Spreading Awkwardness for 34 or So Years

Lisa Marie and I came up with a new term that explains the phenmenon when you're around someone who is so awkward and uncomfortable in his/her own body that they are able to spread that discomfort out into the wider world around them. An example would be as follows:

Group of people at an art opening. A seemingly very obviously gay man joins the conversation. He wears a pink shirt, bell bottom pants and speaks in a very girlish, feminine way, frequently saying things like, "Yeah, and so then I told him I'd just give him a jingle the next day..." Most people just assume he's gay and it's the art community and he's an artist and a decorator and owns small dogs and everyone is fine with it. But then, when he joins the circle of people, he announces, "Well, I'm getting married! Ding-a-ling-a-ling!" Everyone at first thinks he means to another man and so they're congratulating him, but then the guy says, "She wanted a small ceremony at the civic hall but I want us to paint the town pink, baby!" The group struggles with what to say and the awkwardness of the man and the situation seeps into every single person's arms and legs, making them feel self-conscious and embarrassed.
This is called: The Richards Effect. Formal definition: An interpersonal phenomenon wherein one uncomfortable individual manages to make the person/people around him equally or even more awkward by association.

Last night at First Friday, we managed to encounter accumulate three or so ancedotes to illustrate the power of th Richards Effect. Suffice it to say that we had to leave a few places abruptly to keep our wits about us.

Also, Padhraig and I met at a coffee shop yesterday and were trying to come up with a new word that describes something that is unattainable but also unwanted. I meant mostly as it pertains to men, but it could have a wider scope. The word I thought of was "disrelief" but that doesn't really work. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Here's a scene we're going over today in my playwriting class (warning: adult theme and language):

“The Seduction”

Scene: A generic hotel room. JoAnne is still wearing her interview clothes, but has taken off her shoes and jacket. Knock on the door. She answers.

Darren: Ta-da!

JoAnne: Really?

Darren: (hands her a plant). For you. How did it go?

JoAnne: What are you doing here?

Darren: This place is decent, right? In a David Lynch sort of way. Not terrible. Well, kind of terrible.

JoAnne: Did you drive all this way?

Darren: Don’t you like the fern?

JoAnne: No, it’s great, though I kill all plants.

Darren: I know. It’s fake.

JoAnne: Really? Very believable fakeness. Good job.

Darren: How did the interview go?

JoAnne: I think I may have a new boyfriend. Todd is his name. You’d like him. He’s an only child.

Darren: What did he do? Ask for your phone number? That’s pretty standard procedure for a job interview.

JoAnne: Let’s see…He told me I was pretty, he took my picture, he offered me a shot of whiskey, he tried to persuade me to swoon backwards into his arms. What else? He asked me if I was in love.

Darren: Well, you never know with these things. You still might get a job offer.

JoAnne: Oh, I got the job. I just don’t want it.

Darren: No?

JoAnne: I don’t think my day job should carry the risk of date rape. I have enough time focusing as it is.

Darren: Is there a funny smell in here? Like something died?

JoAnne: That’s probably me. You’re smelling the death of my girlhood dreams of becoming an A-one marketing assistant.

Darren: Come over here.

JoAnne: Why?

Darren: You’re tense. Come sit by me. (She does, reluctantly. He starts rubbing her shoulders, sniffs her neck). Mm, no, you smell good. Not like death at all. (Kisses her neck).
Let’s make love.

JoAnne: (she moves away) Oh, gross, God, you know, I hate that phrase.

Darren: Making love?

JoAnne: Ick—stop. It’s too corny. I feel like you’re going to pull out a guitar and start singing an Air Supply song and then, I don’t know, suggest we go run naked through a field of daisies.

Darren: Let’s fuck, then, how about that? Is that better? If we just fuck? We don’t even have to kiss on the mouth. I know you think that’s corny too.

JoAnne: Not true. It’s just…. It’s something about the way you approach kissing.

