5 Terrible Situations for the Socially Awkward Man
You probably know how to function in society. You know how to talk to new people, how to order food in restaurants, and you know exactly what time you're supposed to show up at parties. I'm here to let you know that there's an entirely separate class of people that doesn't know all of those things. They show up too early to things, they disappointingly eat full meals they never ordered because they're too afraid to tell the waiter to send it back, and they have no idea how to shake hands with black people.
They are socially awkward, they are everywhere, and these are their nightmares.
Getting a Massage
Massages are probably really great. Some people rave about them, they go on and on about how soothing it is, and how they would just get a massage every single day if they had the money. On paper, it doesn't sound that awful, but for the socially awkward male, it, like all interactions with humans, should be avoided at all costs.
Getting a massage means being mostly naked while getting intensely rubbed by a complete stranger while something shitty, probably Enya, plays in the background. You take your clothes off, you get touched for a while to get relaxed, and then no one has sex with anyone. Right off the bat, I question the logic of a business built on coupling relaxation with concentrating absolutely all of my energy on not getting an erection. As guys go through puberty, they enter a phase of their life where they start getting incriminating erections--in class, at lunch, on the bus-- all the time and for no reason. So, like most healthy, awkward, American males, I spent the bulk of my time between ages 13 and 17 stopping my body from sprouting boners just whenever it wanted. Eventually, my body learned that, while they were mostly frowned upon, there were a few rare instances when erections were okay and, in fact, encouraged. Lying fairly naked on a bed in the dark while a woman rubs oil over your body is one of those times, my body believes.
"Look, your head is full-on inside her vagina, there's no way this is against the rules, I'm gonna stop by and say Hi."-My erection, at this moment.
Except, that is, during a massage, where you must recondition your body and fight all of your instincts which, if you're unfamiliar, is one of the least relaxing things one could do, (as far as boner relations goes). Mentally willing yourself not to get aroused while someone is casually administering all of the ingredients for arousal is the clearest example of sexual torture I can conceive of. Sensing your tension, your masseuse will softly coo "Relaaax," and you'll calmly shout "Nope!" because you're far too busy combating years and years of mental and physical conditioning. And then she wonders why you won't relax, which puts even more pressure on you.
Because awkwardness, at its core, is all about believing that everyone else knows exactly how to navigate a social situation, and you're the only one who hasn't figured it out yet. Nowhere is this more apparent than in a massage parlor. This is a situation that, with the oils and the touching and the rubbing and the stroking, is objectively sexual, but that's clearly not a problem for anyone but you. You imagine that other clients, and certainly your masseuse, have evolved beyond sexuality. In the way that people can look at a painting of naked people and see it as art instead of pornography, you're masseuse has reached a point where she can spend an hour alone in a dark room intimately rubbing a naked stranger and think "There is nothing at all strange about this."
And that will never make sense to you.
Standing Next to Someone at a Urinal
Notice I said "standing," and not "peeing." That's because, for the socially awkward male, this is the thought process that accompanies every trip to the urinal:
*Oh, good, there's no one else here. This'll be easy. In and out.
*You settle yourself in front of a urinal.
*The door to the restroom opens abruptly. The sound and implication that you are no longer alone startles you.
*You feel cold.
*You pray that the new occupant opts for a stall instead, because-
*Oh, shit, he didn't.
*Okay, this is fine. Stare straight ahead and just go. Just go. I really have to go, this shouldn't be a problem.
*He starts peeing. In the otherwise silent bathroom, his proud and confident stream does nothing but highlight the fact that you clearly haven't been peeing.
*He can hear. He can hear you not peeing right now. He knows.
*Don't think about that, just focus on peeing and all-
*"What's up, Man?"
*How have guys who talk in the bathroom not been shunned out of society?!
*"N-nothing, man." Just peeing, is all.
*"Oh, yeah. Chillin' chillin?"
*This conversation should be illegal.
*"Yes, I am chilling chilling."
*"No doubt. Crazy weather," he says, and he continues to chat, because you are the only one in the world who doesn't know how to talk and pee and stand next to another human at the same time. The only one in the world.
*Giving up, you pretend to shake away make believe urine, and maybe you even say "That sure was a good urine session," to really drive your ruse home, and then you make your exit. It is the toilet equivalent of faking an orgasm.
