1. The “I should know this person’s name.”
Particularly when you’re exposed to a new environment (college, a new job, prison), there’s quite a few names thrown at you. Meaning, you may end up spending two hours chowing down and wings and nachos with your new best friend, a person whose name you’ve painstakingly forgotten.
The key here is to ensure that “the name window” — the period of interactions in which it is still socially acceptable to ask the other person what their name is — doesn’t expire. The name window usually expires sometime around your 3rd or 4th interaction, so be sure to have that locked down before you’re forced to introduce this new girlfriend/boyfriend to your mother.
2. The “do we hug?”
I am brutal at this — the “do we hug?”, a social reality that has plagued platonic male-to-female relationships since the beginning of time.
The seamless execution of an awkward hug requires a hug initiator, which I personally think falls on the female. Men possess a much lower HPD (hugs per departure) rate than women, so I think that females should use their veteran hug-savvy to assess whether or not this situation calls for a .33 second embrace. Plus, a male initiating a hug is almost always going to have either sexual or friendzone undertones. As a guy, I’ve found it very difficult to pull off a completely platonic hug.
The key here is to put all faith in the other person’s initiation capabilities.
3. The “we don’t know each other, but we have a mutual friend who talks about you all the time.”
Earlier this year, I was at an event in which our mutual friend wasn’t in attendance. Our two-minute convo went something like this:
Uncomfortable Human #1: Hey you’re Doug’s roommate right?
Uncomfortable Human #2: Yea. Oh, you’re the guy who works with him at Mastercard.
UC #1: Yup. Though to call what he does work is pretty generous.
UC #2: Haha, that’s Doug.
UC #1: So Doug.
UC #2: The most Doug.
The key here is to continue saying how Doug everything is until one of you goes for the cheese plate.
4. The coffee shop spot
About 3 days ago, I was in a New York City coffee shop doing New York City coffee shop things. If you don’t know what New York City coffee shop things are, they primarily consist of reading blogs about screenplays, listening to This American Life, and g-chatting your friend who lives in Oakland.
Anyway, during a prolonged bout of procrastinating, I looked across the room an noticed that an acquaintance — someone I’ve said hi to, but am not totally on a one-on-one level with — walked in and sat down. Horrifyingly, I was going to have to pass him on my way out.
I was faced with one of two options. I could surrender my free will and stay rooted in my chair until he left, or I could suck it up. I ended up doing the thing where I gave the quick glance — the “here’s the window to interact with me if you want it, though if not no worries.” — which was not returned.
I don’t think anyone has completely solved how to perfect these sorts of interactions. It is these sorts of things which make being a human a complete and utter joy.
5. Spotting an acquaintance in a different city
When you see someone you from your freshman dorm in a city that isn’t the city you went to college in, it can be pretty unnerving. Especially when you talked to that person approximately 1.4 times during the entire year you lived under the same roof.
The key here is to determinedly stare straight ahead, and then text your freshman year friends about the rare and coveted Jason Jaweski sighting. A nice nostalgia blast for all, and further confirmation that you tremendously lack social competence.
6. The IRL Encounter with an internet friend
I don’t like that this is a reality, but it is — you meet someone online for whatever reason (be it for professional networking, graduate school purposes, the prison facebook group), and are about to interact with them for the first time.
If the friendship is considerable (if you’ve actually exchanged emails, wall posts, bank account info), it is paramount that you act like you’re pretty good friends. Which in many senses you are, despite lacking the interactional familiarity that assuages person-to-person awkwardness. The key here is to treat your interaction like a more honest job interview — in many ways you’re talking to this person for the first time, and are simply very familiar with their resume.
7. The Ill-Advised Friend Group Merge
A proper friend group merge consists of the friend broker (the guy who’s a member of both groups), and at least TWO members from each group. Two members are required for (a. safety net purposes, and (b. conversational sidebars.
Recently, I fell victim to an ill-advised friend group merge — the dude in my friend group abruptly cancelled, thus leaving me as the lone representative from our contingent. There were 3 of them and one of me, which meant that it was pretty much exactly like this Onion article. Everyone claimed to have fun, but nobody really had that much fun.
The key here is to only branch out in ideal circumstances. Not really, but kinda.