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The Socially Awkward Survival Guide

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The world from a troglodyte's eyes

Have you ever wondered why your friend doesn't want to go to a club with you?The supermarket? The mailbox? Why is this timid friend so terrified of other people? Here's a handy guide to the world through the socially awkward person's eyes:

1. The handshake

To normal people: A simple physical token of greeting and/or respect, expected in business and in meeting new acquaintances.

To the socially awkward: A shark in the form of a human hand. What if I miss the handshake because I'm trying to maintain eye contact and poke them in the gut? How hard should I squeeze? Am I supposed to be showing my dominance by crushing the bones in their hand, or should I go limp to prove that I'm not a threat? How long is this thing supposed to last? If it lasts longer, does that mean I like them more than someone else, because if that's the case, I should go back through all these people and time my handshakes and make sure it's even, right?

2. The phone call

To normal people: Telecommunication, a form of long-range, relationship-affirming chit-chat over the wire.

To the socially awkward: The invisible terror. The unseen leash that forces you to interact with people for more than 30 seconds when you're trying so hard to do something, anything other than speak with that person on the phone. It doesn't matter if it's your mother, spouse or telemarketer. For whatever reason, that tiny little box is the most frightening thing in the world for however long you feel obligated to stay attached to it.

3. The restaurant order

To normal people: A way to get food without having to cook. A request to a waitperson.

To the socially awkward: A surefire way to get someone to spit in your food. There's a tension that slowly strangles you as each person in front of you orders their food quickly, too quickly. Suddenly, all eyes are on you, the pen is on the pad, ready to write down judgment on you for not getting your order correct, not specifying which gravy you wanted or seizing up and trying to find your original order on a menu that has now formed itself into a pile of gibberish. Heaven forbid if they bring back something you didn't order, because it's not like you're going to bother them with correcting it, because that's just going to start the whole stinking cycle over again.

See also: ordering delivery over the phone.

4. The party

To normal people: Bring a bunch of friends over and have a good time!

To the socially awkward: This is hell. This is the pits for someone that can barely form a coherent sentence in public, because it usually combines all of our fears into one giant satanic playground covered in interactions and potential faux pas. Party invites are usually given out by well-meaning friends that want you 'get out of your comfort zone,' 'be a part of the group' or 'stop playing with the pretend people on that online gamey thing and become a part of this cult that actually speaks to each other face-to-face.' 

When a socially awkward person enters a party, there's a tense pause that seems to last forever, because suddenly you can't remember if you put on deodorant or brushed your teeth or put on pants. There's usually loud music pounding through whatever place you're in that makes your already-painful social experience that much more difficult and easy to respond to a question that actually hasn't been spoken.

5. The serious conversation

To normal people: A good way to hash out problems and confrontation.

To the socially awkward: You suddenly want to laugh at everything. Serious conversation (deathly serious, even) has spontaneously become the most hilarious thing in the world. You begin fighting with your face as it starts to sprout into a grin while talking to someone about the results of their recent hospital visit. You truly care about this conversation, but your brain has betrayed you, and you'll think of every single last funny thing that you've ever seen in the past decade. One way or another, a giggle will escape. There is a good chance you might have lost one of your hard-earned friends for a while. 

6. The unplanned plan

To normal people: Spontaneity is fun! Let's go on an adventure!

To the socially awkward: Spontaneity is a social death sentence! Let's go out a window!

Given time to prepare, even the most stalwart of socially awkward people can still muster up the courage and nerve to jump into a social situation. Startled by spur-of-the-moment plans, there's a good chance that you're going to have to coax your socially-challenged friend out of a locked bathroom as if you're talking them down from the edge of a cliff. One stray word, and you'll have a Looney Tunes-esque hole in the wall as they run screaming from any form of social obligation.

Aaron Waite would like to thank all of his friends for allowing him to remain a shut-in for most of his days. He's happier that way.

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