One thing I’ve observed in the past few years is the uprise of a new type of cool, a new social craze. Walk into a high school and see these people, self-proclaimed freaks, all about the hallways, in the cafeteria, and in the gym. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be this way anymore. The millennial generation is the Internet generation, not the drug-experimenting party animals we’re so frequently made out to be. (That’s not to say that some of us aren’t party animals, I’m just talking generally here.) Many teenagers are describing themselves as “antisocial.” We’re Internet rats. We scurry about online, discovering the ins and outs of technology in ways that our elders will most likely never be aware of, finding new ways to express our discomfort with ourselves. The word is all over our Facebook feeds, squeezed in our 140-character Twitter blurbs, spoken in giggly, insecure tones among acquaintances and friends alike: awkward.
This new fascination with awkwardness always used to irk me. When people I see as flawless or perfect proclaim themselves as awkward, I begin to feel that they are only saying so because of the new craze and not because they actually are. I have always proclaimed myself to be awkward for many reasons–my social skills aren’t impeccable, I don’t like conformity, I’m an awful athlete…the list goes on. I feel, live, and breathe awkwardness; and I’ve come to accept it as part of me without question, in fact. I almost start claiming the word “awkward” as my own. When I see someone else–Miss Popularity Soccer Queen–claim to be awkward, I can’t help rolling my eyes.
When I get to thinking, though, Miss Popularity Soccer Queen has just as much of a right to be awkward as I do. Awkward isn’t necessarily external. Maybe this silky-haired, slender model figure with a huge social group feels uncomfortable in her own skin. Maybe she isn’t happy with her life. I’m only judging based on the pearly-white smile I see for ninety minutes each class period. I have no idea what she’s like underneath all the perfect winged eyeliner. I don’t know about her home life, her history, or even the quality of her relationships. (Hint to my younger friends: just because someone takes a selfie with you and calls you her BFF doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a good friend.) So you know what? Miss Popularity Soccer Queen is awkward. She’s awkward because that’s how she feels inside; and she has every right to feel that way, just the same as I do.
Awkwardness is a craze because we can all identify with it in some way. We’ve all felt out of place at some point in time–like I did yesterday, my “accordion in a green meadow” moment. We want to relate. We want to give a name to that weird, I-don’t-feel-right-in-my-own-skin feeling. It gives us a hope that maybe we really aren’t the only ones with insecurities. It shows us that life is awkward. It is! Life is awkward! It isn’t any of the glossy, glazed-doughnut Hollywood nonsense. Life is always going to have those weird, it-wasn’t-supposed-to-happen-that-way moments. Sometimes we make social blunders. We get hair and acne; we blow our noses and get sick; we run out of toilet paper at the worst times; but my god, it’s so real! I can’t help but like the awkwardness fascination because it’s revealing the messiness and sloppiness of humankind! Things can be gross. Inconvenient. Embarrassing. But it’s all part of this wonderful, crooked masterpiece we call life.
Be strange. Be weird. Be real. Move out, insincerity–awkward is the new cool.