Awkwardness is one of the things that can’t ever be accurately described. For some it’s the feeling of cringe that crawls up your spine when you’re faced with a situation that you cannot handle. For example, that’s how I felt when I watched the ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ with my dad. I don’t mean to spoil it, but there’s a rather graphic anal rape scene in there. I literally could not handle it. I sat frozen in the High Street Kensington Odeon. I didn’t dare look at him. If I did, I felt that he might take the opportunity to give me a talk that I was not, and am not ready for. You must understand that my father isn’t the typical modern father. We don’t really talk about things. The closest I ever came to a sex talk was, “I don’t want to see any girls here when I get back from work okay.” There was no, “I’d really rather you wait till your married to have sex, but if you must please sheath your sword” (Or whatever saying parents use to mean wear a condom). So I sat there stiffly, sneaking tiny glances at him to see if he was looking at me. He wasn’t. We didn’t even discuss it after the movie, which was a relief because I would have died.
For some others, it’s the cold hand that reaches into your chest and clutches your heart when you’re faced with a situation that you never considered possible. It’s the what do I do, the how is this happening to me, and the how is this my life. It’s when you literally cannot deal with the truths of your reality. This one happened to me while I was in NYSC camp in Edo state. I know this may not seem like a big deal, but it was and it still is. I’m Afam, a former I just got back, island chilling, mainland loathing, affected accent having, naive, privileged git. What? Err Ma Geerd! I just called myself a git on bellanaija! Well, I can be sometimes but as Polonius said to Laertes in Hamlet, “to thy own self be true.” Those are good words to live by if you’re not a paedophile or a sex offender. If you are, you won’t help anyone by being true to yourself. Anyway, I was in the god awful excuse for a shower stall at 4am, shivering while I tortured myself with too cold water, when I felt a hand on my very naked shoulder. I turned slowly, with a look of shock intermingled with terror on my effortlessly handsome face (I’m advertising here. I’ve been single for a bit too long) to see an equally naked man who didn’t waste any time in asking if he could share my shower stall with me. I should have yelled no, but my mouth couldn’t form the words. I should have said not on your life but my mind was empty. All I could do was stare at him with my mouth wide open as he took my silence for acquiescence. I felt violated. I hadn’t felt that awkward since I accidentally mooned a girl I fancied in P.E class when I was 13. I’ll never sag and do push ups again.
The previous two awkward situations, though awkward have got nothing on the third sort of awkwardness. I call it “DEATH BY PUBLIC LACERATION”. This one is the knife that chooks you from belly button to lower back, and guts you all the way up to your neck. It’s often accompanied by multiple shivers up and down your gullet, while the rest of the world stares at you empathetically, for they all feel your pain so acutely. It often happens when someone makes you question your life. For example when your drunk uncle at your little sister’s wedding pinches your bum and yells too loudly for anyone not to hear, “BUSOLA!! Where is your own now? Your bum bum will soon start sagging.” Or when you’ve just moved back after an engineering degree in the abroad and a curious aunt at a family function goes , “So Deji, what do you do now?” And you say, “I’m a dancer.” And she says while patting her weave in confusion, “well, I like to dance too, but what are you really doing.” And you say again, “I’m a dancer.” And she turns to your mother and asks far too loudly, “Is he bent?” Need I say more? You’ll will open a hole in the ground and enter it. You’ll ask God to end you where you stand, while singing lyrics from that Shaggy song that came out over a decade ago, “Why me Lord… why me why me why me why me why me?”
While the incidents in the above paragraph haven’t happened to me, I did once get so drunk at dinner, that my father, Papa Afam turned to me in frustration and screamed, “Get ahold of yourself! Are you on drugs?” The entire restaurant turned to face me as I shrunk lower and lower into my chair, willing myself to disappear. I sobered up like I’d just seen Jesus.
Photo Credit: natural-nashville.com
Afam is still alive. He was reared in Lagos, went to Uni in Manchester, and currently lives in semi suburban Lagos. He blogs at The Ramblings of a Mad Man. He is the lifestyle and health editor of http://voixmag.com/, and is a frequent contributor to the Guardian Life. Talk to him on Twitter at @Afam20