold, sterile waiting room and even as an adult, you immediately feel a like an incompetent child “Uh, yeah… I have an appointment with Dr. So-and-so ?”  They tell you “okay” and you must then find a spot to sit among the other potentially contagious people around you.  This is only the first and most pleasant of in the many waits you must endure before you are through with this thing. The second involves another smaller and more sterile room to feel unsure in and now, without distracting reading material, the third involves stripping down to a hospital gown and waiting to be seen it.  Double awkward points go to OB/GYN visits and guys enduring the “cough test.” (I once had a friend that after being told she was all set, actually fell off the examining table - BUTT NAKED with her foot caught in a stirrup at an OB. I'll bet she made that doctor's day. lol)

#8. On a First Date.

awkward first dateIf it’s a blind date, before you even get there you’re scared sh*tless either they or you are going to prove a disappointment. Even if physical appearance is acceptable by both people, they each have a list of questions they must answer correctly or be judged for it.

If it’s a friend, you’re feeling unsure about just what this change in relationship status means. It feels like something must be done in order to make this change clear – but you don’t want to push too fast and weird them out. If it a stranger, it can't help but feel at least a little unnatural and forced.

Either way, everything feels like a high-stakes test – from the place that was chosen, to the way you presented yourself to your actual performance during the date. In the end, both of you are wondering how to end the date right – and you may both come to different conclusions there as well.

#7.  At Extended Family Christmas.

awkward family christmasOkay, so you got the portrait of how my family works. Those of you with a similar family situation know that extended family Christmas offers the same delightful awkwardness as all the other obligatory gathering times. However, I do think Extended Family Christmas offers a special brand of awkward. Even for those of you blessed enough to have close ties with everyone from your grandparents, aunts and uncles right down to your second cousins, you STILL must eat the dinner and open each present like you love every bit (even if you don’t). And you must also find something nice to say about it and make it believable.

#6.  On The Phone.

awkward phoneI’ll admit I have a personal hatred for the phone, but I don’t think I’m alone in saying the way conversation happens there is pretty awkward. Outside you weird people that actually call “just to chat”, when you actually initiate a conversation via phone, there’s something specific you're wanting. However, it's considered rude to call with just that to say. You need a buffer of small talk before and after in order to be polite.  You need to make them feel cared about before you state your business and then end the call gracefully - which can be tough despite your best intentions. There’s also fact that others may be able to hear you. All in all – I say thank, god for texting!

#5.  At Your Kid’s Friend’s Birthday Party.

awkward kid's friend's birthday partyOkay, so I did set out to create a list of things most people could relate to and obviously, many people my age have not had this experience yet. However, statistics say, most of you eventually will and I’d like to prepare you – it’s awkward. Not only are you being forced to make conversation with a group of people you don’t know for at least an hour, you’re facing a much higher level of scrutiny than you would with your average stranger-on-stranger conversation. They’re judging the heck out of you. After all, you could potentially be caring for their kids and they want to know what sorts their child is hanging around.

#4. At Your New Workplace.

awkward first dayOh man. This one is a lot like the doctor’s office except instead of feeling like a clueless child for a few hours, the feeling here lasts for 8 at least. You really have no idea what you signed yourself up for at this point. You’ve done what you can to dress impressively and professionally without looking like an uptight loser, but you’re still not sure about the choice as you walk in. Further, you walk in without knowing where to go and must be guided to your seat with what feels like a blinking neon sign above your head proclaiming to everyone *outsider!* *outsider!* and though you'll be told once, you still won’t really know where anything is, how anything works, or what anyone’s names are for a while.

#3. In a Long Hallway.

This awkward place is one I encounter on a regular basis. I swear - the place I work seems designed to both disorient and produce anxiety. Its huge space is divided between almost identical and EXTREMELY long narrow hallway. To add to awkward, most of the building is unoccupied, meaning  there are many moments where it’s only you and one person walking toward each other for an entire painfully awkward minute.  Decisions must be made. How much eye contact will you attempt to make? How do you look away without specifically appearing to be avoiding said eye contact and at what point in your slow descent on each other will you share a polite greeting? It’s an ART. It truly is. (My work buddies and I have decided we really ought to have a dance that happens for that occasion. Possibly Bird and the Bees “Polite Dance” song, possibly Time Warp - haven't decided yet.)

#2. In a Public Restroom.

akward public restroomNow, while as woman, I can’t claim to understand the full social dynamic occurring in the men’s restroom, I can imagine that by its design alone, it’s pretty darn awkward.  When did they decide that because men can pee while they stand they should do it without any privacy?!  It’s not often I say this but, you poor men!  You must make absolutely sure you don’t accidentally appear to be trying peek at anyone around you and if you do decide to avoid this situation and pick a stall to pee in instead, your masculinity is questioned anyway.  If you enter the stall however, everyone automatically assumes you’re pooping and knows if you  actually are.

Women have a different set of problems. Because we are lucky enough to need to squat when we pee, we’re used to being alone when nature calls – the awkwardness comes in the maintenance of this privacy. If - god forbid -you enter a stall at the same time as a stranger, you are both immediately strategizing, trying to create a timing differential so you can both at least get private mirror time. (Do I go fast as I can and try to beat her OR do I take my dear, sweet time and let her leave first?)  If – once again, god forbid - you have to poop, then you know which of those two routes you’re taking. No way in H*LL are you going to proceed before everyone is gone. And then, assuming you've made it successfully out of the bathroom without anyone seeing who was using the stall, there's mirror time. Being caught checking yourself out, fixing your hair or otherwise appearing vain or like you need to do anything to maintain your looks in front of a strange woman is the worst. That is – the worst after facing someone you just heard poop or that just heard you poop.

#1. At a Funeral.

awkward funeralAnd here we are again at the dreaded funeral. Here we’ve come around full circle. There’s a lot of unclear ground when it comes to funerals.  What do you wear? Do you bring flowers or food? What do you say to the grieving party? Do you offer a hug? Do you look at the body? Who do you talk to? Who do you sit next to during the service? Who do you sit with during the meal afterward? I mean, when else are you expected to gather together with a group of people – many of which you don’t know – and to express deep sadness together? It’s very awkward business.

So. What’d you think?! Did I leave a good one out? What would you say the top 3 most awkward places are?

Photo Credits:

Awkward Party - goto10@flickr

Awkward Doctor's Office - frances1972@flickr

Awkward First Date - Tomasz Kulbowski@flickr

Awkward Family Christmas - Trent Bigelow@flickr

Awkward Phone Call - Sumlin@flickr

Awkward Kid's Party - Shira Golding@flickr

Awkward First Day - Phillie Casablanca@flickr

Awkward Public Restroom - McBeth@flickr

Awkward Funeral - Fetmano@flickr

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  • You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one, Erin. There are few things I despise more than being awkward, and you brought up some really good ones. I hate being awkward at funerals. The first thing that I want to say is "How ya doing?" because that is what I say to everyone all the time. But everyone is doing awful at a funeral! No one can answer that question. I hate being that awkward so much that I have come up with a phrase that I find is most appropriate. I say, "It's good to see you." But yeah, I hate that uncomfortableness.

    Also, the little things throughout the day, the bathroom, the hallways, I can't stand meeting anyone in any of those scenarios. You always get that one guy who starts talking to you the instant that he sees you, making it that you have to make small talk all the way until you pass each other. I hate that! And every once in a while, you get that talker in the bathroom. That is not what that room is for! I don't know you and you are not helping anything.

  • Erin this is an awesome blog. It's amazing how others feel the same way as each other and we would never know it!!

  • Oh, and one other thing that I agree with you completely on is the telephone. I hate the small talk that seems so necessary in this society. Why can't I just call you and actually ask the question I have? Or just get to the point when you call me. I can only talk so much about the weather and how the family's doing, ya know? Frustrating. But yes, I agree, I love texting. To the point, and people are actually upset with you if you put small talk in there because they are paying for it. Best invention ever.

  • Amazing blog, Erin! Seriously, I love this series of yours! Always makes me think and relate. It's good to know everyone encounters these same awkward situations.

    Okay, elevators are also awkward! I always want to say hi and talk to make it less weird (the awkward silence is just hard to bear). But if I were to talk...I feel like the awkwardness would be even more strained. I also never know where to look in an small and confined and don't want to make anyone angry by making eye contact with them.

    One more: Even though Facebook is a virtual place, I think it has awkward moments as well! When someone is still technically your "friend" on facebook, but you haven't talked in so long you've forgotten they are there and they "likes" a random status of yours.

    Or when an ex-boyfriend from a long time ago messages you (happened to me, so awkward...never messaged back lol)

    When old highschool classmates messages you 5-6 years later asking you out on a date (happened to a friend of mine. She was too nice and decided to go out on one date and it was very weird and awkward according to her!)

    I bet you could make a whole blog on facebook awkward moments. :)

  • Oh man. I identify with this blog so much it's scary. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who feel completely incompetent at a doctor's office. I started going to a chiropractor recently and I was so nervous and awkward...luckily, it's a really relaxed office, and I feel totally comfortable. But at first...oh man. Especially knowing that I'll have to deal with insurance and such - ugh!

    I also hate talking on the phone. Even if it's for something small, like canceling an appointment or asking a question...not a fan! I can count on one hand the number of people I actually enjoy talking on the phone with.

    As for the bathroom...I'm just really glad to know I'm not the only one. Haha.

  • Rex, Nancy, Bri, Laura - Thanks you guys!! And yeah, it is comforting to know we're all feeling awkward together in these places, isn't it? Sometimes I wish everyone could just acknowledge the awkwardness openly. Honesty and a sense of humor about weirdness would definitely help. Sometimes, I just can't help it. When I see people uncomfortably looking away or finding something to fiddle with, I just laugh because I know exactly how they're feeling.

    Bri - Those would both have been great additions to the blog. I can't believe I didn't think of them! Elevators especially. The awkwardness is a significant part of why I take the stairs when there's the option to. :P

  • I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my comment! Here's an awkward situation...I was a the chiropractor's office the other day. To keep your appointments somewhat private, they have a setup with what are basically tall cubicle walls, each containing 2 treatment tables that are pretty close together. Usually, you're in the room by yourself. Well, the other day, I was sent into a room that had a whole family waiting on one of the tables. Keep in mind, this setup is very small. So I had the lovely choice between sitting there facing these strangers at very close proximity (less than a foot between us), or else sitting there directly facing the wall (again, with about a foot of space), with nothing to do, pretending like I didn't notice the appointment going on right behind me. I had to sit there while all four of them were getting adjusted. AWKWARD.

  • LOL! Super awkward! Why would they do it that way?!

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