I am socially awkward. Most of the time I think I conceal it. After thirty-(something) years of struggling with shyness upon meeting new people, of being afraid to say the wrong thing (and often doing so!), I can usually fake it pretty well.
But lately…I don’t know if it’s because I’ve pushed myself too far out of my comfort zone, meeting so many new people, but I am constantly saying the wrong thing. I know what I want to say, it’s in my head, then I open my mouth and bam! rudeness spews. What the bloody hell? And then immediately I’m horrified, but I don’t know how to cover it up. So typically, even more awkwardness follows, in a vicious snowball of awkward actions leading to awkward feelings leading to even more awkward actions and speech. (Sidenote: how absolutely perfectly awkward is the word “awkward”? It’s practically onomatopoeia).
Perhaps this is why I took to message boards so readily, years ago. And blogging, and writing fiction, now. So easy to type…then hit “backspace” and start over. Repeat as needed, until satisfied with what I’m about to put out there into the world.
Once upon a time I suffered from a severe phobia of public speaking. I’m not the only one, I know. I had a professor in college who helped me get over it: practice, practice, practice. Notes. Rehearsal. Scripts. Gee…sounds like my son’s speech and language therapy. Regardless, when prepared with what to say ahead of time I can manage.
Without preparation? Without knowing the words before I begin? Frozen. Absolutely frozen. And then the verbal diarrhea. Which is a terrible image that I’ve always despised, but unfortunately accurate in my case.
I wonder if it’s going to continue getting worse. I wonder if I should have business cards made up with a link to this post. I can hand them out when I say something horrible; the link leads them here, where they can read:
“I am so sorry for what I just said. I truly didn’t mean to say that, I meant to say the exact opposite.”
Or, one of those flyers with tear-off strips at the bottom. That might be simpler.
Or, the safest option: stop speaking altogether. When someone greets me, asks me how I am doing, (you know, being polite themselves, and expecting me to be polite in return) I can smile blankly and e-mail them, much later, after I’ve had a chance to write and re-write my answer.
“I am fine today, thank you for asking. How are you?”