I just taught one of my Chinese students the meaning of “awkward turtle,” a phrase my college friends commonly used to break moments of, well, awkwardness. Then last night, I realized that I am an awkward turtle.
When I was living in Brooklyn, I went out more often than not. I loved going to bars by myself; who knows who you might meet in this wild world? I was a social butterfly! I talked to everyone; the bartenders (I love bartenders), men, women, the underage, war veterans, the elderly… it was the best of times. Since I moved to Beijing, however, I’ve been spending my weekdays exhausted at work and weekends with my parents. Sporadically I’ll go out with Dingding (my only friend–I don’t know what I’d do without her), but she’s always busy (with her boyfriend), and I can’t depend on others all the time. I need to make friends! I crave entertainment (aside from WordPress)! So, I looked online and found a show to go to by my lonesome. Actually, I was quite excited because I thought it would be a great chance to get myself out there and make some new friends!
Boy am I naive.
I went to a bar called D-22 to see an indie rock band from Shanghai–Boys Climbing Ropes–which consists of three tall Canadian men and one little Chinese vocalist who they call Little Punk. She was AWESOME. They were awesome.
While I was sitting at the bar slurping down my whisky ginger waiting for the opening band, Me Too, to start,
I noticed a very studly foreign lad looking my way. Sure I threw him a few glances, but I got tired of doing that and was too nervous to walk over so I opened up an issue of Timeout Beijing, which got me to the show in the first place. While I was reading and pretending I was totally independent and cool and didn’t need any friends, Studly Lad came over and fiddled around with the drink menu on the bar. I thought I would just raise my head ever so slightly to perhaps make eye contact, but instead–I don’t know what came over me–I blurted out “HELLO!” like an overeager beaver. The bartender had also just come over to offer him a drink. Studly Lad became flustered, looked back and forth between me and the bartender and walked away. I wanted to sink back into my hard shell and never come out to face this harsh world ever again.
And this wasn’t even the first Emily, the Awkward Turtle moment of the night. This incident occurred after my encounter with an American who worked at the bar. Though this conversation wasn’t as awkward as the Studly Lad one, I noticed that while I was “conversing” I had trouble thinking of things to say or even words to express what I wanted to say. When the American introduced me to one of the band members of Boys Climbing Ropes, I said, “Oh wow! Good luck!” to which they responded with chuckling. Do you say “good luck” in that kind of situation? I can’t remember! Was I supposed to say, “Have a far out show!” or “You guys are awesome (even though I have never heard of you before). Can I have your autograph?”
Anyway, I got over my Studly Lad tragedy and hoped things would improve as the night progressed and I had more to drink. When the music started playing, I wanted so much to dance my brains out as I used to do, but I was too shy. So, I just bopped my head to the beat of X is Y in the corner.
Here and there I made small talk with Chinese girls, too intimidated to approach English-speaking foreigners. And when Boys Climbing Ropes came on stage, I was front and center and even jumped up and down to their heavy beats. They even dedicated a song to me–Socially Awkward. But as soon as the show ended, I walked straight out that door–no goodbyes, no telephone numbers, and no new friends– without looking back except to take a photo to remember the place where I changed forms.
What has come over me? And what am I afraid of, you might ask?
Well, here are my theories as to why I have traded my wings for a hard shell:
1) I have been living with and hanging out with my parents too long. Besides Dingding, I don’t socialize with people my age.
2) My opportunities of speaking English are limited and I am forgetting it orally, as was the case with my Chinese.
3) I felt awkward to begin with because I showed up at a bar alone (even though it used to be a favorite sport of mine).
4) I am currently facing an identity crisis which I shall elaborate on in another post.
Whatever the reason, I have forgotten the art of socializing and I desperately want it back. That night was a kick in the butt I’ve been needing to get my groove back. It might take a while, but I am determined to make friends while I’m here, because life just ain’t worth livin’ if friends aren’t in it.
Anyway, less talkin’, more walkin’. Wish me luck (this is a more appropriate situation to wish someone luck, right?)!