I have a not-so-secret shortcoming: I am not very good at showing excitement in person.
Over googlechat or facebook chat, I can hide behind exclamation marks and superlatives. Brilliant, terrific, good show, and excellent seem to be my go-tos in this regard. My online correspondent usually sees the generous use of exclamations that go along with these and is convinced that I’m absolutely thrilled on his/her behalf...and I really am! However, things change a bit when they’re in front of me.
Friend: Pranay, I just got accepted at the Extreme Kansas College of Dentistry*
Pranay (screws up face into a frightening hybrid of a smile and a grimace): Hey..err...that’s...umm...not bad at all..err..yeah...good for you, mate.
At this point, I know I’ve botched it and I usually wait till they give the happy news to someone else before I make my getaway. The next person inevitably responds with tasteful effervescence and perhaps even cracks a smooth joke while he/she is at it. In short, the next person gives a suave performance that throws the cringeworthiness of my felicitation into sharp relief. I usually spend the rest of the morning/afternoon/evening/night squirming in my skin and thinking of all the witty and suitable things I SHOULD have said at the moment of truth. Also, for the next couple of weeks, I find it impossible to be comfortable around the person I failed to congratulate appropriately.
Such was the story of my life. Fortunately, my new system has rendered the squalid squirming and crushing self recrimination of failed felicitations a thing of the past. It’s a three prong system, really.
1. Restrict hugs to girlfriends and family members only. Do NOT hug your friends in the congenial afterglow of alcohol!
2. Make your disdain for gratuitous hugging well known over the television, radio, or through a book/blogpost.
3. Only hug a person when you know that you’re incapable of a suitable verbal expression.
Friend: Pranay, I just got accepted into the Incredibly Esoteric Fellowship for Eastern Studies!
Pranay: hugs smoothly and warmly with a smile and without a single awkward word
Friend (thinking): OMG! PRANAY IS ACTUALLY HUGGING ME! WHAT A MOMENT!
This friend of mine is enjoying her second hug from me in the one year she had spent with me. See how happy she is?
*All hail the magnificent Randall Munroe of xkcd.com