A few years ago, we had a resurgence of the awkward kid. It was suddenly cool to act like you were awkward, to profess how weird you were in certain situations, and to play up those character traits as cute little quirks. But that trend was often about performative awkwardness — all the social cues we associate with being a little off-kilter, and therefore aren’t that disruptive to our everyday lives. It’s different when you’re completely and almost paralyzingly awkward, when all you want to do is just to fit in and be loved, but you can’t admit to that because there is nothing more awkward than wanting to be wanted. And yet there’s nothing more natural and normal.
Flirting, then, the great social experiment meant to reduce you to a pile of fluttering lashes and confused signals, is the awkward person’s worst nightmare. You have to confront the desire to be wanted — and the fact that you’re desiring to be wanted by just one person — and pair it with the reality that they genuinely might not feel the same way. Are they simply being polite? Are you making them feel awkward? Or are they flirting back. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell. Sometimes, it seems better to just be single forever. Sometimes flirting is just downright awkward.
- No two people flirt the same way, and in those different ways exist a trillion chances to trip a crossed wire or accidentally offend someone when you’re just trying to be playful.
- You’re constantly worried that maybe you’re going to screw this up somehow. Like you’re going to say something as awkward as you are, and poof, no more seeing where this is going. Living with that fear is exhausting. And when you’re awkward, you’re going to make things awkward. It just happens.
- And often, because you’re so worried that you’re going to screw something up, you do. Consider it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- It’s so easy to misconstrue flirting. Somebody could just be friendly and you think it’s flirting, so you run a mile where someone gave you an inch. And when you’re awkward, you probably often confuse the two, and make moves on people who were honestly just trying to be friends.
- Flirting is only one part of the equation — but it’s a big part. No, there’s flirting and dating and texting and calling and meeting friends and more dating and meeting friends and you have to flirt your whole way through everything. Sure, at some point, you get to let up on the coy smiles and the cute jokes, but all that extra effort to be more charming than awkward is exhausting.
- Whoever once said that awkwardness is adorable probably was a liar. Or if they weren’t, they weren’t talking about your version of awkward. And though it might feel like you’re lying to someone about your true awkward self, there’s always that fear that if you really do slip and admit how awkward you are, they’re going to hate it.
- There’s too much room to overthink. Awkward people are awkward because they miss beats and think ahead and otherwise buckle off the same page as the people around them.
- They don’t even know how to flirt. Do you know how to flirt? No, probably not. Nobody teaches “how to flirt 101,” but it’s a class we could all probably enroll in.
- But even though they don’t know how, they practice a lot. And all that practicing gets… well, awkward. They flirt with their cats, their friends, their moms, and their landlords and, half the time, they can’t tell the difference. Which means that when they’re actually trying to flirt, they have to put forth a conscious effort and in the process completely lose that whole ‘effortless sexy thing’ nobody but Bey can really do anyway.
- There’s no famous love story in the history of ever that contained actual awkwardness. Like, not Hollywood quirky jokes coming from a movie star wearing a Peter Pan collar awkward, but actually being awkward. Nobody finds it appealing. You know it, I know it, the better part of the Western world knows it. Maybe you know a couple in your real life that is downright weird, and if you do, petition to have a Lifetime movie made about their love. We need more realistic love stories in this world, rather than just tropes.
- The most awkward thing you can do is try not to be awkward. Which is what awkward people do when trying to flirt.
- Flirting taps into that whole human ‘desire to be loved’ thing, which seems really shameful and verboten but is actually the most natural thing in the world. Embracing that desire is tough — we’re taught to act aloof and unfeeling, not caring and interested and needy — and trying to unlearn that “chill-ness” is a sometimes painful process.
- Flirting is traditionally served to us as eye-winking, hair-tossing, casual conversation peppered with witty jokes and pop culture references that happen to make someone fall for you, and it’s just not who they are. Nobody comes by that conversation naturally, and yet we’re all expected to do this. It almost feels like stripping away the awkward side to get to that flirty part is ignoring a part of who a person actually is, and it’s as though they have to play a game and adopt a persona to find love — and who the hell wants that?
- Flirting is even hard for normal people. Normal is subjective if not cultural/statistical so take it with a grain of salt, but flirting is hard for anyone, it’s just another layer of stress for people who are a little socially-clanky to begin with. (Not to mention that all the emotional turmoil when you feel like you’re not ‘doing it right’ is enough to make you second-guess everything.)
- You’re constantly thinking something along the lines of, “why can’t we just skip all this and wind up five years down the line in sweatpants and Netflix sessions together?” Because by that point in a relationship, the other person will have seen you at your weirdest, and they’ve shown that they love you anyway. Or maybe even because of it. And that, my awkward friends, is the ultimate dream.