How to Handle Awkward Affairs

Andrew Michaels

Illustrations: Kelsey Sartory

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The Fart n’ Stare

Don’t lie to yourself: If you are a living, breathing human being, you are guilty of executing the fart n’ stare. This act takes place between two or more individuals in a central location, typically tight-quartered, like a line at the movie theater or an elevator.

If you would like, imagine the scenario: You thinking you can get away with a gentle, modest fart—a simple “pfft.” Once released, you subtly look around to see if you were successful in hiding the discharge. If you make awkward eye contact with the surrounding individuals, you’ve lost the battle but won the war. In other words, the fart wasn’t hidden, but you executed the fart n’ stare.

There are really only two ways to go about it.

Take the straightforward approach and acknowledge your fart. Be proud of the fact that you can toot in public and admit to its existence with three words: IT WAS ME!

Force the issue onto another. Look around like you’re trying to find “the person” who could have released such a foul odor in a public place. Usually, this will only work if three or more people are around, but if you’re really embarrassed, it doesn’t hurt to test your skills. Avoid trying to push the stench with your hand. You will be caught.

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The Retracted Wave

When seeing a family member or friend from afar, a wave is often a sign of acknowledgment before further contact. Among acquaintances or random people, the wave can be used as a silent “hello.”

The retracted wave begins when you see an unfamiliar individual waving in your direction. S/he appears to be making eye contact with you, so you wave in return. You might smile as well. Within seconds you realize the waver was actually acknowledging someone behind you and not greeting you.

How do you avoid looking like an ass?

Pull back. Slowly or quickly, whatever your style, place your hand back down by your side. This can look more believable if you pretend to get something out of your pocket with the waved hand.

If you don’t think you’ve got enough time to get your hand all the way down by your side before the waver sees you, use it to slick your hair back. This isn’t exactly subtle, but it sure beats accidently being caught waving to a random person.

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The Misinterpreted Fist Bump

Depending on your clique, the fist bump may be the handshake you all choose to use. Whether someone said something awesome or you’re saying hello, the fist bump reflects your attitude toward a situation. On the other “hand,” if you use the fist bump outside the group, it may not always go your way.

Let’s say you’re checking out at a grocery store. As you finish paying, the cashier hands you your groceries. While grabbing the bag, you notice his/her hand is in the standard shape of a “pound-it” or fist bump. Although this isn’t a common occurrence, you figure, “Why not?” and proceed to complete the bump.

Is there any way out?

Once the fists have been bumped, there is no turning back.

If you notice a fist bump isn’t the intention before contact, you can go for a more professional form of contact. Shift the situation into the misinterpreted handshake. While it may not be exactly what you hoped for, it’s better than a random fist bump.

Remember: To be awkward is to be human. Embrace it, or avoid it completely.

How to Handle Awkward Affairs was originally published in The Annual #4.

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