Darren: My approach?

JoAnne: It’s like you’re auditioning for a role or something. Like the director has told you to be sensitive and sweet and to make sure your right profile faces the audience because your nose looks smaller that way.

Darren: Gee, thanks.

JoAnne: Like you’re choosing from your repertoire of past kiss performances. Should it be a Tennessee Williams kiss, or a Neil Simon kiss, or a Kiss of the Spider Woman kiss?

Darren: Let’s talk about the way you kiss.

JoAnne: I kiss fine. I’ve won Girl Scout badges for my kissing.

Darren: You kiss impatiently.

JoAnne: That doesn’t make sense.

Darren: You kiss like it’s something you have to do just to get to the next moment and the next and the next. Kiss for two minutes and then you grab my cock and then I take off your shirt and then you unzip my jeans and then we get naked and we make love—sorry, and then we fuck.

JoAnne: Hmm.

Darren: So excuse me if I like to actually take my time and not rush into it. If I wanted cheap, meaningless, wham-bam, cum by the numbers hot and fast sex, I’d cruise the streets.

JoAnne: You would?

Darren: Sure, why not? I mean, no, I wouldn’t go to a prostitute, I’m just saying that sometimes, that’s what it feels like with you.

JoAnne: I make you feel like you’re with a hooker?

Darren: Well, yes, not a hooker, but someone who is so focused on the endpoint that…And I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it. I mean I like it that way sometimes.

JoAnne: You’re turning me on.

Darren: But it’s not like I want the same thing every time. A little variety would be nice. I’d like to be in charge sometimes too, you know? I want to be the one who throws you on the bed and tells you what to do next and how to do it and stops your hand or your mouth if you try to go too fast.

JoAnne: I’m serious. I like it when you take charge.

Darren: (flattered) Really? You want me to add some DeNiro? Talk like a street tough and push you around?

JoAnne: Okay, yes. I like it when you’re hard. (Moves forward to touch him.)

Darren: Wait, wait, hold on a second. We were having an important discussion here (She reaches for him again). Quit trying to seduce me!

JoAnne: Want to role-play? We’re in a cheap motel. I’m worried about even sitting on this bed for fear of contracting a venereal disease, but let’s take advantage of it.

Darren: Can we—can we just figure out a way to meet in the middle? Like somewhere between too slow and too fast?

JoAnne: (she climbs onto the center of the bed) Meet me in the middle of this crusty bedspread.

Darren: That’s not what I mean.

JoAnne: Okay, show me what you mean. (Reaches for his zipper.)

Darren: (stops her hand) No. Not like that.

JoAnne: Like what then?

Darren: Like this (grabs her roughly, kisses her theatrically, bending her backwards).

JoAnne: Wow. What play was that from?

Darren: Streetcar.

JoAnne: I knew it! I could tell that you were channeling Kowalski by the way your arm muscle flexed when you grabbed me.

Darren: I wish you wouldn’t always make a joke of everything.

JoAnne: I wish you wouldn’t always make an Act II, Scene I of everything.

Darren: You just said you wanted to role-play.

JoAnne: Role-play, not rehearse.

Darren: What am I doing wrong?

JoAnne: Nothing. Nothing. It’s nothing. Maybe I’m still weirded out by the interview.

Darren: You should just take the job.

JoAnne: Seriously?

Darren: I’m just saying. We—you could use the money.

JoAnne: I’ve been unemployed for exactly two weeks. Give me a tiny bit of space before I have to start turning tricks.

Darren: Or sue your old job.

JoAnne: The law firm? With what massive bank roll? And anyway, I can’t sue them. I was an “at will” employee. Sometimes, the bad guys win.

Darren: No, there are always karmic retributions.

JoAnne: I don’t believe in karma. I was raised Catholic. I believe in meaningless lessons about saints and the sanctity of the Virgin Mary. What about kids who have cancer? What’s the karmic reason for that? Or child abuse? Was the person, like, so horrible in a former life that she came back as a sick child who gets molested by her chemotherapist?

