I have been diagnosed by my friends as an awkward person. I have discovered that in life—and especially in college, where everything is about meeting new people and making impressions—sometimes social situations are a little bit too much for me to handle. As much as I try to deny the accusation, I tend to prove my friends right at every social event we attend. A lot of the time I don’t know what to say to people when making small talk or I will avoid saying hi to someone unless they make direct eye contact with me. These are things that I do to myself that make me awkward, but there are a lot of situations in college that are unavoidably awkward, and they inevitably happen to everyone. So prepare yourselves, because if these three situations haven’t happened to you yet, it’s almost guaranteed that they will.
College is a time of constantly meeting new people and remembering new faces. This happens with people in classes, friends of friends, campus organizations, at any party, at sporting events, through work… holy crap we meet so many people. So, if this awkward moment hasn’t happened to you already, I’m impressed. At some point in your college career, someone is going to walk up to you and say, “Hey _____! How are you?” with a friendly, cheery smile and you are going to think to yourself, “Who the heck are you, you creepy, weird stranger?!”
Now, before you run away with your arms flailing behind you or stand there for ten minutes with your mouth half open, think. Think of the possible places you could have met this person, whether it was at a meeting for a new club or at that ridiculous party last weekend. Putting the person in context and asking them about it might dispel some of the uncomfortableness that has been brewing for the three seconds it took you to place them. If you can’t place them, however, do not—I repeat, DO NOT—just play along. I know from experience that this never ends well. The person always ends up asking you something that you don’t remember and it gets even more awkward than before. So just say, “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble placing you,” with a sheepish grin, and I’m sure the person will understand.
Running into people you’ve met once or twice seems to happen quite a bit, even at a campus as big as MSU. Most of the time a quick hello will suffice, and the situation is done (unless you’re like me and can’t even handle this). But the one time where a smile and a hello may seem so utterly complicated is if the person you’re smiling at is that guy that you hooked up with last weekend that you haven’t talked to since.
Usually when you see acquaintances, your inner monologue goes “Oh hey I know them!” and moves on with life. In this situation though, colors are flashing and sweat is beading on your forehead and your inner monologue is going, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, oh crap. Do I say hi? He ignored my texts, what a jerk. Do I ignore him? Do I make eye contact? Do I…” until your eyes are probably bulging because your brain is working so fast. If you are put in this position, do not panic. In fact, panicking is the worst thing you could do. Just treat this guy like you would any other guy you met at a party and say hi. He’s probably going through the same internal horror you are, so just relax and move on with life.
This final situation could be avoided altogether by an initial agreement with your roommate, but chances are this would never come to mind if your roommate is single at the beginning of the year and then ends up with a serious boyfriend. That time where you want to study in your room but your roommate wants to watch a movie with her boy toy in complete darkness, is probably the worst. But you can make an uncomfortable situation the most awkward thing ever if you actually decide to stay. At the first chance you get, go to the lounge or a friends room—anywhere but with them. This is, of course, unless you enjoy being third wheel in a make-out sesh. If this ever happens unexpectedly, too, or when your roommate thinks you are asleep, remove yourself immediately. Yelling at the lovebirds will create the thickest tension, so make a mental note to have a little chat with your roommate later.
Most of these situations are pretty embarrassing, but if you stopped someone on the street and asked if they have happened to them too, you might be surprised. Uncomfortable situations are a staple of college, and at some point everyone, no matter how immune to awkward you think you might be, will have to embrace them. There’s really nothing to worry about! Well, unless you’re like me… awkward…