Acade(me)

The dissertation was only the beginning.

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T: Amazing Husband
ST: Three-year-old Wonder
Prof. G: Advisor I
Prof. C: Advisor II
Julie: Stylish Sister
Rob: Awesome Brother
Belle: Our Cat
Bill: Grumbling BIL
Rita: Uncomplicated SIL
SMU: Smallish Midwestern University
Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Quote of the Day
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Awkward Me
I was not a regular viewer of Friends when it was on, but every now and again I'll see a rerun when I'm ironing. A few weeks ago, I caught the episode where Chandler is trying to propose to Monica in a restaurant, but then Monica's ex-boyfriend Tom Selleck strides in and ruins his plans. Chandler introduces himself to Tom Selleck's date by saying, "Hi, I'm Chandler. I make jokes when I'm uncomfortable." That is so me, and I hate it.

If I have the chance to write a sentiment in a card, I can express something heartfelt quite well. For example, I am a stickler for thank-you notes, and try to send one for every gift I receive within three days of receiving the gift. When ST was born, one of T's clients sent us a very thoughtful and unexpected gift, and I sent her a thank-you note immediately. A few days later, she called me at home to personally thank me for the lovely thank-you note. She said she'd never received a note that so thoroughly expressed heartfelt gratitude. So, you see, I do have social graces in me -- at least on paper I do. I am not a total oaf.

When I am speaking to someone face-to-face or on the phone, however, I have no idea what to say in certain social situations, and so I try to keep the conversation really light-hearted and then end up saying things that, as I mull them over in my head later, sound really stupid. Today, for example, I brought a huge platter of fresh fruit (apples, two kinds of grapes, blueberries, nectarines, and strawberries) to our daycarer's house, knowing that her family would probably be overwhelmed with flowers after her stepson's funeral yesterday. At first, I was OK. I hugged Lauren and she cried, and when she looked up at me I just said, "I cannot imagine, Lauren. I just can't imagine what you're going through." This, of course, made her cry more, but I suppose that's to be expected. But it's like I couldn't hold that serious tone too long -- I just had to find a way out of it.

We started chatting and I actually made her laugh, which I think was nice for her. But then I could feel myself pulling away, trying to pull the conversation back to "normal" things, teasing Lauren about the fact that she wants to reopen the daycare tomorrow (which she is doing because she says she needs the kids to make her laugh). And when I saw her husband for a brief moment as he raided the kitchen cupboard for antacid, I couldn't even think of something decent to say to him. I totally froze and said something like, "Oh, gosh, Lyle -- you don't look like you feel well." How stupid is that? Of course he doesn't feel well! His son just died! I am such a dork.

I remember saying ridiculous things to lighten the mood after T's father died. Everyone around me was sobbing constantly, and I just can't do that. It's not like I wasn't sad -- I was very sad. But I can't be sad for a long time, and I can't keep a somber mood going forever. And I think that's horrible. Sometimes I wonder if I ever really experience grief fully. And then I wonder if that's a problem, or if I should be glad that I can mentally/emotionally "move on" so quickly. And then I wonder if I'm offending people by seeming flip when that's not what I intend at all. My Mom says that it doesn't matter what you say in situations like Lauren and Lyle's -- they're just glad you're saying something, glad you're not avoiding them out of fear of awkwardness. I hope that's true.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/07/2006 10:21:00 PM  
3 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 7:52 AM, Blogger RageyOne said…

    I agree with your Mom. It is the thought and the kind words, any words that help in those kinds of situations.

    I have a friend who is the way you describe yourself in awkward situtations. She was just what I needed when my Dad died. She gave me an out to smile during such a grim time.

    I think the important thing is that you recognize your strengths and use them!

     
  • At 10:29 PM, Blogger Peri said…

    Hey, you just do the best you can and do it from the heart. No need to be anything other than yourself around her-- even in the face of her immense loss. Of course it's awkward. Just say (or don't say) what you'd want someone else to do if it was you. I agree with your Mom, too. You'll have more opportunities to talk with them both. Just don't pretend like nothing happened and take your cues from them.

    Did I miss a post? What happened to their son? It must have been horrible.

     
  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger Prof. Me said…

    Ragey and Peri, thanks for your comments. I appreciate them!

    And Peri, for details on what happened, see my post entitled "Incomprehensible Loss."

     
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