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From One Socially Awkward Mom to Another

Photograph by Getty Images/EyeEm

True confession: I’ve always been awkward. I lack the filter required for normal human interaction, and I struggle with small talk in all forms. If anyone in a room is going to put her foot in her mouth, it’s probably going to be me. And I have more stories than you could possibly imagine about embarrassing encounters I wish I could just pretend away.

The thing is, before I was a mom, I used to drink a lot more. So it was easier to laugh those instances off.

These days, I’m mostly sober, which I’ve come to realize makes my awkward tendencies about 100 times worse. Not only am I more aware of how awkward I am, everyone else around me is too.

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I’ll give you a fairly tame example. Recently, at preschool pickup, one of the moms approached me and asked if I wanted to get our girls together that weekend. The truth was, I didn’t. Not because I had any grand plans, or because I had anything against this mom or her kid, but because the idea of hanging out with strangers is torture to me.

Instead of smoothly coming up with some excuse I hemmed and hawed in the most awkward way possible. “I… um… well… we might be… um… I mean, that would be fun… but… there’s like, this stuff… and… you know… I mean… I don’t… can we… um… hmmm… I’m on my period… think we might just lay low.”

Yes, that was exactly how this conversation went down. I basically sounded like a malfunctioning robot, right before completely oversharing. And by the time I finally convinced myself to just stop talking, this poor woman was looking at me like I had lost my mind.

Which, I kind of had.

As we walked away, the million other things I should have said all popped into my mind. It would have been as simple as, “Thank you so much, but we’ve got plans this weekend.” Or even, “That’s a really sweet offer, but it’s been such a busy week and I’ve kind of been looking forward to us doing nothing.”

But no, I had to go full word vomit instead.

And that something about having kids in school makes it so much worse—this almost forced interaction with people we don’t know, it brings out the discomfort in all of us.

I’ve learned a new trick recently, though. When I start to feel at my most awkward, I own it. I tell whoever I’m talking to outright that I’m seriously the most socially awkward person they’ve ever met, and I apologize for it with a laugh.

And you know what happens? Nine times out of ten, they laugh too. And then they respond with, “Oh my gosh, you have no idea, me too!”

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Again and again and again, I have had women confess that they are just as socially awkward as I am. And that something about having kids in school makes it so much worse—this almost forced interaction with people we don’t know, it brings out the discomfort in all of us.

For some, that means averting their eyes and avoiding conversation at all costs. For others, it might mean putting on a brave face and attempting to interact.

For almost all of us, it means questioning each and every thing we’ve said—wondering if it’s going to reflect poorly on our kids, who we hope will be able to make friends despite our own awkwardness.

For the mom who asked about a play date, I’m mildly convinced it meant picking out the one mom who looked like she might be even more awkward than her, and just going for it.

Too bad for her, she was right. I was more awkward, and therefore mostly incapable of even meeting her halfway.

Oh well, there's always next time.

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