Yara Farran / The Silhouette
And on the second day, God created soul-crushingly awkward conversation followed by intense staring competitions and jilted laughter.
It’s these uncomfortable interactions that form the basis of many people’s social apprehension. These fears are further magnified when forced into the infamous, “Should I say ‘hi’?” quagmire, where you end up battling your greater sensibilities in a game of tug of war. While your big old heart is advising you to take the plunge and just say “hello,” your mind is forewarning of potential disaster. What if the person you want to say hi to doesn’t say hi back? What if they don’t see you? What if after this painful ordeal you end up sitting beside this person in class, and have to spend a whole fifty minutes pretending that nothing ever happened.
There are a few options to explore when faced with this existential dilemma, all of which have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.
You spot your part-time BFFL on the other side of the walkway. She’s walking briskly. You’re deeply wondering. She’s cheer captain, while you’re on the bleachers (at most Marauders games, that is). As you near her, you decide to pull the classic stare – an intense gaze that is a daring hybrid between Blue Steele and a collection of Gary Busey’s mug shots.
Pros: The stare, although initially creepy, can be quite understated when mastered. By quickly scanning your friend’s eyes you can determine whether or not they a) see you, b) show a willingness to say “hi” or c) aren’t in an early stage of catatonia. If your friend checks all three boxes, then you are all clear to proceed to the “Hey you!” phase.
Cons: The stare scores high on the creep-barometer. Staring too long or too intently is problematic, especially when attempted in a highly populated area. Also, the stare can be misinterpreted. What may mean approachable and casual to you can mean scathing and judgemental to others. And if the stare is anything like the latter, you’re going to have some explainin’ to do.
You’re making your way to the stairs and you discover your professor taking a lovely afternoon stroll. You’ve talked to him a couple of times, but you’re still unsure if he knows that your name isn’t Kent. You want to be professional and warm and cool and awesome, all while maintaining the small inkling of grace that you (kind of) inherited from your mama. So, naturally, as your professor nears, you fall back into option deux, the smile.
Pros: This is my personal favourite. The best thing about this approach is that if your professor doesn’t see you/remember that you’re actually not Kent from fourth-period Economics, you can brush it off and pretend that your smile was directed elsewhere. Anyway, smiles are just so darn awesome. They make people feel good. They make you feel good, and really isn’t this what this whole thing is about?
Con: The smile is almost 100 per cent foolproof, however, you need to take the smile spectrum into account. The “smile spectrum,” you ask? It’s the best way to evaluate whether a situation is in need of a full on toothy grin, head nod and finger point or a mild, sweet smize (yes, smiling with your eyes, ladies and gents). However, if you don’t have five seconds to pre-plan your smile, or if you’ve had past blunders with the smile spectrum (Did you once lick your lips while greeting your Nan?) then this one might not be for you.
You’re at the hottest night club in town and the DJ is playing your fave remix of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise.” You’re breaking it down in the middle of the dance floor, when suddenly you spot your ex-crush. You wonder whether or not you should say hi, or continue doing the electric boogaloo. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.
Pros: By taking a pass, you can completely disregard all potentially awkward situations and pretend that you didn’t just see the former man of your dreams slowly rapping alongside Coolio. Dance on, player.
Cons: Correction. Passing can actually be way more awkward and cause you to feel paranoid and worried all night. Plus, if you see this person again in the near future, ignoring them can cause permanent emotional scarring and a lifetime of strained conversation at the chip table.
Well, that’s all folks! You now have the three best techniques under your belt to battle this predicament. But at the end of the day, if the stare, the smile or the pass don’t work, you can always go the unconventional route and just say “hi.”
Stephen Clare / The Silhouette
Like all good Sex and the Steel City articles, this one starts with a calculus analogy. Imagine graphing a date, with time on the x-axis and quality on the y-axis. The function is a polynomial, with intriguing conversations on the peaks and bad jokes and boring stories on the down slopes. Now look for the inflection points: the changes in slope of the graph, when the date goes from good to bad (or vice versa).
Those moments are quiet ones. The dreaded awkward silences, the bane of every hopeful suitor’s existence. Many people feel the need to fill every minute of a date with conversation, thinking that even a few seconds of silence betrays their insecurity or plainness.
That’s not true, though. In fact, moments of silence can be the best part of any date. Yes, they can be awkward, but they also represent opportunity. When is there silence? At the end of a conversation, or before an answer to a question, or when both you and your date are taking a moment to think about how things are going. All of these are times when you have an opportunity to change the tone or direction of a date. A chance to bet a little more.
So use them. Don’t just sigh and say “So... what do you have planned for the summer?” That is boring and awkward. That’s why people fear the awkward silence.
Try to deepen the conversation by asking something more meaningful. Once you’ve got the hometowns and summer plans out of the way you can get more intimate in conversation (though of course you have to get comfortable through less personal talk first). Use the silence to make this transition.
The ultimate thing to do in a momentary silence is go DEFCON 1 and lean in for the kiss. It is your best opportunity, and if you keep waiting until the “perfect moment” you will go home disappointed. Now obviously this takes some finesse. Don’t go for it in the awkward beat after your date just finished telling you about how their dog got hit by a car or they didn’t get the job they wanted or something like that. But if an intense conversation just trailed off, and the room is quiet but also there’s this intense buzzing in your ears, and they’re kinda looking at you in that certain way where their head is tilted a bit to the left and their eyebrows are pricked slightly up, and nobody seems to want to talk anymore... well.
And that’s why I like awkward silences: they’re not a dead end, they’re an intersection. So don’t miss your exit. Make sure the slope of that graph keeps climbing.