After a great deal of study I’ve found that social interactions are only awkward when there’s more than one person involved. The conversations I have by myself are never awkward. Not even during the long pauses, staring into my own eyes (which is hard to do when you have a nose).
But when you get more than just you involved, that’s when it starts to get uncomfortable. That’s because other people always ask the unpleasant, overly-personal questions the voices in your head would never ask. Like “What have you been up to lately?” or “Do you have any hobbies?” or “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“What have you been up to lately?” is the worst, because it usually comes after someone has just told you what they have been up to. And what they have been up to is usually awesome. Whatever it is, it’s usually something to the extent like they took a round-the-world tour in a hot air submarine, but are glad to be home and get back to their regular job as a dragon tamer.
Then these people want to know what I’ve been up to.
That’s a horrible question when I have so very little up by comparison.
You can’t follow that kind of story up with the truth because “Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Taiwanese TV” simply does not impress people. Even after you sing the entire theme song of your favorite show to them. In original Mandarin. With choreography.
Although that usually does bring the conversation to an abrupt end.
Well, somewhat abrupt. It depends on how long the theme song is.
Not that people aren’t impressed when I tell them I’m a blogger and self-published author, working on her second book in a series.
“Wow!” they say. “Do you need to borrow some money?”
Part of the problem is that when people ask me direct questions about myself, I often draw a blank:
Person: What do you do for fun, Veronica?
Me: (Blinking repeatedly) I’m not sure.
Person: What kind of food do you like?
Me: I can’t recall ever eating before.
Person: Do you have a favorite color?
Person: Steve tells me you write a blog.
Me: Do I? That certainly sounds like something I would do. If I’m thinking of the right person.
Person: Do you have any food allergies?
Me: I can’t remember. Maybe I could lick some of the hors d’oeuvres and you can tell me if I start getting blotchy.
Person: What if, instead, we don’t do that?
Me: You ask hard questions.
The best way to handle this is for me to get involved with something interesting so I can tell people about it when they ask.
The second best way to handle it is to spread a rumor that I’m a secret agent and that’s the plan I’ve decided to go with. Because when you’re a spy, everything you do is amazing.
For example, you can tell people, “I just switched to a new brand of shampoo.”
When an ordinary person tells you that, it’s incredibly boring and you may get dryer lint thrown at your face, which is something that happens when you exceed people’s ability to handle the amount of boardness you have caused them.
But when someone rumored to be a secret agent tells you that, it’s fascinating because the possibilities are both literally and literally (the kind that means figuratively) endless. Does this new shampoo equip their hair to deflect lasers? Does it make them turn invisible? Does it give them enough volume that they could use their hair as an emergency parachute? Can their hair translate up to thirty languages at once in real time? For that matter, what did their old shampoo do? Did it only translate up to twenty languages at once after a few minutes of buffering?
And that’s just talking about shampoo. I do all sorts of things in a typical day that are fascinating when done by a secret agent. I check the mail (Check the mail for what? Listening devices? Top secret mission briefings? Really flat terrorists?), I go shopping (For super secret spy equipment? Like guns that look like pens, cameras that look like tacos, beards that look like mustaches, walkie-talkies that look like life-size zebras, and pens that look like guns?), and I sometimes wait in line at the DMV (Nope, that one simply cannot be made interesting, even by a spy).
My point is I generally like people and I’m trying to work on being more sociable. So if you see me at a party, don’t be afraid to come over and start a conversation. Just make sure you talk clearly into the zebra.