Secondhand Awkward


I would like to discuss a particular emotional phenomenon that I refer to as “secondhand awkward.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Some of you must, surely. Let me give you an example, in the form of “The Office.” “The Office” is a wonderful and charming show, I think. I saw it once about four years ago, so I can’t entirely confirm that, but I remember it being kind of cute. There are some good moments with Pam and Jim. Mindy Kaling is in it, and I will consume basically anything that Mindy Kaling is involved with. I even think Michael had some cute moments with his love interest. (Holly? I think? Again, I can’t confirm because I have only seen it once and I absolutely will never ever watch it ever again.) But the main thing that happens on “The Office” is that a lot of people do very embarrassing things. They embarrass themselves and they embarrass other people and they do rude and offensive things and many times they cannot figure out how to stop being embarrassing. Sometimes they don’t even know that they are being embarrassing. And when I see people on television embarrassing themselves or others, my immediate and instinctive reaction is gut churning mortification on their behalf.

Could I go back and find some cute Jim and Pam episodes and re-watch just those ones? Sure, except that I know that there is an episode of “The Office” that begins with Kevin spilling a large tureen of homemade chili on the office carpet and then attempting to pick it up with his bare, cupped hands, and I don’t know what episode that happens in, and I cannot look it up, because if I have to think about it for too long I will CRAWL OUT OF MY OWN SKIN SCREAMING A PRIMAL SCREAM. WALK AWAY FROM THE CHILI KEVIN; YOU’RE MAKING THINGS WORSE.

This is true of so many great shows – Frasier, Arrested Development, the first season of Parks and Rec, many episodes of Veep. I love all of these shows very much! At least, I remember loving them. But if you make me watch even one full episode all the way through in one go, I will 100% absolutely self-combust and cry. Does this happen to you? Please do tell me if it does. I’d hate to be the only one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to sit quietly in a corner and try not to think about anything that ever happened on popular British teen comedy “The In-Betweeners.”

Preview photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash