More times than not in my life I have been confronted with awkward situations. In fact I could honestly say I feel awkward at some point most every day. For example…
I never quite know what to do with my hands during a conversation. I end up flailing them around in gesticulations that look like American Sign Language gone horribly wrong. Or sometimes they go straight to my hair or face leaving me with a bad case of the frizzies and smeared make-up.
Make-up is awkward for me since I never wore it until only a few years ago after rosacea and hyper-pigmentation laid claim to my complexion. My mother didn’t wear make-up either, so there was never a mother-daughter bonding session over the art of matching foundation to skin tone. No one has ever sat down with me and gave me instructions so I’ve had to wing it on my own. I usually feel confident until the eyebrow pencil comes out, the one thing for which I have actually received lessons in a bonding session with that pesky sister. All and all the whole exercise in achieving the look of natural, flawless skin is hit or miss, mostly miss, and never fully polished.
Nail polish is equally awkward for me because it calls attention to my flailing gesticulations. Air-traffic controller comes immediately to mind.
Small talk is awkward because it’s chatty and I don’t do chatty. “How are you?” “Have a good day.” These statements are about as small as my talk can go. I’d rather ask “Explain your rationale to coming to that conclusion”, or “How does that make you feel”, or “Tell me what your house looks like in (enter any country here).” These are topics I’m more interested in, not whether the weather will hold or turn cold.
Clothing in general causes me distress. I’ve never been one to wear career clothing because it’s not the way I feel inside so I feel pretentious in suits and heels. I would much rather attempt to disguise my shape by hiding in layers of flowing frippery with lots of pretty jewelry for added distraction. Dresses are awkward because they show off my thick calves and draw attention to my unflattering shoes. I wear unflattering shoes because clunky is the only style the stores sell in my size.
This fact was driven home yet again today after an unsuccessful shoe shopping trip. The husband found a good pair for himself, and I must admit to a slight pang of jealousy when I pulled up my text messages so he could get 20% off his find. To drive my point home I did not offer my wallet to the store clerk. I left empty-handed and ended up getting drenched in the downpour that started while I was limping around the store with one shoe on and one shoe off in search of shoe boxes with the dreaded orange “W” sticker. Diddle, diddle dumpling comes immediately to mind.
The Rainstorm that Rescheduled Halloween is what inspired this essay in the first place. After the shoe store we switched to grocery shopping, and I carried my umbrella into the store because one soaking was more than enough for the day. While we were shopping a tornado warning herded all of the customers to the center of the store, an experience I hope to never have again. I figured the rain would stop by the time we finished shopping and were ready to leave. That was not the case, which led me to today’s awkward moment.
I remember years ago having a conversation about my disdain for umbrellas. Back then I was young and carefree and walking in the rain was an expression of my youth. I didn’t wear make-up that would smear, and it was the 1980s when frizzy hair was the norm so a little rain was not problem for me. I love the image of an umbrella. I’m always drawn to paintings or photographs with umbrellas as the main subject. I just don’t want to carry one. I feel clumsy and unsure with an open umbrella over my head. I know it sounds ridiculous, but what is proper umbrella etiquette? Where do you hold it? If I hold it upright by the handle I feel like foolish, so I end up holding it in the middle which makes me feel gawkish. Should the canopy be held high and mighty or low and brooding? Maybe it should be held carefree at a rakish angle like Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain.
Since I'm on the subject, what about sharing an umbrella? In my opinion sharing should only be done as a kind gesture to old people or small children, with your spouse, or early in a budding romance when you are looking for any excuse to be close to your crush. “I feel rain, falling right out of the blue sky…” is a song lyric that comes immediately to mind. Otherwise open umbrellas should indicate a personal space and that boundary should never be compromised. I will share with the husband, but that’s only because I don’t mind touching him. If, and only if sharing is absolutely necessary then the handle holding should always default to the taller person. I should be etching this in stone.
There are things I’m never going to feel comfortable doing. I have made great strides, though, and I surprise myself sometimes. As a matter of fact I had one of those “I shall overcome” moments today as I tried to get a container of feta cheese that was too far back on the top shelf for me to reach. A tall man was standing nearby, and I asked him to get it for me. There was a time when I would have decided I didn't really need feta cheese after all, but today I reached out to a stranger and risked rejection all for a $3.97 container of feta cheese. On the other hand, if he had needed to share my umbrella to make it to his car he would have been out of luck. I haven't overcome it all, not yet anyway.