Darren: You’re confusing karma with Shirley McClaine.

JoAnne: Suddenly, I don’t feel so sexy anymore. Which is strange because kids and cancer and religion are usually a huge turn on.

Darren: What just happened here?

JoAnne: I had a bad day! I had this ridiculous interview, which, in case you didn’t know, I was kind of excited about and then the guy turns out to be a complete freak, and then I come back to this crappy Days Inn and you pop up out of nowhere with your plastic ficus—

Darren: It’s a fern! And excuse me for wanting to do something nice for you.

JoAnne: And are we very much in love? That was one of my interview questions, by the way. If I was deeply in love with my pretend fiancĂ©. Would you say that I’m the love of your life? Or even in the top ten?

Darren: This doesn’t sound like you.

JoAnne: I know, but, I mean, we’ve never said it. It’s been six months. Shouldn’t we have—

Darren: I have said it to you.

JoAnne: You have?

Darren: Yes.

JoAnne: Oh, God, I’m sorry. I must have thought you were joking. (Pause.) What did I say back?

Darren: Do you want your exact quote?

JoAnne: Maybe not.

Darren: You said, “Thanks, I think of you fondly.”

JoAnne: Why are you still with me?

Darren: I really can’t say. It’s probably my masochistic streak. Do you still only think of me fondly? Even when I have driven all this way and offered you my sexual services to distract you from your horrible, godless existence? Even when I am one of the best actors you know and you secretly possibly like it when I put on Stanley Kowalski to seduce you?

JoAnne: I like it better when you’re that guy from the King and I.

Darren: I will go shave my head right now.

JoAnne: Please don’t. Please don’t be an actor anymore today. Maybe we should break up.

Darren: Is that really what you want?

JoAnne: I don’t know what I want. I want to start over. I want to be the person I used to be who went to Catholic school and believed everything they told me and thought it would all turn out okay.

Darren: Should I whisper the Hail Mary in your ear? Would that be arousing?

JoAnne: Stop.

Darren: We are not breaking up. I forbid it. I am going to force you to realize that I am the best thing that ever happened to you. Better than Jesus.

JoAnne: But can you walk on water?

Darren: And I am going to make you stop talking now.

JoAnne: What miracle will that take?

Darren: (pulling her shirt out of her skirt) Hail Mary, full of grace—

JoAnne: Don’t be sacrilegious.

Darren: But you don’t believe in any of that, right? So it shouldn’t matter.

JoAnne: I know, but still—

Darren: The Lord is with me.

JoAnne: I don’t like you anymore.

Darren: Yes, you do. You like me against your will. You don’t want to like me because I’m nice to you and you don’t think I should be, so too bad. Deal with it.

JoAnne: I love being psychoanalyzed before sex.

Darren: (undoes a button of her blouse with each sentence) This is not sex. This is not making love. This is not fucking. This is praying.

JoAnne: I don’t pray anymore.

Darren: You pray today. And you kiss on the mouth. (He kisses her.) And you stop thinking and evaluating and you listen to me now and you do what I say.

JoAnne: I do?

Darren: Yes, you do. Blessed art thou among women. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Kisses her stomach.)

JoAnne: Jesus.

Darren: A-men.


Lisa Marie said…
How about just "dis-dis"?

If you take all of the words that begin with dis - disappoint, dissatisfied, disconsolate, disturbed, disgruntled, etc. - it seems that you can just put another "dis" infront to create a double negative. The term "dis-dis" could refer to all of these double negative emotional situations.
Aimee said…
Did you like how I cleverly changed the name of the effect to be less obvious??
Lisa Marie said…
Yes, very very clever.
I am still giggleing to myself about it.
Liz said…
I know someone who is the king of the Richard Effect. I should invite him out sometime and you can meet him.