End-of-term, Awkwardness, Outfits

Sweet end-of-term, how I’ve anticipated your arrival. With just four classes left, I can sense your presence all around me – in students’ exhausted faces, in the reappearance in class of faces I’ve not seen for weeks, in the ever-lengthening coffee line-ups on campus, in the tense buzz of library study spaces, and in my own tendency to lose time staring vacantly at my computer screen or out my office window. End-of-term, you complete me. 

In just two short weeks, I will once again have great spaces of time in which to tackle my research, and coffee breaks on campus will feature some of my absolute favourite things about exam period: students gamely rushing the season, wearing flip-flops and shorts as soon as the temperature climbs a degree above zero, finding spaces to stretch out or to toss footballs between the remaining muddied-but-melting piles of snow and the still-brown and not-quite-thawed blades of grass. And let’s not forget the re-emergence of colleagues I’ve not seen for months, or the frenzied-but-sorta-fun preparation for all of those conferences it seemed such a good idea to apply to throughout the fall and winter. End-of-term, without you, this job would defeat me. 

In clothing related news, I offer the following:

1. A teaching outfit, worn because both the dress and cardigan are springy & cotton, and because it’s possible to wear shoes, again – if one jumps carefully from one patch of bare concrete to the next, avoiding the frozen puddles, and keeping a damp cloth in one’s office with which to wipe away the splatters.

Cardigan: house brand at The Bay
Dress: H&M
Belt: I forget (remixed)
Tights: Hue
Shoes: Aerosoles (remixed)

2. Next, a more casual outfit worn to chair an evening public panel with a guest lecturer I brought to the city and a faculty member from my institution whom I really hope to work with in future. I had planned to change before the event, but there was so much to do beforehand that I barely made it from campus to pick up the speaker at her hotel on time. So this was it. Panicked or no, I had to chair in jeggings.

Cardigan: Nygard (remixed)
Necklace: mall anchor store
Dress: Chapter One (remixed)
Belt: Mexx (remixed ad nauseum)
Jeggings: impulse purchase by the register (purchased after seeing how awesome Terri’s looked)
Boots: Rieker (remixed)

I also wore this for the painfully awkward dinner with the speakers and a couple of students before the panel. Why are academic dinners so awful? Awkwardness brings out the absolute worst in me; I always feel compelled to break the tension through jokes and silliness. The job market trained me out of these habits, or so I thought. I managed to hold it together this time, but I feel my patience with the strained silences and too-careful small talk waning. But maybe it’s just end-of-term.

How do you tackle the awkwardness, StyleNation? 
What strategies do you employ to keep the small talk flowing – but also to keep said talk from becoming painfully tiny and embarrassing?

36 thoughts on “End-of-term, Awkwardness, Outfits

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  5. Both outfits are great! I love the wedges from aerosoles. I tend to try to find popular cultural references or sports chatter to fill the air. I think the hardest part about an academic dinner is the silence. If I don't think pop culture or sports will work I ask questions. And then I get to listen which frankly I prefer. I know what you mean though…

  6. I have never been to an academic dinner yet, but I tend to deal with awkward silences or just social situations I'm uncomfortable in by saying brutally candid and honest things that my usually reticent self would never say otherwise. It's ridiculous and it needs to stop.I love that you chaired in jeggings. Just one more notch to add to the tally of instances I'm documenting in which it seems, at least, that academics are people, too.

  7. Honestly, when I'm faced with being the host I constantly have to watch what I say. I get nervous when I'm around people I don't know or meeting people I admire. I too tend to want to fill the empty air with jokes. My jokes or stories tend to run…well….let's just say my first recruiting weekend I told the recruits how I used to work at Wal-Mart right out of college and how we used to giggle at the very bizarre photos of people who were naked and posing with their pets. It's just so embarrassing! Love the outfits. LOVE the Aerosole shoes! Blue is my signature color after all. Please send to me straight away. *grins*

  8. Too bad there's no polite way to say, "Look, I know this is awkward, but making me carry the entire conversation is a jackhole move. Pony up some questions or we'll have to start doing shots." That said, your fellow discussant letting you carry the ball is evidence that everyone finds this sort of thing awkward.

  9. That's right: there's no rest for the weary. Or is it the wicked? Also, yeah. Me, too. The whole line-crossing thing with students is something I think about a lot. Not because I want to do it, but because it's so unfair to the students if it happens by accident. And my go-to social things are jokes, self-deprecation, and borderline-naughtiness. It's a lot to reign in!

  10. Oh gawd – is it a different group each time you meet for dinner? Your story is making me squirm in my seat just thinking about all that bi-monthly awkwardness. Also, that's right! These are discount shoes. I think I found them at Shoe Company last summer, and isn't Shoe Company a cousin of Shoe Warehouse in some way or other? And finally, what is it that you love about the jeggings in this context? They're completely unprofessional, aren't they? You can say it. I already know it 😉

  11. Hellz yeah, we can go shopping! Just as soon as we get that teleporter/time warp thing up and running so we can meet somewhere in the middle of our respective too-far-apart abodes. Or, you know, when we both have a weekend coming up for which we've got both the time and the money to burn!Also, oh yeah. I can beat a smalltalk topic to death. And then I can kick its corpse a few times for good measure. It all becomes an even more awkward situation when my fellow discussant is not lobbing anything back, but rather answering questions briefly then appearing to wait for the next one from me. Gah!

  12. Ha! Fortunately the begowned Oxfordian's time is long past. Though to be clear, I would be happy to consider his scholarly work if it applies either to my research or teaching.Also, love the story about crazy questions to ask academics. There are so many unwritten rules that grad students end up learning the hard way!

