I have no poker face. I can’t fake anything. I have no ability for improvisation. I don’t think fast enough to lie convincingly.*
This does not make me honest and virtuous. It makes me socially awkward.
Example: I helped an acquaintance with her moving sale. She wanted to thank me, and a close friend of hers, by taking us out afterwards for margaritas and lunch. I didn’t really want to go, but it seemed wrong to say no, so I went. Both of their husbands joined us, and the friend’s 16 year old daughter.
I don’t drink, but I ordered lunch. (This is not virtue, either; I don’t like the taste or smell of alcohol.)
The conversation, in which I was more of a listener than a contributor, turned to homecoming, and did the young lady have her dress. Yes, she did, and the next thing I knew I was being shown an iphone photo of two girls, being asked, “Do you think this dress is inappropriate?” (I’m not kidding. That is exactly how the question was phrased.)
In my head, I was picturing my own 14 year old daughter, who is rather modest, and my husband, who thinks there is no such thing as a too-modest daughter, and was feeling glad that this was not my child barely covered with spandex and glitter. I wasn’t thinking about the girls in the photos at all. Realizing I’d already paused too long, with all five looking at me expectantly, I panicked and lied, “Uh, no,” because I knew that was the desired answer.
It was not a convincing response, as evidenced by the awkward silence that followed. (I so appreciate the socially adept who can fill these awkward silences and move conversation along.)
Later, of course, I could think of a number of non-responses. I still don’t understand why someone I barely know would want my opinion of her daughter’s dress. Even I don’t care what I think of her dress.
This is why I did not want to go to lunch, and why I prefer helping people with tasks to chatting. I’m not good at it, and I know it. I can’t fake interest for things which don’t interest me. When people ask me questions which I can not politely answer truthfully, I feel like a child who has been called up to the board to work an incomprehensible math problem. Clueless and embarrassed by it.
Interactions like this are fairly common for me, and have two effects. First, they make me want to avoid social gatherings which might require small talk. Second, they make me appreciate my friends all the more. I have great friends. Not tons of them, but I treasure each one of them. I love them because I can be my socially awkward self and give them my honest answers. They don’t ask me idle questions. They know when I say, “Well, I wouldn’t want my daughter wearing it, but she does have the figure for it,” that that is exactly what I mean. No judgement towards them, just my honest response.
*I can, however, keep a secret. Being told something in confidence allows me time for advance preparation of evasive maneuvers.