Here I was sitting at the dinner table at the client guest house. A senior executive is seated in front of me. A deathly silence prevails as he methodically dispatches food off his plate oblivious to my presence. I am stuck in a Shakespearean dilemma – to talk or not to talk. If I am to talk, where do I begin? I do not feel very enthusiastic about stating some mundane known fact about the weather, the recent cricket match or the country’s politics. And when I finally manage to muster spirits and say something, it is closed with a simple “Yes”. What next?
I don’t know if many people are faced with such situations. But I often land up in such situations. Sometimes things get even worse. The other person is talking to me but I go cold turkey. This happens when he starts with some question like “why are you looking lost?” or “why that gloomy look on your face?” I have no clue how to answer such questions and from there on I go defensive and words begin to fail me.
This used to happen to me all the time in the presence of non-family adults when I was a child. On more than one occasion teachers have asked my mother why I never smile. I don’t know – I was not really an unhappy child or anything. On the contrary I have always been known for my sense of humor among my closer friends. I wonder where from the other kids developed this habit of smiling which I did not. Recently my wife made a passing mention that my father never smiles. Strangely I had not even noticed that in all these years. Now come to think of it, my grandfather was not much into smiles either. I wonder if this is one of those heriditary things.
To some extend I did manage to develop the habit of smiling at familiar people at least over the years without making any conscious attempts as such. After all, making any conscious attempts in matters like these only tends to make things worse. However in the presence of some people, I still tend to go stiff and uncomfortable. More often than not the person tends to be in a professionally or socially higher position than me. So at times I wonder if it is a result of a hierarchical mindset.
Alcohol was one thing that helped me ease out of my inhibitions. During the days when I was at the peak of my drinking, people would find me to be altogether a different person after a couple of pegs go down. While normally girls would not even give me a second glance, I have had girls giving me conspirational winks in class on mornings following nights of binge drinking. But then one can’t be high on spirits all the time, can one?
I found social media to be the ultimate antidote for my social awkwardness. The fact that I can even choose not to be myself makes things even better. I feel so comfortable behind the fool’s mask. I am no longer bound by the constraints of age, gender, nationality, profession and social hierarchy. No one can see my face and ask why I am looking so serious. However some things carry over to the virtual world as well – people who have interacted with me for long on social media would know I never use smileys. It is so much easier than managing facial gestures and body language but then I just don’t feel like. Well, that’s me!