One evening a couple weeks ago, a middle-aged man I had never seen before walked straight through the front door of my apartment while I was standing by the stove, cooking chicken stir-fry in a wok.
I was completely naked.
Let me explain: I am not a nudist. I hardly ever sleep naked, and I don’t lie on my couch all seductively while I watch television, because I am not Kate Winslet or a cast member from True Blood. Sometimes, though, I get home from exercising, take off my sweaty clothing and start making dinner. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this. I live alone, so it’s not like I have a reason to be timid unless the curtains are open. It’s like, if a tree falls in the woods, and nobody hears it, did it really happen? Except if I’m cooking naked in my apartment, and nobody sees it, then it still probably happened, but nobody knows some brow sweat accidentally dripped into the saucepan.
Many would deem it unnecessary and sort of dangerous to cook naked, but I’m not going to continue to wear my drenched clothing after I go for a run. I sweat like Shaq whenever I turn a steering wheel, and if I’m in a position where I have to, I’m not going to wear a pair of shorts and a shirt you could ring out. And I’m not going to shower and put on new clothing only to fire up the stove and start sweating again. That’s just stupid. So I cook naked, before I get in the shower. That way, I have a nice meal waiting for me after. It’s splendid, really.
I suppose I’m more worried about efficiency than safety.
Anyway, this guy walks in. My studio apartment is small: the bed begins less than three inches from where the couch ends, so it’s good for if you get piss drunk and would like to roll from one to the other, but bad if you want to jump rope, wrestle or practice your “Hit Me Baby One More Time” choreography. The oven is the first thing you see on your left after you walk through the door into a little hallway that spans about seven feet. So, when this man opened the door, the door hit me from behind, knocking me into the stove. It was warm; something my uncovered skin became instantly aware of. Instinct took over, and I jumped backward into the narrow entryway.
This dude and I made eye contact, which I was happy about, because it means I’ll always have hope that he did not catch a considerable glimpse of my junk. It’s not like it’s large enough in the first place for me to tie it in a bow and ask girls if they want to work out the knots, and at that time it was made even less impressive because I was suffering from a bad case of post-workout-penis. (I’m not sure if this is normal, but my guy tends to look considerably less sizable after I do any type of non-sexual exercise. Picture a light switch with a tiny thimble perched on top of it.) We stood there, this stranger and I, while I held a spatula in my hand and Explosions in the Sky played in the background. It was like Friday Night Lights had transitioned into soft porn.
“Oh-my-God-I’m-so-sorry,” the man said, slamming the door before I even had a chance to cover my groin with the spatula.
That’s an awkward moment, correct? Sure, but only if you allow it to be, which I usually don’t. Why? Because awkwardness is, for the most part, a negative emotion that most everyone hates feeling. There’s a reason your friends don’t creepily say “Happppyyyyyy” every time you’re at a bar and run into someone you are actually excited to see. There is also a reason that they say “Awkwaaaarrrrdddd” in this really awkward sounding voice when you run into your ex-girlfriend at the mall three months after she cheated on you with a guy who unironically wears wife beaters.
Unlike lots of negative emotions, though, awkwardness can be better treated by overthinking the scenario.
If you’re combating an awkward moment, it’s key to look at it objectively. If you do, you’ll find that most of them don’t warrant as much unrest as you may initially feel. When it comes to a random awkward moment, people tend to have an involuntary kind of arrogance that tricks them into thinking something is a bigger deal than it really is.
Simply put: if you’re not a celebrity, people generally don’t care about the little things you do as much as you tend to think they do.
I realized the person who had walked through my door was a man, and a middle-aged one at that, who had obviously made some sort of mistake when he entered my home. (I’m certain it was a mistake because of the surprise he showed and the hasty way he slammed my door. Also, he did not bellow “Let us fuck!” or anything when he came in.) I figured seeing a dick had probably not been that big of a deal to him, based on my observations in gym locker rooms that tell me nearly every man older than 30 walks around hangin’ and swangin’ like they just don’t give a shit. Mainly because they don’t, and because they shouldn’t. If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, except some are big and some are small, right?
I figured that in the long term, this wouldn’t really be much of a big deal to this stranger, and so it shouldn’t be such a big deal to me. If it had been his wife or two young children I was seconds away from meeting, it would have been a completely different situation. I almost definitely wouldn’t have reacted the way I did, which was to put on a towel and open my door.
There was a whole bunch of stuff on the floor in the hall, like one of those egg mattress things you put on a bed, a bunch of beach toys and some luggage. The aforementioned members of the man’s family were there, too. The woman was working the lock on the next-door apartment.
“I was just getting out of the shower,” I said to the woman. Clearly a lie, but I’m a believer in lying on occasion if it’s for a good cause. By telling this lie, I avoided making it awkward with this woman, and gave her husband the same opportunity. He would never have to tell his wife he’d seen a naked kid cooking, unless he wanted to, in which case I can’t complain given the nature of what I’m doing with our special moment. For all she would know, he’d just walked in while I was clad in a towel, cleaning my ears with a Q-tip.
She explained to me they’d accidentally come in my door, because it’d been so long since they had been there. This means they’d actually forgotten the number of the condo they quite possibly own. I suppose this is what happens when you live in a resort town where the majority of living space is vacant for nine months of the year. I’m sure her husband was somehow chalking our situation up to some resort mishap, because people probably get drunk and cook stuff in the buff down here all the time. (Dibs on the name Cooking Stuff in the Buff for my first culinary book title, or pornographic short film based loosely on Hell’s Kitchen.)
“I’m Scott,” I said, waving to the whole family. “I’m Michael,” the man replied, and I shot him one of those head nods I involuntarily do sometimes even though I realized a long time ago I am not Danny Zuko. I went inside, closed the door, hung up the towel and busted out the cayenne pepper, because I find it gives stir-fry a nice little kick.