On being human and awkward AF

Awkward: causing or feeling uneasy embarrassment or inconvenience (synonyms: embarrassing, uncomfortable, unpleasant, humiliating, cringe-making)

While (God willing) I might never put on a display of sheer awkwardness quite as public, dumb or astounding as that of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at the Oscars last night as they unwittingly robbed the makers of Moonlight of their moment to revel openly and undisturbed in their greatness… hoooooooly hell, I know awkward nonetheless.

Awkward is being complimented on the fragrance you’re wearing and then rambling at the poor girl with the kind words as you tell her that it’s a natural deodorant and you really love it but the scent is a bit strong, no? Oh and the thing about natural deodorants is that their antiperspirant qualities are really rubbish, so you hope she doesn’t mind the profuse sweating but you had to rush to get here and you were very hot and flustered when you arrived and you’re really, really sorry about it. (Note to self: whenever complimented in future, consider responding simply and graciously with the words, “thank you.”)

Awkward is telling a lovely author leading a writing masterclass that writers procrastinate with a lot of unnecessary “stuff” that holds them back on the route to getting published (or whatever the holy grail might be), such as researching more heavily than is needed, or watching every single interview with an author on YouTube, or – oh yeah! – attending classes just like this one.

Awkward is ordering two slices of pizza to go and then receiving them in an 11″ pizza box and having to wander the streets of Soho in the pouring rain and eat the enormous slices of oozy, sloppy pizza as quickly yet nonchalantly as is humanly possible while seeking shelter under any canopy that won’t leave you standing outside a packed restaurant full of people eating their food while watching you eat yours. (You will find that this is impossible in Soho.)

Awkward is getting to a PACKED cinema when it’s dark and the trailers are on, stepping on the toes of the usher who’s silently showing you the way, grabbing the back of a seat as you stumble along the aisle and simultaneously yanking a tuft of hair attached to the head of the person sitting in said seat, and then almost landing in the lap of the lady in the seat next to yours who’s seemingly out on date-night with her husband and was very much minding her own business until you showed up to claim the only remaining spot in the place, which happened to be next to her. (She will get her own back by munching VERY LOUDLY on VERY CRUNCHY SWEETS throughout the whole showing of 20th Century Women.)

Awkward is doing all of the above in one afternoon, as I did this past weekend.

My mum lovingly says I got all the intelligence but none of the common sense (or, by default, the grace). Somehow, I’ve reached almost-30 without grasping a lot of things that a lot of other people apparently have – things to do with make-up and DIY, and political/historical stuff. I drop things and bump into things and get my headphone wires caught on door handles. I mishear people, I don’t speak up when I don’t understand things and I don’t retain information readily. And I sometimes forget there are other people in the world, like when I speak to myself on a crowded train-station platform because I forget that the loud music in my ears is drowning out the existence of the people around me. I’ve been likened in the past to a Disney character with bluebirds fluttering about my head and precisely zero perception of what’s going on in “the real world.”

All this isn’t to say that I’d award La La Land the Best Picture Oscar* in front of millions, but hey, if it said it on the special card in the golden envelope, I can’t pretend that I’d question it.

Awkward is the feeling that comes when you know you’ve said too much, or you’ve said the wrong thing, or you’ve done something that other people might think weird and will probably stare at you for. I get it a lot. Faye Dunaway maybe got it when the paps kept yelling questions at her at the Vanity Fair after-party. Warren Beatty doubtlessly got it when he double-checked the contents of the Oscars envelope and then heard Faye utter the words he had to know weren’t right.

The trick, I’m coming to learn, in dealing with an awkward AF moment is in acknowledging it. Staring it in its flushed red face. Shrugging it off as NBD (or apologising if it truly messed up someone else’s night…). Paying no mind to what other people think – even if you need to call on your very best pretending skills in order to do so. Talking about it as if it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Because it isn’t.

The other trick in dealing with an awkward AF moment, you see, is in remembering that EVERYONE has them – some people are just better at executing them than others. Your moment might have a pretty far reach and have its awkwardness measured by the number of tweets and think-pieces it prompts. Or it might simply make someone wish they had the temerity (or pure lack of a wider awareness) to be as forthright with the truth as you are.

We’re all human, is what I’m trying to say. We all make really big messes sometimes. We’re all a little bit weird and a little bit quirky and a little bit different from the next person. But, honestly, that’s what makes us great. It’s the way we don’t let such a thing as public decorum stop us from enjoying ourselves. It’s the way we say what we feel in the utterly wrong moment, but then realise that no moment is truly wrong. It’s the way we write in run-on sentences to make a point and then discover stuff about ourselves in the very process of writing them.

I’ve never cocked up on quite such a grand scale as on the Oscars stage. But small snafus and slip-ups happen to me almost daily. And I’m learning to love that I come across as giddy and talkative and a bit over-the-top, and that my new favourite thing is dancing in my seat to Lykke Li on the Overground. Because that’s who I am and that’s what makes me happy. We all have our weird things. And they’re only awkward if we allow them to be.


*Yes, La La Land is buoyant and brilliant and bouncing with a romance that only fellow dreamers might understand, but I’m so damn happy Moonlight won. I mean, it’s just… [insert sigh of awe and devotion here].