Any preteen Disney channel movie about the first day of school starts with a young protagonist making sure everything is perfect for the beginning of a new year. While getting ready to upbeat pop music, they make sure their outfit is perfect: put-together and thoughtful, but never overworked.
This image is totally corny, but let’s be real. We have all been there. Before the first day of the semester, or a job interview, or a date, we try so hard to be perfect and hope that everything will go swimmingly. Doing double-takes in the mirror and running through scenarios all while getting in the zone to your favorite jams is quite normal when something is on the line.
This is all done in an effort to look and act perfectly and for things to go exactly as planned. We create the façade of the person we want everyone to notice on the first day of class and propagate the future employee we want the interviewer to be most impressed by.
Sometimes though, things don’t go as planned, and the perfect scenario we mentally crafted gets derailed. Hopefully, our envisioned perfection can hardly live up to the wonderful, mistaken, awkward reality.
Last weekend, my sorority held a date party. Everyone was super excited for the 1920’s murder mystery a troupe of actors would be performing for us.
However, no one was really prepared for the weird encounters with the actors (who were, of course, in character) throughout the venue. It’s not easy to converse with a 1920’s silent movie star and her mobster father while you are in line for hors d’oeuvres. As the night wore on and the subtle sexual innuendos became less subtle, people really began to lighten up and have a good time.
All too often in social settings, people are worried they will act against the norm and be judged for their awkwardness. Last Saturday night began in a similar fashion, everyone was chit-chatting and taking pictures, in a rigid sort of way.
But then the actors took center stage and the mood began to change. The actors portrayed their ridiculous characters and called out people in the crowd. By the end of the night it was basically impossible to outdo the actors in the awkward category. They had set the embarrassment bar so high that all anyone could do was laugh and have a good time. Each and every wall began to tumble and true personalities broke through.
I myself have done just as the actors did this past weekend, and been awkward enough that no one could really surpass my accomplishments.
The scene was basketball camp in middle school, possibly the most awkward period in life. The team I was assigned to had not gelled yet, the synergy was not yet flowing and long silences reigned supreme.
This was until I dropped my lunch tray in the cafeteria. My teammates laughed, I rolled my eyes, and together we cleaned up the mess. Back at the table we joked about my klutziness and from then on, conversation was smooth sailing.
If I hadn’t dropped my lunch, who knows how much longer stifled small chat would have lingered. Embarrassing myself in front of strangers wasn’t exactly my plan for the day, but it sure was drastically better than the perfect-according-to-plan day I had been experiencing.
Life is better when we are ourselves. Social situations are more organic and more fun when people act sans filter. Sometimes all we need are activities so ridiculous that it’s impossible for anyone to maintain their façade. Or for someone to do something so embarrassing that everyone else will discard their phony front.
Real people in judgment-free zones being themselves are far more entertaining than stiff mannequins making idle conversation. To be organic, we need to let the awkwardness shine through. So go ahead, try that bad joke you’ve got up your sleeve, embarrass yourself with its awkwardness and watch the realness unfold.
Heather O’Keeffe is a second-year student studying biomedical engineering and sports medicine. She is upset that it is already snowing in Cleveland but cherishes the opportunity to wear her camo flannel and hipster beanie.