Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Awkward Culture

Earlier this week I took a yoga class at a new studio in Hell's Kitchen. In the first 10 minutes I was able to knock down my Klean Kanteen, spill water all over the floor, soak the bottom rim of my pantlegs and create some sort of foamy-suds effect on my mat. The rest of my practice followed suit -- slip-and-slide vinyasa flow, falling out of a headstand, the whole works. By the time we ended with namaste, I was exhausted, and not because of crow pose.

When I was little (no, that person above is not me), I remember visiting relatives in India, dangling my feet off a low bed, while my grandmother told our family I was "overconfident". I was too much of a fan of myself to be embarrassed.

In the past few years I've become more sensitive to little misspeaks, to tension, to bad timing. I freak out when I have to meet new people or interview them, even though I've never had a problem being social. Sometimes if I'm going to a party where I don't know many people, I have to give myself this cheesy pep talk (yeah, I admitted it) before I walk in the door. But thanks to social media, those moments are now chronicled in a mental Twitter account. Trying to network with an aloof editor? #mylifeisawkward Falling on the subway steps? #FML I have a feeling these little labels are making us ignore the fact the life is not meant to be smooth and elegant.

On the flip side, the current entertainment industry embraces awkward, plays it up and makes it okay. As if people got sick of the perfect, the picket fence and the straight blonde hair and presented a counterculture that was, actually, what they normally would have cut off and left on the floor of the editing room. Kind of like Freaks and Geeks, you know, before it was cool. There's that MTV show, "Awkward". There's Lena Dunham, a director/writer/actor you will know when HBO's Girls comes out, who essentially makes insecurity a whole plot line. Awkward Family Photos are pretty much the best thing ever, and make you feel happily normal with your own chaotic kin.

If you look at fashion, especially so-called hipster looks, awkward and beauty mesh together seamlessly in American Apparel jumpsuits. High pants and short sweaters and thick-framed glasses -- things you would never peg as flattering. In film, there's Napoleon Dynamite, Our Idiot Brother, Juno and Superbad. Michael Cera and Zooey Deschanel basically have a career because they play roles with squeaky voices and foot-in-mouth situations, and they do it well.

At the end of the ugly, the weird, the zoomed-in focus on zits and the lumpy bodies and verbal collisions, awkward culture is almost like an homage to the imperfect. It celebrates the lifey-ness, the subtle glamour, the grainy reality of being a human. I'm down with that.


Sumita said...

Really loved this Ankita!!

Cait said...

Just read an article in our beloved Alligator about this "awkward Gator" who had a video go viral this week:

Goober! said...

My camp name was AwkwarD! at UCLA UniCamp. I like to think I make situations less awkward. I can also make situations awkward a good way I hope. Thanks for making me feel cool. *awkward turtle...*