When was the last time you found yourself in an awkward situation, one in which you find yourself in close proximity to someone you really would rather have not run into? You suddenly find yourself trapped in a position where you feel so anxious that you’d rather be standing naked on stage than where you are at that very moment.
Cape Cod is a small little sand spit. It’s not quite an island, but it may as well be when it comes to social situations. You are going to find yourself in line at the grocery store behind your neighbor whose mailbox you “bumped” the other day, or in a waiting room when you realize you’re sitting directly across from your child’s teacher who just sent home a note telling you that your son ate the class polliwog during science, or you find yourself trapped in an elevator with your ex-husband’s new wife and the power goes out. These things do happen. Alright – there aren’t many elevators on Cape Cod, but you get the gist.
How do you handle these situations? Do you slink down in your chair and make yourself as small as possible and hope an eagle will swoop in and carry the other person away? Do you mess up your hair and put on dark sunglasses hoping you aren’t recognized? Do you pull a fire alarm and make your escape in the chaos? Or, do you tighten the belt on your grown-up pants and find something to say to break the tension?
In such situations, I like to think I can act like an adult – a socially awkward adult, maybe. But still, at 45, I try to act my age and handle a situation with some level of maturity. I am inclined to ratchet my belt to the point where I can’t breathe and walk face-first into whatever virtual wall has been thrown up and try to diffuse the situation.
I can tell you from experience, you have even odds for either finding resolution or spiraling into a vat of sticky goo. I like to call these situations “Awkward Adulting.” You have no idea what’s going through the other person’s mind. You don’t know what kind of day they’ve had and you certainly don’t know why Karma has found it necessary to place the two of you in this spot at this moment, except to ‘see what happens’.
So, after finding myself in one of these Sex-In-The-City / Made-For-Lifetime-TV / Why-Is-My-Life-A-Sitcom situations recently, I decided to be an adult.
I found myself in a parking lot calling out to someone whom I was not expecting to see and, given prior warning to said encounter, I would have gladly beamed myself up to the Enterprise to avoid it.
The individual was walking towards a parked car and turned toward me.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen. I do know what I planned to say: “Do you have a minute? I’d really like to clear the air. We live in a small place. We are going to run into each other occasionally. I want you to know that I am OK with the situation. Life is what life is and things happen. Let’s all be adults and move on. It’s not worth the stress.”
I was pretty sure we weren’t going to hug and swap invitations for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to remove the drama.
This is what actually happened:
“Hey! Hey… Do you have a minute?”
The person turned and looked at me at the sound of their name, wide eyed and surprised.
“I’d really like to clear the …”
Before all the words were even out of my mouth, this person wheeled around and quickly headed to their car, leaving me standing there, awkwardly, with my mouth hanging open mid-sentence. I kind of felt like I was standing outside wearing a hospital johnnywith no ties to close the back.
There was no malice in my attempt to communicate. Although, I’m now envisioning the ‘rumor-mill’ version of the scene: I came running into the parking lot like a hysterical banshee cursing the sun and earth!
In reality, I went back inside and sat down and waited for the embarrassment and emotional cacophony to subside. I wanted to make myself as small as possible. I wanted to disappear into the cushions of the fake leather chair. I wanted the whole situation to disappear.
But it won’t disappear. We live on Cape Cod. We see our neighbors when we walk our dogs. We actually went to high school with our children’s elementary school teachers. We will run into our ex-spouses and we may find ourselves trapped in elevators and bathrooms with people whom we feel did us wrong.
Drama is tiring, especially when you’re an adult. You can dust yourself off and keep moving forward, or you can kick rocks at other people and never graduate from the playground. It’s not an emotionally easy decision, but you sleep better at night when you finally make the adult choice, even when it feels awkward.
Feel free to tell me your story! Email me: [email protected]