The only thing worse than not being able to pee in front of someone is knowing that they know. You know they're thinking about it, because there's very little else to do in a public restroom but evaluate your surroundings. It's already weird, but to the awkward, there's something extra bizarre about two guys standing next to each other at urinals. The awkward man knows that, at any moment, either one of them can say "Hey, I just realized that we are coworkers who rarely see each other outside of work and, at this moment, we are standing eight inches away from each other with our penises in our hands. Just figured I'd point that out in case it wasn't the only thing you could possibly think about under these circumstances." You never pull back at a urinal and think It's weird that it's socially acceptable for me to have a conversation wherein sometimes I look at you, and sometimes I look at my dick, but the socially awkward man thinks of absolutely nothing else.
"Just wanted to say I've been loving your work lately and, hey, you use one hand when you hold your penis. I use two. Wild."
Yoga Class/The Gym in General
Yoga is just a disaster. Not a lot of people know this, but it was invented by the Israeli military as a way to torture war prisoners in uniquely humiliating ways. Over the years, it's been adopted by spiritual fitness experts, but the underlying intentions of embarrassment still linger, especially for the socially awkward. Yoga utilizes a code of language that every participant except you understands. The instructor will say something like "Feel the energy bubbling at your center," or "Now go ahead and expand your heart chakra," and you'll think it's nonsense until you look around and realize that absolutely everyone else is expanding the shit out of their heart chakras." You've got your leg in the air and you're desperately trying not to fall down while simultaneously trying to "breathe through your core," as if that means anything, and your instructor will come over and give you some personal guidance:
Instructor: "That's good, but do me a favor and lengthen."
You, Struggling to Breathe: "Like... taller? Like be taller?"
Instructor: "Just lengthen."
You: "I feel like I'm as far as I can go, in all possible directions. I can't move anything."
Instructor: "Imagine there's a string attached to the top of your head."
You: "Okay, I'm imagining that... Is that- did I do it? Does imagining that mean I've lengthened?"
Instructor: "No, just imagine that string and then lengthen."
You, Currently Falling Over: "I need you to use a word that isn't 'lengthen' to get me to do whatever it is you want."
Instructor: "Here, I'm just going to put my hands on you and position you so-"
Oh, right, yoga class is similar to massage parlors, in that everyone is doing objectively sexy things like putting butts in each other's faces and flinging pelvises with abandon, but no one finds it the least bit odd. The yoga instructor will occasionally point to some woman whose ass is thrust majestically skyward and say "Look, everyone, look at what Sapphire's doing and do that. Everyone look at Sapphire gluts," and you think No, society has trained me not to.
"Look at Candy's posterior, you really want that level of firmness. Here, watch me bounce this quarter off it."
When you're finished with your embarrassing tragedy of a yoga class, the rest of the gym at large is also just a minefield of awkwardness. There's a possibility that someone will ask you to spot them, which is difficult for you, because you have no idea where to put your hands. And someone might ask you what you're working out that day, and you have no answer, because your routine is always "I just, uh, do the... weights." You're terrified that, if you give a more specific answer like "Arms," they'll say "Well then why the hell are you doing a chest exercise," because absolutely everyone at the gym knows more about gymming than you do.
Getting a Haircut
Every haircut starts with the hairdresser saying "So what are we doing today," and everyone knows how to answer that question better than you do. Maybe every haircut has a specific name, but no one told you, so the only clear direction you can articulate is "shorter than this." When I was younger, my answer used to be "Just, a boy's haircut? Like, a regular- just the kind of haircut that boys get, the one that you see all the people getting. Or, do you see what my hair shape is now? I would like that, but less of it, please." Then they'll ask you what kind of buzzer you'd like them to use, and you have no idea what that means, so you just say "Boy's haircut" again, and then they'll give you a terrible haircut because the information you gave them was impossible to follow, and you'll leave as fast as you can, saying "Thanks very much this has been great," because you want them to think everything went well. Nowadays, I shave my own head just so I don't have to handle these delicate, impossible-in-the-eyes-of-the-awkward-man questions every few weeks. When I was in high school, I had an entirely different approach to cutting out the middle man.
I just never went.
