That Was Awkward: OMG Hey…You! Long Time No See!

Hard to believe Thanksgiving was an entire week ago! As we get into December, leave November behind, and watch our mounds of leftover pie and stuffing mysteriously disappear, lets reflect on one not so delicious aspect of Thanksgiving break: running into high school peers. Please note that I am not writing about running into high school friends. I love seeing my high school friends during school vacations and my run-ins with them are very pleasant and certainly not awkward. I chose to write about peers, because the word peer is as awkward and blurry as its definition. A high school peer is someone you went to high school with, usually know the first name of, may have had a few classes and perhaps a few casual conversations with, and three years later cannot quite remember exactly how close you were. Thanksgiving break is a great time to cheer on the local high school football team, run to the grocery store for some last minute store-bought pie (you’re not fooling anyone), or drop by Starbucks for a delicious pumpkin spice latte. Unfortunately, everyone else in your town has the exact same brilliant ideas. Therefore, you are bound to encounter some awkward run-ins. I personally find the high school peer encounter to be the most uncomfortable, because you’re not quite sure where your relationship with this person stands. Do you plaster on the formal, polite and over-zealous smile you reserve for your mom’s book club friends? Do you hug this person? Do you pretend not to see them? This is clearly bound to be an awkward encounter.

If you’re still not quite sure why I find this situation to be so awkward, lets set the scene. You’re at the grocery store picking up some festive treats that your mom sent you out for, and you come across a boy (man? Awkward in between phase?) you went to high school with. You see him, he sees you, there’s no looking back so don’t even try to pull out your phone and fake oblivion. As the space between you decreases, you panic and wonder if you should hug him or just flash a warm smile. If you are anywhere near as awkward as I am, you most likely decide on something in between and end up smiling profusely at him while lamely patting him on the shoulder. At least now you know it can’t possibly get any more awkward than it already is. Until of course he asks “so how do you like Barnard? I hear you transferred there last year?” and you realize you have absolutely no idea if or where he goes to school. You can guess and respond with “Yes I love it! How’s Lehigh?!” However, this might not seem like the greatest option in hindsight when he responds with “Lehigh? I go to Santa Clara…” and you are suddenly caught in the bluff. Therefore, while it might make you feel like a jerk, honesty is generally the best policy. You should probably just tell him you forget where he ended up going to school and ask how everything is going. Or just play it safe with a casual “how’s life? Happy to be home?”.  Once that confrontation is over with, you move on to the next dilemma. Now that you’ve established that you are both doing great at school (or in life), you are indeed home for Thanksgiving, there’s nothing new in your lives, and your families are doing well, you aren’t quite sure how to end the conversation. Do you tell him to text you over break to hang out? You don’t really want to hang out with him, but is it rude to just say goodbye and imply that you will likely never see each other again and that you don’t really care? Do you even have his phone number? Perhaps this is the right moment to whip out that phone/lifesaver and pretend your mom just texted you to get home immediately. Or, you could try that whole honesty thing again and just say it was great running into him, you hope he continues to do well and you’re going to finish your grocery shopping now.

Many people have the ability to turn this potentially awkward situation into a friendly encounter, but if you fail to confront the run-in with grace, simply remember that there is a lot of pie waiting for you back home. That way, you will be too distracted trying to decide whether you want ice cream or cool whip on top of your delicious berry pie to even remember to think to yourself: That was awkward.