The Content Was Refreshed: 24 Feb 2018 | 03:52:55
From inappropriate air kisses to one-sided conversations, our awkward moments remind us how much we have in common
In the late 1960s, the anthropologist Edmund Carpenter arrived in New Guinea armed with mirrors, video and Polaroid cameras, and a mission: to blow the minds of members of the Biami tribe, who had never seen full reflections or images of themselves. “They were paralysed,” he wrote later. “After their first startled response – covering their mouths and ducking their heads – they stood transfixed, staring at their images.” Like any of us, the Biami carried an inner image of themselves, but unlike us, it was formed without mirrors or photos. Carpenter’s devices disrupted that inner image, triggering discomfort. But not for long. Within days, “they groomed themselves openly before mirrors… In an astonishingly short time, these villagers… were making movies [and] taking Polaroid shots of each other.” If they weren’t technically posing for selfies all day, as I’m told the young people do in 2018, it was only through lack of the right gadgets.
As Melissa Dahl points out in her brilliant new book Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, just published in the US, it’s unclear if the Biami were really as unfamiliar with mirrors as Carpenter thought. But in any case, what’s striking isn’t how strange their reaction seems, but how relatable. You know how it feels when you make an amiable remark in a lift, but nobody responds? (I hope so. Otherwise it’s just me.) Or when two people greeting each other misjudge whether to go for a handshake, hug or social kiss? That’s the same awkwardness: “self-consciousness tinged with uncertainty,” as Dahl defines it. It’s “the feeling we get when someone’s presentation of themselves… is shown to be incompatible with reality in a way that can’t be smoothed over.”Continue reading...
I was expected to remain a virgin until I married a boy from church. At 23, I have rejected this lifestyle, but my attempts to meet a potential partner have failed
I am a 23-year-old woman who is having trouble navigating the secular dating world. I grew up in a religious family where the expectation was that I would marry a boy from church, in a no-sex-before-marriage setup. This was complicated by my not liking any of the few guys on offer – and by my occasional attraction to women. The upshot is that I have never been on a date, not even a Christian one. Since leaving religion recently, I have been attracted to and tried to show interest in some guys, but it has not been reciprocated. I am worried that my nerves are showing. My atheism has created conflict with my parents, which I know will worsen if I date a non-Christian. My mother is obsessed with me remaining a virgin. I think I have complexes about sex myself. I am starting to despair. Any advice?
•When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.Continue reading...
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