Monday, September 6, 2010

It's a jungle out there.

And now, part two of a series: Stupid Things I Have Done. (See part one here.)

I'm a pretty outgoing person. I tend to have a self-deprecating sense of humor. I don't mind being the butt of a joke every now and then. I also (ahem) don't mind being the center of attention sometimes. So, often, things that might be considered embarrassing don't really bother me too much. I can laugh most things off, or find a way to alleviate the awkwardness that comes with a faux paus. (Or even a fox pass, depending on where you're from.)

But not everything. My powers have their limits.

As in many countries, it's customary here to greet friends with a little kiss on the cheek. Or, usually, a little cheek-to-cheek moment. Sometimes combined with a handshake. And/or a little kissy noise. I love it, actually. It feels very welcoming and affectionate to me.

After we'd been here a year or so, I felt like I'd gotten the move down. Say hi and smile, move in for a quick little cheek-to-cheek kissy moment. (What should we call that?) I always go to my left. It just feels right, okay? One day after church, Jason and I were saying goodbye to a couple in the congregation. We were friendly with this couple, but at this point didn't really know them super-well.

So I leaned in to say goodbye to the husband, and went my customary left-leaning approach. Except, he went the same way too. It all happened in slow motion--like if you've ever been in a car accident and you can see it all coming to pass around you but you can't seem to react fast enough to change anything. You know that scene in The Matrix where Neo jumps up to do that awesome kung fu kick and the world sort of stops all around him? It was like that, too. Except for the fighting.

So my friend and I leaned the same way and instead of kissing on opposite cheeks, we smacked each other right on the lips.

I accidentally kissed someone else's husband on the lips. At church. And I was one of his pastors.

We sort of stared at each other. I experienced the five stages of grief in about 4 seconds. 1.)"That did not just happen!" 2.) "Arghh--I can't believe I did that!" 3.) "Maybe if I look the other way, I can pretend it didn't happen." 4.) "I feel sad inside. So, so sad." 5.) "Okay, we've got to make the best of this."

Sometimes you can find yourself in the midst of an embarrassing social situation with another person, and the two of you can form a kind of partnership to extricate yourselves from it. You know what I mean? It's like you find yourself dumped in the Jungle of Awkward, the tangle of trees obscuring the sky, with only a handful of trail mix between the two of you. The outlook for recovery is bleak. But you offer your hand to the other person and say, "I can get us out of here, but you've got to do what I say. Follow my lead. You've got to trust me!" Some social mishaps need this kind of commando-style navigation. Or is that just me?

But for it to work, you've got to have a willing partner. Someone who is able to laugh it off. A person who can take it in the teeth and power through to the other side. Sometimes when the wave of embarrassment comes, it's best to just let it roll over you. Are there any other analogies I should employ, or are we understanding each other? Anyway, in this instance, my friend was not up to speed. He just looked at me funny and apologized and shut down the conversation as soon as he could.

And that made it so, so much worse.

Today's take-home message: Acknowledge the Awkward. Perhaps that can be the title of my upcoming book on social mishaps. It will be chock-full of survivalist and kung fu analogies!


  1. As someone who has a lot of embarrassing moments of my own, I couldn't agree more. You have to acknowledge the awkward. And if it makes you feel any better, an Australian friend of mine recounted a very similar story, in which she accidentally kissed her daughter's teacher right in the neck. I can't find the exact post right now, but her hilarious blog is here in case you're intersted:

  2. Ok, now that I've stopped laughing - you mean you only started the cheek to cheek thing in Oz? don't they do that in the US or is it more "hugs"? I'm still not comfortable with the kissing on the cheek or hugs for that matter as you would have figured:)
    now....I need to text Ron to ask him....(just kidding)! if it was Ron I know he would have got the giggles and laughed so it can't be him:)

  3. Very funny but true,Amy. I have often done that head bobbing thing where you and the person you are greeting can't decide which way to put your head- left or right- as you hug. Always feel awkward until you laugh about it. of course here in the South we're all huffy-kiss-darlin' when we meet. missing it yet? Give yourself a hug AND a kiss.

  4. OMG. Oh gross! Not gross that you kissed him but gross that he was all dumb about it. Rise to the occasion, people!

    I hadn't heard that story. Don't feel bad, it would have turned REALLY awkward if you'd gone in for a second attempt and wound up using tongue that time.

  5. Whoa! I assumed everybody went left. You'd think if it were a common greeting there would be better protocols.

  6. Awesome. It amazes me that some people go through their entire lives without ever developing the ability to laugh at themselves.

  7. Did you ever consider than he knows he was supposed to go left, and so he was really apologizing for some much, much bigger issue? Hmmmm....things to think about when you're a hot pastor!

  8. Oh I've done that! Feels very silly. I'm guessing that this guy reacted so wimpily because he'd been secretly fantasizing about doing that very thing for a long time. I mean, you're his pastor, and you', so I'm sure he admires you from afar. And then it happened and he was terribly confused. Okay, did I just really gross you out?

  9. Oh, you guys are making me laugh! :) Amy W--that sounds like an agonizing experience your friend had! I can just picture it happening to me!

    Rosemary--ha! No, it wasn't Ron! I'll tell ya next time I see you, tho. You'll laugh!

    Gretchen and Jody, that interpretation cracked me up! Flattering, but I doubt it. :)

    Jason read this post and was like, "why didn't you ever tell me this?" I could have sworn I had! I think it's been repressed until now!

  10. My baby belly is bouncing while I laugh hysterically at this post - kind of like "it shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly".