Awkward Recognize Awkward

Just the other day I was perusing the Twitter feed of a pretty well-known supermodel. (It was for, um, journalistic purposes.) And on her Twitter feed this woman, this impossibly beautiful woman, was talking (repeatedly, at length) about how “awkward” she was.

I’ve seen this a lot. Lots of impossibly beautiful women do this. Too many times I’ve heard beautiful girls describe themselves as “awkward.”

And why do they do this? My theory is that this sort of humanizes them. If you’re an Impossibly Beautiful Woman, you pretty much spend your entire life put up on a pedestal. By telling everyone how “awkward” you are, it allows you to try and connect with the rest of us. You aren’t that different. You’re awkward, just like us.

But here’s the thing, Impossibly Beautiful Women of the World, you are not awkward just like us. You may have a slightly off-kilter sense of humor. You may have stumbled once or twice in social situations. But laughing too loud at the joke some investment banker made in the middle of the $400 meal he’s buying you does not make you awkward. Neither does stumbling one time on stage at the fashion show people are putting on to stare at you. You are not awkward. You are impossibly beautiful.

From the cloven-hooved, buck-toothed, lazy-eyed rest of us out here in the real world, let us tell you that we know awkward. And it is no small thing. Awkward is not laughing too loud when Chet the Investment Banker makes a joke. Awkward is real, and it is dark, and it is not something we joke about. It is not something we brag about. We don’t promote our “awkwardness” as you do, Impossibly Beautiful Women, because awkwardness is something we keep locked up, deep in our psyches, with all the other warts and mental scarring and wasted chances that fill up our not-quite-so-beautiful lives.

Awkwardness is standing in the corner of a party for an hour, looking for someone, anyone you know, alone, wildly and remarkably alone, an alone that you will never know, feeling like death, cast over, forgotten. Awkwardness is telling a girl you know that her hair looks different, and later finding out she is wearing a wig due to cancer. Awkwardness is telling the boy you love that you’ve always loved him, and you’re better for him than the girl he’s with now, and he staring at you, dead-eyed, before walking away. THAT is awkwardness, Impossibly Beautiful Women. It is not something to brag about. It is not something to giggle about with your girlfriends. Awkwardness is real, and you will never know it.

Here’s a test for you, people of the world, to tell if you have known awkwardness — watch the show Louie. It’s on FX. It’s pretty genius. It’s a comedy that’s not really that funny. What it is: awkward. Real awkwardness. Not cute awkwardness. Not adorable awkwardness. Real, dark, vicious, cutting awkwardness.

If you watch the show with an impossibly beautiful woman, I imagine they won’t get it. (Though if I have to hang out and watch this show with a supermodel to prove my theory, so be it. All in the name of science, of course.) They’ll think it’s funny, and weird. But they won’t get it. They won’t feel it.

A couple of my friends came up with a term for this feeling: the nerd chills. The nerd chills are when you’re watching something so awkward that you physically react to it. You clench up, close your eyes, scratch your temples, stare at the floor. You want to leave the room. You can experience nerd chills watching a movie (I had to leave the theater the first time I saw Meet the Parents) or watching a drunken best man give the world’s worst wedding speech. It’s visceral, this reaction.

And the thing is — you can’t have the nerd chills unless you know awkwardness first hand. Real awkwardness. It’s like the saying, “real recognize real.” Awkward recognize awkward.
I don’t know if supermodels, for how much they like to joke about their awkwardness, can ever really react like this. They might recognize something as awkward, but they won’t feel it. They won’t feel it in their stomachs.

For the not-quite-so-beautiful rest of us, however, we do feel it. In our hearts. When we see the chubby boy on stage singing off-key at the school talent show. When the guy goes on the Jumbotron to propose to his girlfriend and is rejected in front of 50,000 people. When our classmate throws up in the middle of his presentation to the lecture hall. We feel it. Deep within us. Because we’ve been there. And as the nerd chills course through us, and we stare at the floor and shake, it’s our bodies’ way of saying, “I feel your pain, friend. I know it well.” It brings us together. United in awkwardness. Together. As one. TC mark

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  • Angeline

    I love Louie.

  • http://novasglow.wordpress.com novasglow

    This is accurate. In fact, it is so accurate I was nodding throughout the entire course of reading this. I used to watch comedies with my family as a kid, and as they sat cackling with laughter at some character’s misfortune, I closed my eyes and physically winced. Being Awkward isn’t something to be proud about, but it is a way of feeling more sympathetic towards people. Anyway, this article was really interesting, I loved it.

  • http://twitter.com/SophBL S? (@SophBL)

    “nerd chills” brilliant. perfectly describes what everyone feels when they watch The Inbetweeners.

    • http://natramm.wordpress.com Natalie Ramm

      I get the “nerd chills” watching The Office. I don’t know why but that show is really hard for me to watch even though I typically like it when I do. Also felt the same way about Louie first season

  • S.Jones

    Louie is excuciating

  • AwkwardSinger

    This was so accurate and wonderful.

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/08/awkward-recognize-awkward/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • Laura

    As if only the select, unfortunate looking few are allowed to feel socially isolated? This article is wildly one-dimensional–ripe with generalizations and platitudes of how unique and superior the nerd suffering experience is. I agree that no one should indulge in awkwardness or brag about it, but is that not what the author is doing here?

    • Yuuup.

      Agreed.

    • Asdf

      No, that’s not what the author is doing here.

      The author is leveraging an extreme to prove his point that the term “awkward” has been abused to describe situations that are not-at-all awkward. And, in so doing, it makes the term lose its contextual meaning; the problem with this shifting of the definition is that it causes people who are legitimately awkward to be cast even further to the fringes of society.

    • Steven

      At first, I thought that this is what the author was doing. I thought, well, the people he’s suggesting do not feel this still can feel isolated, lonely, and all of these other negative feelings. I wondered if the article was showing some bias.

      It isn’t, actually. Awkward isn’t emptiness or loneliness, which is what the latter half of the article shows. It’s a distinct feeling that probably shouldn’t be morphed into this sort of over used catch phrase. That is something that happens. When people suggest that they are awkward, you want to suggest to them (or I do in many cases) that they aren’t accurately describing their experiences. That’s the focus of the article. It’s not exclusionary. Super models and beautiful people are not barred from authentic awkwardness. But, the terms constant use chips away at the term’s real meaning. That’s what’s happening here.

  • http://twitter.com/yesjessica Jessica Thompson (@yesjessica)

    Are you serious? So a woman the author finds beautiful couldn’t POSSIBLY show up at a party where she doesn’t know anyone, or unknowingly compliment a cancer patient on her wig?

    The only thing this article shows me is that the author is so intimidated by (and possibly bitter about) beautiful women he thinks they are not real humans with real emotions, but some how people with easy, terrific, problem-free lives who can’t possibly understand his feelings.

    • Suzy

      this.

    • Francesca

      EXACTLY what i want to say. There is no way beautiful people can’t feel deeply, achingly awkward. i don’t think I’m a particularly beautiful person, but i can’t imagine ANY human being unable to feel awkwardness.

    • http://cantgohomeagain.tumblr.com Nathan Savin Scott

      I think Lian below was more in tune to what I was trying to say. I really should have clarified the people I was talking about as “Supermodels Who Drone On and On About How ‘Awkward’ They Are” but I thought “Impossibly Beautiful Women” had a better ring to it. Also if you’re asking if I’m intimidated by beautiful women, then, um, yeah dude, guilty as charged.

    • beautiful

      yes i confirm it is so hard being beautiful

  • Lian

    I’m torn about this. On one hand, I agree, that there are people who are claiming the term “awkward” when in reality, they will never experience the social disenfranchisement that comes with it, all because they want to seem “adorkable” or some bullshit like that.

    But on the other hand, there are girls who are pretty and really just that awkward. Their friends have turned them into a meme, and even strangers recognize it and call them out on it. You know that episode in Avatar: The Last Airbender where Azula tries to flirt with Chan? It’s like that — but in real life. Really. Fucking. Painful.

    And who are you to tell someone that they aren’t fucking awkward just because they look a certain way? You don’t know that that beautiful girl you’re looking at didn’t have to work hard to become as pretty as she is now. You don’t know that she wasn’t that weird girl in the anime club freshman year of high school that people made fun of.

    Just because she’s pretty now doesn’t mean she didn’t work hard to get there, and you have no fucking right to act like you’re better than her because of that.

    Though, yeah, there are some girls who do it just to pander… but not all of them, I’d say. I don’t know, man. Just like… there’s more to it than just that.

    • http://cantgohomeagain.tumblr.com Nathan Savin Scott

      You did a better job clarifying this than I did in the article. thx.

    • Sara

      Worked hard to get there? Where, pretty? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

      • Kris

        I think he’s trying to imply they work (or worked?) hard to meet the standards of beauty most “Impossibly Beautiful” women on TV and in the fashion industry are held to. If he’s referring to celebrities and supermodels. Which I was under impression he was. I don’t know. From the vantage point of someone who rarely dresses up, looking that good seems it would take a whole lot of work. Ignoring those who simply have kickass genes, of course.

      • Lian

        Yeah, I’ve never heard of someone going and getting make-overs, working out, going on diets, spending money on skin products, getting plastic surgery (say what you want, but for people who do choose to do it, it is painful), all for the sake of looking good. We can harp on it, but people work hard to do it.

  • Paul

    I love Louie. It’s like he thinks my thoughts and puts them into an awesome, painfully funny, show. I watch it with a passion.

  • K

    I experience nerd chills all the time! It is very similar to secondhand embarrassment.

  • L

    whoa, hang on. the kind of “awkwardness” you’re talking about is basically insecurity and social anxiety, which everyone feels at varying degrees regardless and independent of how attractive they are. this piece dehumanizes beautiful women and contributes to the myth that they have everything easy and enjoy perfect, carefree lives when in actuality they are just as fucked up as the rest of us (sometimes more so).

    • http://www.last.fm/user/ReverendJasmine Jasmine

      Yeah I was kinda thinking the same thing. When “Impossibly Beautiful Woman” calls herself awkward, maybe she means clumsy, gangly, or possibly ditsy. Maybe sometimes she means “nerd chills” or whatever. Don’t pretend to know, right? I find the author’s attitude to the model a bit pathetic. I mean even calling her impossibly beautiful is basically like saying she’s not a real person.

  • Chris X.

    Like watching Ugly Betty.

    • Sheri B.

      Or every single episode of Girls.

  • jasmine

    I love Louie precisely because he is the most awkward character ever. This man knows how to write. I sit transfixed for the full 22 minutes every time.

  • anon

    i agree that people are using the term “awkward” too easily and too loosely nowadays, but other than that… no. “awkward” and “impossibly beautiful” are not mutually exclusive, you know.

    honestly, i think there’s two types of awkwardness. one is just… awkward moments that anyone can have every once in a while, regardless of social skills. like the awkward silence, or telling a joke and no one’s laughing, that sort of thing. the other is when those awkward moments happen so frequently that they’re a part of you, a part of your personality, which i think basically means you’re just not good at dealing with and/or talking to people.

    or something like that, idek if that made sense

  • http://gravatar.com/audreyfaye audreyfaye

    Beautiful women are people. They experience the same range of emotions as everyone else. When you dehumanize one group based on a stereotype, it hurts everyone. I am bummed to see this kind of anti-woman bullshit on TC.

    • Kevin M.

      Yeah the author is a bit of a turd when trying to express his thought. But how is this anti-woman? It seems completely gender neutral. Both genders experience awkwardness.

      • audreyfaye

        Awkwardness is universal. Objectifying women and reducing their experiences based on their looks is crap.

    • Van

      Nathan, this is a beautifully written article. Heartfelt, eloquent, but laced with tragic loneliness. I’m sure you’ve been an outsider much of your life (I’m assuming you’re fairly young), envying the “happening” life of pretty girls and their equally good-looking and “cool” guy friends. Tried your best using your clearly more-than-average intelligence to woo beautiful women but failed nonetheless. Always ending up in the Friend Zone. Why? Godsknow. Perhaps due to your less-than-average social skills or introverted and ‘boring’ nature? Perhaps even because of your ‘geeky’ personality. You know the sort, the smart, nerdy kind of people.

      Life, to the intelligent but non-good looking people is mostly about looks isn’t it? You guys have the brains; the confidence in academia, the intelligence to make things happen. Yet when it comes to the looks department, there’s nothing you guys can do short of plastic surgery. It must have been painful.

      Now wait a minute, I seem to be stereotyping here. Based on experience and skilled profiling, but stereotyping nevertheless. Doesn’t seem right does it?

      Nathan, just because you couldn’t win over beautiful women with your intelligence and wit, doesn’t mean beautiful women are shallow and unable to feel the pain of “regular people”. They know full well what’s going on. The courage you took to try hard, the awkwardness, the pain of seeing YOU guys acting awkwardly around them, so painfully awkward. And that longing looks you guys give when putting them on the pedestal. But do they want to be with you because of that?

      No. Cause personality is the “good looks” in the eyes of good-looking people. And I’m pretty sure you ain’t got much of it judging from this article.

  • Bunny

    The nerd chills! Great post!

  • Emily

    I definitely agree with the “nerd chills” part of this. I’ve never watched Louie but I definitely got nerd chills while watching The Office on multiple occasions. When Michael makes an insensitive joke or comes up with a plan that is of course going to turn out terrible wrong, I almost can’t watch it. It pains me.

  • Colleen

    Embrace the awkwardness, don’t hide from it.

  • Myra

    Awh, I thought this was written so well. I think this article reads the way you described the way Louie is watched on television. If an “Impossibly Beautiful Woman” read this, she’d think it was a “nice article” and only scratch the surface. I think you did a great job making this piece relatable to the “buck-toothed, lazy-eyed rest of us.” Clap clap clap!

  • FOSHO

    I understand that the author was using this “Impossibly Beautiful Woman” to show that people do, very commonly, misuse/overuse “awkward”, but it still upset me that he had to use the “beautiful girls are not awkward” angle to get his point across. Attractive people are just as capable of feeling disconnected or isolated from the group of people they’re in the company of than “average” looking people. Awkward isn’t some special characteristic for “nerds”. In an age where we’re all spending so much less time communicating face to face, awkward is for everyone.

    And besides, the author himself is a pretty attractive looking guy, and yet he brags of experiencing nerd chills and knowing “true awkwardness”.

  • Amy C

    Who are you to define what the word “Awkward” means? Even if you have clarified that you were referring primarily to beautiful girls who throw around the word loosely, who cares how they throw it around? Why is your definition of feeling awkward the right one? From miriam-webster…

    1
    obsolete : perverse
    2
    archaic : unfavorable, adverse
    3
    a : lacking dexterity or skill (as in the use of hands) b : showing the result of a lack of expertness
    4
    a : lacking ease or grace (as of movement or expression) b : lacking the right proportions, size, or harmony of parts : ungainly
    5
    a : lacking social grace and assurance b : causing embarrassment
    6
    : not easy to handle or deal with : requiring great skill, ingenuity, or care

    If a person feels at any moment like any one of those definitions, should they not have a right to define themselves as awkward? If someone falls over, couldn’t that be considered lackign ease or grace? If they laugh too loud, couldn’t that be considered lacking social grace? And awkwardness doesn’t have to be limited to dictionary definitions-for you, it may be the all-encompassing anxiety and nerd chills(which btw, is a very accurate description of that feeling when watching something that is just too much to handle), but for others it might be simpler. The great thing about self-definition is that you can define what it means for you, and they can define what it means to them.

    You have absolutely no idea how deep their feelings of “awkwardness” runs, however they define it no matter how they appear. I think this article was well intentioned, but is just too generalizing of people’s intimate feelings.

  • Mercedes

    I completely understand the concept of “nerd chills”, except I always refer to it as “second-hand embarrassment”. I have it so bad that I can’t watch embarrassing scenarios because I feel so embarrassed for the people involved that it makes me red. Or worse, nauseous.

  • http://probablyshouldntbuythisdomainname.org Surly McSurleberg-Surlington IV

    These arguments about “the definition of awkwardness” seem to be missing the point. It’s more about the trivialization of pain, or at least how this may appear to be the case to one who experiences a great deal of this ‘pain’.
    Understandably, one might get pissed off when a model, or actor, or superstar musician, or ‘socialite’ describes themselves as “socially awkward” because – shiiit – they feel a bit nervous about meeting new people, because this is not the same as, say, having to pay a fuck-ton of late-fees on bills and rent because for two weeks the idea of just picking up the phone and speaking to someone and getting them paid was too much. Yes, the article is a bit petty, but the idea is that we must understand that there are varying degrees of this pain we must deal with.

    Example – everyone feels a bit down sometimes. So when someone’s actually depressed, they get told to “suck it up, just cheer up” because, hey, they’ve been sad and they got over it, and it’s basically the same thing, right?

    Still, part of the problem is the assumption that an “Impossibly Beautiful Woman” (or actor or celeb w/e) is indeed some sort of superhuman, hence they have to bring themselves back down to earth in our eyes – given that they are probably just ordinary people on some level, they can only resort to the banal.

  • Stephanie

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this, and I’m pretty sure I would start crying if I had to watch someone propose on a Jumbotron, and then get rejected. Then I’d feel awkward first and second hand.

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