Most of us go through an awkward age at some stage of our lives, don’t we? We don’t make sense to anyone, least of all ourselves. We try our best, but somehow don’t achieve anything we consider worthwhile, we’re confused, confounded ...
You’ll understand if you have been through it — and you’ll also know that the best thing to see us through that awkward age is someone who is going through the same awkwardness as us.
Well, maybe not exactly the same: She may be growing taller and ganglier and therefore falling over her feet because she is not yet used to how far her extremities extend, while you may be puffing up in all directions, getting rounder and rounder, unable to keep your balance. But you can certainly empathise with each other because when the bell rings, both of you are together on the floor while everyone else has raced out to the playground.
If you belong to a large family, you may find similar awkwardness in another sibling, but I was not so lucky there. I could never find common ground with my elder sister during my awkward age. She seemed to have been born elegant and graceful, never unsure of herself and certainly never falling over herself or anyone else or prone to saying the wrong thing. So how could she understand my many flops, and those frequent faux pas and foot-in-the-mouth moments?
I could have been all alone in my miserable youthful awkwardness, but luckily, I wasn’t.
I had a friend!
She was not awkward in my eyes, but she was definitely so in her own — and as we moved from preteens to teens, adulthood, work life, parenthood, and way beyond, we were constantly together or constantly in touch across the miles and time zones. (In the prehistoric, pre-internet times when we were in all those stages of awkward, “constant touch” meant that we wrote snail-mail letters to each other, waited eagerly for the postman to bring a reply, and so on, back and forth for years, baring our hearts, pouring out random thoughts, senseless and sensible in equal measure, knowing that there was no judgement, only acceptance.)
Misunderstandings at work, the awkwardness of relationships we were failing at or succeeding with; awkward moments with our children, whether it was in their delightful years or those difficult ones when we tried desperately to help them get over their own awkwardness: who could we share our cluelessness with but each other? And when we pooled our wits and our shaky wisdom, we somehow emerged OK — to the extent that for long years we almost forgot we had been awkward at all!
What’s more, along our journey, each of us met a few others who somehow clicked with us — perhaps forging those friendships because of some shared versions of awkwardness — and eventually we even met up with each other’s friends to share happy times together.
Now, more than half-a-century later, we once again find ourselves at an awkward age: with dodgy elbows, creaking knees, osteopenic hips — or all three together in a triple whammy!
Once again, we share our moments of discomfort and awkwardness, both physical and mental. We’re liable to fall over our own feet as we did all those decades ago. Or we find ourselves sprawled on the floor without a clue as to how we got there: did we forget to steady ourselves before rising, did we fall over that overturned stool, did we fall off the stool? Wish we could remember what we were trying to do before we landed on the floor!
Twinges, aches, painkillers, pick-me-ups: “You have some and I have others,” we laugh, when we WhatsApp or FaceTime each other.
And we can laugh because we still have the same company — and sharing dilutes the awkwardness and increases the acceptance, doesn’t it?
— Cheryl Rao is a writer based in India