Thursday, September 17, 2009

Personal Space For Rent

I realized (or if you're from Great Britain, I "realised") that my last three posts were all about smells. And I want to shy away from that for a while. Although smells are funny, I don't want to be a one-trick pony. And I certainly don't want to be pigeon-holed as a smell-related blogger. So today, let's go back to the usual.

One of my older brothers has this habit of making other people feel really awkward. It's not intentional (I hope), but he does it all the time. I went to a restaurant with just him (I know... my first mistake), and we were given a booth. But instead of sitting across from me, he sat next to me. I felt like my head was going to explode (or "a splode"*, as it were). I was hoping there was some obvious reason for it. Like he was going to pull out a set of blueprints for us to look at on the table. Or he secretly invited two friends that were walking in. But no. He apparently just wanted the warmth of another person right next to him. And if he were actually my brother, it might be different. Because I could punch him and kick him out of my side and then leave the restaurant without him. But when it's not a relative, your options are limited. So I spend the entire meal trying to figure out why he sat like that and wishing he knew the rules about personal space. I had to turn in my seat just to look at him. Do you know how weird that is? It felt like we were sitting alone in the back seat of a car with no one in the front two seats.

This brings me to my main point. I think I'm gonna draft a set of rules. I'll call it The Awkwardness Avoidance Rulebook. It will include such chapters as "Seating Arrangements at Restaurants" and "Personal Space Limitations/Expectations." That should take care of the booth situation. And an equally important chapter will be "When to Hug vs. When to Shake Hands." But I'll have to find a guest author for that chapter because I'm hopelessly inept on that one. I can't figure out the rules. I tried to hug my grandfather a few weeks ago, and he leaned back and stuck out his hand. I tried to shake hands with a friendly guy I'd only met once, and he pulled me into a bear hug. And when I met my mother-in-law for the first time (when she wasn't my mother-in-law yet) I leaned in for the compulsory hug and got stiff-armed in the gut. Then she had a change of heart and leaned back for the hug, but we awkwardly tried to face the same direction. That's how I found myself in a cheek-to-cheek hug with a stranger while my girlfriend (future wife) fended off fits of laughter. So I may need some help with that one. I'm obviously clueless.

But where I lack in hug etiquette, I think I make up for in conversation etiquette. I've learned when and with whom I can discuss bathroom humor or video games. Unlike the guy I talked to yesterday, who combined both discussions when he introduced himself at the urinals. That scenario will be covered in my chapter called "Introducing Yourself" and cross-referenced in the chapter titled "Bathroom Etiquette: Silence is Golden." I've also learned the rules of hallway eye contact. They're pretty simple. Just pretend to be reading something (a text message, a sign in the hallway, your own palm) until 7-8 feet before passing the person. Then make eye contact and nod quickly. Otherwise you give the courtesy nod from 75 feet away and then have to intentionally avoid eye contact with a fast approaching acquaintance for another 10 seconds.

Anyway, I'll be taking additional chapter suggestions and looking for my guest author in the near future (but not really).

*yes, that's a Strong Bad reference


AFWingMom said...

You'll also need to include etiquette for standing in line (conversation/no conversation), and include in the introductions chapter some guidelines for introductions of an ex while in the presence of the current significant other.

And in the bathroom chapter I hope you cover the situation that happens when two people arrive at nearly the same time and a stall opens up. Do you offer for them to go first? Do you take it? Do you defer if it's a pregnant woman even though you really have to go?

And what about when you are eating at someone else's house and the food tastes less than desirable. Do you just smile and say you're full? They pile on seconds...what do you do? You don't want to offend them, or do you?

Thinking back to some of your previous smell related blogs, what DO you do when someone farts? Acknowledge it and laugh? Feign passing out because of the smell? Quickly turn around as if searching for the source of the noise? Laugh?

What if you have something stuck in your teeth? What if you have bad breath? What if your zipper is down? What if you have unfortunate body odor? How do you overcome those awkward situations when someone is speaking to you? Break out in an MC Hammer routine?

There's more but please keep in mind I have no personal experience of any of these situations. I just am friends with people who have.

AFWingMom said...

Or what do you do if someone leaves an awkwardly long post and thinks maybe the author was asking a rhetorical question?


Taylor said...

Yes, the book will definitely cover all of that.

And I have an answer for the bathroom one. If a pregnant woman is in the same bathroom as me, I will definitely defer to her. Because it's either a real emergency, or I'm in the wrong bathroom.