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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Wong view

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The Awkward Silence.

Silence is a grand thing. And there’s nothing grander than an awkward silence. We’ve all been there: the shifty eyes, shuffling feet and embarrassed expressions often accompanying those periods of… awkwardness. Yet there is something fascinating about them. They are like those little bags of chocolate gold coins you never buy, but always get: something to savour. Mmm.

You may be surprised, but awkward silences have been in play since the dawn of time. Their origins are brief, but somewhat significant:

In the beginning there was light. And there was also The Garden of Eden. One day, God said, “Adam, Eve, don’t eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. If you do, you will leave.”

“Yes,” they said, and all was good.

But then, they ate the fruit. God had to tell them to get out. But it was hard.

“Err…did you eat the fruit?” He asked.

[Adam and Eve look at each other with guilty gestures. Awkward silence ensues.]

“Guys, I like you a lot. But you ate the fruit… so you are going to have to… uhm, you know…”

That was in the beginning.

As you can see, the awkward silence is something embedded in all of us. There is no purpose in resisting: let the awkwardness take over.

Awkward silences usually hover around awkward subjects, like horrible dates, bad smells and watching sex scenes with your parents (that one is probably the most awkward you can get). Interestingly, most pickup lines also utilise these awkward moments. I heard a story once about this guy who really liked the girl he sat by. Every day they would work side by side in silence, until one day he decided to break it. He began by saying:

“Hey, guess who I saw in the strip club last week!”

She just looked awkwardly at him and went back to her work. Nevertheless, they are now married, seven years later. The moral of the story? Strip clubs and true love can mix, just like the song, ‘I’m in love with a stripper’.

If you are intending to be the instigator of the awkward silence, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep your awkward silences to a maximum of two per conversation. Occasionally, it is okay to break a silence with song but only if the song chosen increases the silence in total. ‘I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus’ is a particular favourite.

Remember: be practical. It’s not a good idea to use your silence when you are clearly at a disadvantage. You probably want to pack snacks if you are awkward silencing a chef. Also, you are looking for an awkward silence, not a fight. So take caution. Saying “I hear that your parents are divorced” is a good way to create an awkward silence. It adds a personal touch, without impeding on your victim’s self-esteem. However, saying “I hear your parents got divorced because they both hate you and wanted to get away” probably counts as verbal bashing. The pursuit of awkward silences can ruin relationships. Be careful, people.

Awkward silences: can’t live with them, can’t live without them. There is a fine line between awkwardness and weirdness—or maybe there isn’t, like how crabs and chlamydia are different but basically the same thing. With that in mind, here is a list of one-liners that you may use next time to begin your many awkward conversations:

“My cat has herpes.”

“My cat had herpes.”

“I have herpes.”

Err…. That’s just Wong.

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