Jennifer Lawrence. Hugh Grant. Johnny Depp. What do these people all have in common? They are all smoke shows and they are all super awkward.
How does this relate to you? Let’s bring the example home: you tap onto the bus and there are two seats available: one next to a sprawling dude wearing a stained tracksuit and another next to a stone hot stunner. You halt, inching with indecision, before flinging yourself in next to the laundry averse activewear enthusiast.
You don’t even know: you just know that you become incredibly awkward around people you find attractive. That and that you feel this weird pressure that if you sit next to them they’ll think you like them. Or something.
But according to the experts, it’s not just you who feels awkward: your commute crush is just as diminished by their hotness as you are; after a lifetime of people nervously avoiding them or overtly hitting on them, they don’t know how to handle (or trust) a genuine interaction.
As Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist told The Atlantic last year, “When you see an attractive person, the left ventral tegmental area of the brain becomes active and will pump out dopamine.” As dopamine is a stimulant to the brain, people might then react with surprise or awkwardness which – you guessed it – leads to more awkwardness.
As The Atlantic put it, “That feeling is the weak-kneed giddiness that very attractive people can inspire, which can leave you fumbling for words and feeling off-balance, even though a dopamine rush is a fundamentally pleasurable experience.”
“Based on Fisher’s research, which used fMRI scans to observe the brain lighting up in response to stimuli, the left ventral tegmental area (commonly referred to as the left VTA) is responsible for pleasurable reactions to beauty.”
“Meanwhile,” The Atlantic continued, “The right VTA provides the dopamine that fuels romantic love; the two responses are similar but neurologically distinct, which means that what people feel when they see a random pretty face isn’t necessarily a desire for romance or even sex.”
According to the anecdotal experts over at Reddit (particularly a user called The Roman Romanticist who last week told a story that quickly started trending), this awkwardness – while temporary for most of us – is permanently carried around by those with unnerving facial symmetry. Entitled, “The Paradox Of Attraction,” this is his story.
“Something I’ve personally noticed is that we often attribute unattractive people as ‘socially-awkward.’ This can be true. But something I think is actually extremely overlooked is how socially awkward attractive people often are,” Mr. Romantic begins.
“I say this as an attractive man. Some may choose to see this as a humblebrag, and good for you, you’re simple-minded. But I personally don’t approach women. Don’t ask me why I’ve just always been like this. I’ve never to date asked a single woman out. I just feel really uncomfortable doing so.”
“So my interactions with women are never with romantic motives, but for everything else but. And through this, I have fallen into many relationships incidentally.”
“But what I have noticed is that because I don’t approach women… Attractive women have generally two types of expression when they find me cute. There is the kind that will say hello to me 7 times a day and just act very clearly awkward (but very sweet).”
“Then there is the kind that when I am required to interact with them… They’re unnecessarily stoic and wooden and rigid (which often can be mistaken for disinterest or dislike). Ironically, though, this is how a lot of women act when they like you but don’t know you well enough to feel comfortable being casual around you.”
“It wouldn’t be until I got to know them as time went on that this became apparent. They didn’t actually dislike me (they were just guarded and afraid of embarrassing themselves).”
“It made me realise: Attractive women are often very, very socially-awkward. They’re used to men approaching them romantically that they’re not typically interested in… But when it comes to the point where they now like a guy… They don’t know what to do because they’re not as accustomed to approaching as they are being approached.”
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“So they hope/assume that this guy they find cute will approach them (just like many prior guys have). If he doesn’t then often nothing happens. But when he interacts with them in a professional way (instead of a romantic way) then they don’t really know how to approach him because they’re so used to being approached,” Mr Romntic continues.
Maybe this is why you don’t see attractive couples so often as you’d think, but rather one punching up and one punching down? Could it be that attractive people simply don’t know how to hit on each other? Allow Mr. Romantic to elucidate…
“I’ve personally noticed this where the moment women become ‘comfortable’ around me and feel as if they know me then they immediately start flirting. But when they don’t know me that well (it can be pretty obvious they find me attractive) but just act super serious because they’re clearly not used to interacting with men they’re interested in.”
“So moral of the story here is, people. Attractive people are often just as socially-awkward as what you imagine unattractive people to be.”
In other words: we’re all socially useless, and as soon as we accept small talk is a hugely over-rated skill the happier we’ll all be: something people in the comments of the thread were quick to point out, with one of the top-rated comments being: “I think most people today are socially awkward and manipulative in a quasi-good natured way that still ultimately ruins all their relationships.”
There is an upside though: as Thought Catalogue points out, dating someone awkward has a number of perks including the following: probably not a player, relatable, bad liars, inadvertently charming, good sense of humour, sincere, easier to read.
Your next awkward fling awaits.