  13. I used to think I was awkward and then I went to grad school. No, that is not a joke. Sure, I do the nervous small talk thing, but so does everyone. I think sometimes there's a bizarre atmosphere for academic functions in which people don't realize that they can discuss normal person things. When I came into my PhD program at the first departmental function I was sitting next to the Director of Grad Studies, a well respected senior scholar, and asked, "What does your partner do?" This was, apparently, a BATSHITCRAZY thing to ask and 4th and 5th year advisees of said Senior Scholar didn't even know. All I could think was "This is crazy. I'm an adult having a beer with another adult and we have nothing to talk about yet so I asked about family. And then I asked about gardening. Easy conversations."

  14. You are making that H&M dress work far better than H&M dresses usually do, and not just because it's a great print. Plus I'm now coveting two pairs of your Rieker boots. Please can we go shopping?Thinking about academic dinners is giving me flashbacks. When I'm nervous I talk too much (yes, I know you already know that!) and wind up telling myself "shut up shut up shut up" in my head as I blather on and on and on. It's terribly charming, obviously. I think questions that move outside of academic concerns without getting too personal are helpful: summer travel plans, pets, whatever Oscar-worthy film you've recently seen / been wanting to see, especially if it flows into the conversation. "Read any good books lately?" might get a chuckle and a conversation. Ideally you can stumble on a non-academic not-too-personal shared interest and then beat the topic to death. I once talked about The Wire with an otherwise standoffish and shy scientist for over 20 minutes. Yeah.

  15. Yes, and it helps if you have open ended question that will hit on the things people like to talk about. Like their kids, pets, or trips to Australia. My partner's colleagues are generally not so awkward. But there was that one time when somebody said, "Are you a scientist too?" and when I said no, things got quiet. And then awkward.

  16. God are academic dinners ever awkward! I have a bi-monthly post-colloquium dinner and it's such a nightmare. I am also convinced that I own the same electric blue wedges as you. I picked mine up at Shoe Warehouse in Edmonton this past November when I was visiting my family and adore them!xoxo ~ Courtneyhttp://sartorialsidelines.blogspot.comP.S. I sort of love the idea of chairing in jeggings….

  17. With students, I talk to them about their post graduation desires and hopes. It helps me get a sense of who they are, and they like to talk about themselves. Sometimes, they even want advice. It is awkward, though. you're trying not to cross the line between authority figure and buddy, and it's easy to cross it (well, it is for me). This is the worse of the two papers I wrote for the Montreal conference for this weekend. I do not want to present it. I also have to be s a discussant on another panel. Both on Saturday afternoon. No justice, I tells ya.

  18. Thanks, C! Also, yeah. We should have added wine. But it was a weird set-up at an awkward counter-service cafe and we all seemed to forget about alcohol in the painful scramble to line-up while also being polite and appropriately deferential to one another. Gah. Finally, nice sharing of personal details. And excellent news that others think of you as the exception to the nerdy rule. Obvy, you've got skills.

  19. Thanks for all of these great strategies, Rad. I'll be using them to develop the above-noted lists of memorized open-ended questions. Also, I like a good teaching story, too. But we invited students to this dinner, so it was tough to get those kinds of stories going 😉

  20. OK, I like the open-ended questions plan. I suspect I've been doing some version of that, but I think I need to develop and then memorize a list of go-to questions when thing (inevitably) get unnatural on that front! Also, do you bring it with the awkward with your partner's colleagues? Or are they less awkward than the average academic?

  21. Well, you're pretty charming and witty without the wine, but it can't hurt to add some alcohol to up the awesome factor. No Robot Johnny this time – but it was painfully close!

  22. Dude, awesome outfits. I have no strategies for those dinners because the only way I get through them is on adrenaline. This is also reminding that I've got some conferencing to do this weekend — which is like the academic dinner but goes on for days. I soundly second Cynthia's suggestion of wine. I'm pretty sure it makes me both more charming and witty. Also, did you break out the Robot Johnny?

  23. I enjoy both outfits and think that more people should chair panels in jeggings. As far as awkwardness goes, ugh. I am awkward, like Mary Catherine Ghallager is awkeard, so awkward follows me like a bad smell. When in doubt, I just pretend that I'm at work, and ask open ended questions then nod, smile and say mm hmmm a lot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Mmm hmmm.

  24. Sorry 'bout the awkward academic situations. I, too, feel über awkward in many dense academic settings (as I am going to another Ac Con this weekend, I have much to look forward to). But a) Your outfits are rockin' (those blue wedges! That dress print! The Style Underdog-esque cognac and black combo!) and b) I bet your fellow academic participants are so thankful that someone like you is there to try to keep th convo flowing.As for my strategies, I try to just keep asking questions, and *hope* that some of them get reciprocated to me. The worst is when the person just loves academia so much that s/he just talks endlessly about their research and writing. I can only tolerate that for about 30 minutes before I start to ask them about pets, movies, vacations, and hobbies. I actually find that swapping teaching stories are the best. They're not entirely self-absorbed, and you can actually learn a lot from other's experiences. And some people have great teaching stories (funny, horrific, etc.)Did I mention that I am in awe of those blue shoes?

  25. Wine helps with awkwardness, up to a point. That's why we had so much of it at the "new graduate program" reception I went to on Friday. I don't know, I still fumble sometimes, or other people fumble for me, which is why the Provost now knows that I'm taking off two days next week to go to a dance workshop. But it's OK, she says her husband (my department chair) uses me as his example every time he has to prove that not all scientists are geeks.Also, jeggings or no, you looked fabulous and very chair-ish.

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