Do you find it challenging knowing how to act and what to say when meeting others for the first time?
Well, join the club! (Sorry, not an actual club.)
Acting normal is really hard! But fortunately for you, I have devised some handy tips that can help.
1. When first approaching, don’t laugh loudly, breathe heavily or robotically recite the lyrics to the greatest hits of Laura Branigan. It’s also advised to neither avoid eye contact nor to ask to “look through the windows to your soul for a few minutes.” Demonstrations of eyebrow dexterity — no matter how impressive — are a “carefully read the room” kind of thing.
2. Open with a “hi” or “hello” followed by offering your name spoken in plain, regular English. Now is not the opportunity to demonstrate your impeccable Klingon or a hard-to-place-and-clearly-fake exotic accent. Backslaps, full body hugs, and breakdance challenges are not okay at this point. Your kooky side needs to stay under wraps during this initial meeting and, yes, this includes experimental hairdos and showing videos of your attempts to domesticate various local wildlife.
3. When asked how you are doing, reply with “fine” or “good” or “keepin’ it real,” even if that is far from the truth. No one, and I repeat, no one, wants to hear your sob story about how sad your existence is (that’s right, not even your mom). It is important that this time together doesn’t closely resemble a therapy session, so as tempting as it is, keep it light and brief, and whatever you do, don’t bring up your ex, your daddy issues, or the fun and complicated cross-section of the two.
4. You may be asked where you are from. Don’t worry, this is a common introductory question and not a red flag that the feds are finally on to you. You must show you can trust others, so answer the question as honestly and accurately as you can on short notice. However, too much detail, like GPS coordinates or a detailed description of your mother’s nether regions, are not needed.
5. If asked about the weather, do not launch into an anger-filled diatribe about clouds, no matter how much they piss you off. Others just do not want to hear about your theories that “the warm front rolling in from the east is either a thinly-veiled government conspiracy or a thickly-veiled one and, on another note, veils. Am I right?”
6. Someone might tell a joke. Don’t worry, jokes are funny. When the joke is over, it is polite to smile, nod your head, or if feeling particularly coordinated, both. Remember, it is not your responsibility to conduct a forensic analysis of the joke or to aggressively interrogate the teller about their “true intentions.” Suggestions that they should “immediately cease all other forms of daylight employment” should be used capriciously.
7. Current events are often brought up, so to appear normal, you must prepare. While you don’t need to sound like a preeminent expert, you also don’t want to sound like you’ve been either living under a rock or living in the near vicinity of rocks, no matter how nice the rocks are. And if you are caught off guard with a topic, a simple “my legal team has advised me not to comment at this time” works well.
8. As tempting as it is to use this encounter to talk solely about yourself, you must not. Your intense desires for revenge on your grade four teacher, as well as your need to finally find a use for your antique soapbox, should wait for a future date. Instead, this is a great opportunity to ask the others about themselves. I know this sounds weird, but trust me. I must emphasize that under no circumstances should you ask if “I can treat you as a hostile witness,” no matter how “contradictory your previous answers were.” Safe topics include, but are not limited to: their jobs, recent books they’ve read, and as long as you don’t make it weird, “where did you buy that shirt?”
9. Relationships and dating may come up. Feel free to share, as long as your response doesn’t lead to either sobbing, yelping, or card tricks. There is no need to say in a hollow voice, “I’ve been alone, very, very alone, for so long” while staring unblinking off at the horizon. If others mention they are recently single, they aren’t looking for an analysis of “exactly where you went wrong and the reason no one will ever love you,” no matter how well articulated. And if others are happily in a relationship, the only proper response is “I’m happy for you” and not an argument that love is a social construct invented by the jerks down at the Hallmark company.
10. As your time together draws to a close, you need to make a decision whether you ever want to see these people again. Remember, solely seeing others to mock their political leanings or ridicule their religions is just not okay unless that is mutually agreed upon in advance by all parties. If you are interested in seeing them again sometime, suggest exchanging numbers — not random ones as, if you remember, that usually ends in frustration on your part — but play it cool and don’t have it appear that your entire existence is resting on this. Also, if they say “yes,” remember that you are not a puppy and shouldn’t bounce up and down like they are about to feed you a treat, throw you a bone, or bounce you a ball. If they are, you may have misread the whole situation from the beginning.