Monday, November 15, 2004

Social gracelessness

I've been noticing lately how bad I am at public displays of camaraderie. Not of affection -- I'm always kissing on my kids in public, and my daughter will attest that I kiss my husband in at least her presence way too much. I hug close friends without a second thought. It's the expressions of fellowship with those outside my inner circle that I'm uncoordinated at. I noticed this during our funeral activities last week, when my inability to perform the conciliatory "cheek kiss" with various farflung in-laws resulted in more than a few awkward moments. It's hard to know which is worse: not offering a cheek when someone's expecting it, therefore seeming aloof; or going for a cheek-kiss when the other person is not, therefore seeming clumsy. I did both, I'm afraid, including one incident of air-kissing involving a very tall women who did not lean down when I leaned in. It was a good thing, in the long run, that I spent most of my time in a downstairs room watching the children. Once social contact gets beyond "Hello," I'm a hack.

I observed something similar last night when playing with my daughter in a parent-child bowling league. This being a friendly league, high-fives are common, even in celebration of mediocre balls and not-quite-strikes. I'm not even really all that comfortable with a hand-slap when I do something spectacular. And then there are the permutations -- am I supposed to slap hard, or just slide by, and if they high-five me at every turn, am I being unsportsmanlike if I don't offer a hand every time they knock down more than a few pins? I try my best to avoid eye contact and sneak past in the hopes of evading congratulatory situations, but I'm sure that just makes me seem sullen and sore loser-ish. Couldn't we all just smile at each other and say a kind word or two and let it go at that? Bowling shouldn't be a contact sport.

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