I know you’ve done it. There’s really no hiding it, especially from someone as seasoned at it as myself. No, I’m not talking about the “smile and nod” you give the manicurist at your version of Lucky Nails after she’s repeated something four times and you still don’t understand. I’m talking about the infamous “Lookaway.” The Lookaway, for those of you who live on Mars, is what you do in an uncomfortable situation when you kind of know someone–or maybe you know this person a little too well. Instead of greeting him or her with a friendly “hello,” you do everything in your power to avoid this person.
There are two categories of people who we give the Lookaway to. The first is the pseudo-acquaintance you know, but you don’t really know know. This is the person who’s on the outer rim of your social circle, who you’ve flashed a half smile at or made half-second eye contact with at parties many a times. You’ve probably stalked this person on Facebook much more than you’d like to admit. Male or female, this person knows your name, and you know his or hers (and that he or she is a poli sci major, studied abroad in Prague, and went to Rye Country Day) but you’re not really sure if you know each other well enough to show public acknowledgement yet.
The second category of the Lookaway is when you encounter a past hookup, or a current hookup, or someone you hazily remember making out with against a tree in the quad freshman year. Everyone has this person, but it’s the number of these people you have that determine how often you have to dish out the Lookaway. Just to make you feel a little bit better about yourself, I stopped counting halfway through junior year when I reached about 20…#NotAWhore
There are many different ways to do the Lookaway. My personal favorite is to do something with whatever i-Device I’m holding at the moment. This includes checking Twitter, checking Facebook, rechecking Twitter, checking the zero text messages I’ve gotten in the past 24 hours, and then finally giving up and calling Mom. The best part about this is that I can do it all in a matter of 10 seconds or less.
Another way to do the Lookaway is to find something completely uninteresting waaaay off in the distance and pretend it’s the most mesmerizing, captivating thing you’ve ever seen. Counting the number of branches on a tree? Been there. Really trying to appreciate the innate architecture of the most mundane building on campus? Done that.
The last way to do the Lookaway is to openly make things as weird as possible by just doing a complete 180. I employed this tactic just last week, as I actively tried to avoid the (unbeknownst to him) future father of my children. As soon as I saw his face in the distance, I did what every confident, friendly, outgoing young lady would do: crossed the street as soon as possible. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t see him. I just chose not to say hi. Why? Because I’m awkward as fuck and I was afraid the word “grool” might have actually come out of my mouth, that’s why. So what if I almost caused a three car pile up walking straight into oncoming traffic? A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
There are countless reasons why we employ the Lookaway instead of just saying, “hey.” The first, notably, is that this person is a past “special friend” of yours in the form of an ex variety. He could be an ex-boyfriend, an ex-friend with benefits, or an ex-completely-made-up-in-your-head relationship. Dear person who may or may not have seen me naked: let me go out of my way to say hi to you and pretend like I didn’t just spend the past 36 hours in the library narrowly surviving off Cheetos, Diet Dr. Pepper, and Fiber One bars while studying for a chem test that literally just killed me. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
A step below the past hookup is obviously the current one. I mean, if I see you and you see me, it’s not like I’m not going to say hello–things just might be a little…weird? It’s like, I know we’re going to talk about the weather while we try and ignore the fact that I woke up in your bed five hours ago, but all I really want to do is ask you if I left my underwear at your house. I must have missed that day in etiquette school when they taught us how to handle those situations. My b.
For real though, ladies, the reason why we use the Lookaway so much is because we get this weird gut feeling when we’re placed in an uncomfortable position at a moment’s notice. You don’t have to get above a C in Psych 101 to know that the shear existence of the Lookaway can be attributed to the fear each of us have–that initiating conversation will result in rejection. Funny thing is, in most situations, this is EXACTLY what the other person is scared of, too. We’re just all too pathetic to say it out loud. Bottom line: You can’t erase mistakes, memories, or other past actions by ignoring them. Like any good addict knows, recognizing the problem is the first step towards changing it. In time, I do believe that this culture can shift. But until then, let’s just hope the FDA approves some type of drug or pill to make us not be exceedingly awkward in the very near future. Kidding. Kind of.