Dear Everyone In My Life When I Was 17: It was irresponsible of you to let me do this.
Additionally, going to a hairdresser is similar to going to a massage parlor, in that you're often being touched by someone of the opposite sex in a distinctly sexual way, but you're not allowed to think it's at all sexual. Getting your hair professionally shampooed and cut involves a whole lot of head-massaging and personal-space-invading. You're often being straddled by the hairdresser, and she's so comfortable that she barely realizes that, in many instances, her breasts are directly on your face, and there's literally nothing else you can think about. You don't want to do anything that might be misconstrued as sexual harassment while her boobs are at mouth level, so you stop breathing and completely freeze your face. She asks you how your day is going, and you want to answer, but at the same time you don't think she'll accept your complex series of motorboats as a valid response.
"Now lean forward while I rest my tits on your neck, please."
Spending Any Amount of Time With Someone Else's Baby
In life, some messages are impossible to communicate. You'll make a very straightforward claim, like "I don't enjoy being tickled, or I hate pie, or I hate going to clubs," and people just won't accept it. They'll assume you're just being coy about the tickling, and they'll convince themselves that you only hate pie because you haven't tried their favorite pie yet, and they'll assure you that you just haven't been to the right club with the right people, and they swear, if you go to this club in Silver Lake, you'll love it, it's real chill and they've got this one room that has dancing and a couch. You've never explicitly said that you don't like clubs because there aren't enough couches, but that doesn't matter. Everyone thinks they know what you really mean, much better than you do.
This is especially true of babies, especially if you're a guy. People, for reasons that aren't clear to me, love watching other people hold babies. Passing newborn babies around from person to person is a longstanding tradition that a lot of folks seem to really love, but the awkward man fears. If you don't want to hold one, I promise you, there is not a single combination of words you can string together to communicate this point to anyone.
You:"Oh, no, I really- Please, I'm sure I would drop it. Just everywhere."
Them:"Oh, nonsense, you're just nervous, you'll be fine, here it's easy!"
You:"No, thank you, I'm just not at all fond of babies."
Them:"Oh, you're so funny. Here just hold her, she won't bite."
You:"You don't know that!"
You:"Actually my whole family was killed by babies, and I swear to God if you hand me that child I will-"
Them:"Look, he likes you! He wikes his Uncle Danny, doesn't he?"
You:"For reasons that aren't clear but are probably related to my general life awkwardness, I am very uncomfortable in this situation, do not hand me your baby."
Them:"You're just shy, you'll be great at it"
"Look, he seems nice, but can I just put him somewhere? Does he have... like a drawer, or basket?"
Everyone always assumes you're shy, or embarrassed, or nervous, even though deep down you really want to hold that baby. But here's the truth: the socially awkward man genuinely has no affection for your child. Further, he is terrified that there are several unspoken baby rules and that he will break every single one of them. He'll hold its head in a way that makes babies blind, or it'll start crying because he accidentally pinched a nerve that only babies have, or he'll make a face that scars her for the rest of her life.
None of this goes away when the children get older, either. Being around someone else's child at any age is confusing, because there is always a different set of rules and the lingering fear that you will have an impact on this child's life, which is terrifying because you are so, so dumb. The socially awkward can barely navigate their own life, and suddenly they're face-to-face with a four-year-old that's peed itself and there's no one else around. The child complains about pants-wetting and all you can think to say is "Look, this is clearly a situation but I'm not- I don't really know what my jurisdiction is, legally, when it comes to, like, your pants. You're not my property and I have no interest in your future. Please go somewhere until this issue resolves itself."
"Just keep your head down, and believe in yourself, and be far away from me."
Little children recognize no boundaries and feel no shame, and those two things define the socially awkward human.
Socially awkward guys don't want anything to do with a baby or child based on the very understandable fear that they will somehow do it wrong, (and also because babies aren't interesting). Not everyone sees a baby and thinks "That's so precious I need to hold it now, but how do I ask?" Some guys just see a baby and think "You are a baby."
Please don't make him hold your baby. Just let him sit quietly in the corner, mentally complaining about his haircut and wondering how everyone else learned how to dance when he didn't.
Check out Dan's look at 5 Things They Never Told Us from last week or The 8 Most Awkward Sexual Moments in Comic Book History.