High school can be an extremely difficult environment for the socially awkward individual, a place where seemingly every encounter is punctuated with uncomfortable silences and subtle, yet embarrassing moments. As such, I have assembled this short list of the most egregiously awkward social situations, in the hope that troubled individuals may be alerted to potentially dangerous moments and can prevent them accordingly.
The “Goodbye” Mishap: This situation is less well-publicized than many others, but it is one that we have all experienced. It occurs when two individuals (usually desperate to end their stiff and uncomfortable conversation) say “goodbye”, then proceed to walk in the same direction. Such an instance can only end in nervous laughter (the human body’s natural self-defense mechanism against awkwardness) and/or a spontaneous change in direction that only exacerbates the already-uncomfortable situation.
How To Avoid It: The “goodbye” mishap is one of the more difficult situations to evade, but it is possible. One tried-and-true remedy is to end your conversation with “So, where are you off to now?” or “What class do you have next?” Such questions can provide a clue as to the target’s direction of exit, which you can then counter.
Note: Try to avoid using this ploy more than ten times with the same person in order to avoid suspicion.
The “Hanging Five”: One of high school’s most famous awkward moments, the “hanging five” takes place when someone attempts to give a friend a “high five”, but is either ignored or simply unheard, resulting in them being left “hanging”. In recent years, this situation has become so commonplace that its occurrence is more humorous than awkward, but it can still cause great social discomfort in the right (or rather wrong) circumstances.
How To Avoid It: Simply alerting the subject that you are about to high five them is one way to prevent this situation. Studies have shown that up to 90% of “hanging fives” are caused by ignorance or poor peripherals on behalf of the would-be high-fivee. Calling out “up top!” or some similar phrase before high-fiving the target can prevent most of these cases, although the situation can become up to 217% more awkward if it fails. A more certain way to avoid a “hanging five” is to immediately smack your raised hand into your face, then act like you were simply swatting a fly on your forehead.
The “Dance of the Eye Contact”: This exceedingly uncomfortable incident occurs when two acquaintances approach each other from opposite directions in an empty hallway or field. If the two subjects make eye contact when they are too far away, they are forced to awkwardly smile, nod, and/or wave until they (mercifully) pass each other. The earlier they make eye contact, the longer this uncomfortable acknowledgement of each other’s presence must go on.
How To Avoid It: The only way to avoid this situation is the time-honored “Dance of the Eye Contact”, a ritual which can seem random and clumsy, but is actually a game of great skill and strategy; a walking chess match, if you will. The two subjects must pretend that they do not notice each other until the time is right, and accomplish this by subtly avoiding each others’ eye contact. They must constantly shift their focus to nearby landmarks – their locker, their shoes, a ladybug on the wall – while avoiding the other’s gaze in a way that is never too obvious. When the subjects are within ten feet of each other, they can finally “coincidentally” meet each other’s gaze and make a single nod before passing, a gesture of respect for a well-played game. In this way, awkwardness can be minimized.
If you follow these guidelines, you too can prevent uncomfortable situations. Thank you for your time.