This Is Awkward

This Is AwkwardI was recently given an advance copy of This Is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes for review purposes. Here is my review. This Is Awkward releases today, and here is a link to Sammy’s site where he wrote about it and also where an Amazon link is located.

Our culture has plenty of issues: political turmoil, prolonged adolescence, and of course we still have reality TV dating shows which show just how terrible we all are as a nation.

Through all of this, two things seem to stand out above all of our other problems: we don’t know how to be genuine, and we just so badly want to be liked. These seem to linger at the core of most of our problems, with substance abuse or infidelity or depression sprouting from a desire to be loved, but an inability to be really honest and find a way to love ourselves.

If our grandparents were a generation that survived World Wars and toughed it out during rough years, our parents were a generation that went the opposite way and “expressed” a lot without laying a firm foundation for doing so in a healthy way. Thankfully, vulnerability is coming back into style, thanks to improved focus and understand of mental health and the importance of not stifling all our feelings.

For most of us, though, we WANT to be at a Brené Brown level of awesomeness, but we’re just not yet. We can try to fully relate to her, but at the end of the day, she’s still got degrees that we don’t and she’s still a professional researcher, while if you’re anything like me, your attention span won’t even let you finish

Enter Sammy Rhodes and This Is Awkward, which I think serves as a much-needed bridge into the world of vulnerability. It’s like a gateway, where Sammy uses a lot of personal experiences and examples of his own awkwardness in an effort to bring us to a point where we can embrace our own. If you know who Sammy is, chances are you know him because of Patton Oswalt-Gate, where Sammy was accused of plagiarism on Twitter, a social network that actually encourages people to directly copy what other people say by “retweeting”.

If Twitter accused Sammy Rhodes of being something he’s not, then this book is his attempt to be very much himself, and in the process encourage us to as well.

The two lines that hooked me on what he was doing were his definitions of awkwardness and vulnerability. They both come in the first chapter, so don’t worry, there’s no spoilers here.

Rhodes defines awkwardness not as the outward expression of awkwardness (his example is socks with Crocs), but rather the root of awkwardness: “a disconnect between the real you and the ideal you. What awkward moments (and people) do is simply shine the spotlight on that gap, revealing the cracks in our humanity, no matter how shiny and cool we may seem on the outside.”

Along with that, he tries to get at the core of what it means to be vulnerable, and that it is not “fake vulnerability that loves confession and hates repentance, the kind that we use as a tool to get others to like us.” This particular statement struck me straight to the core; one of several hard points presented in the midst of brevity and snappy comments.

The book isn’t perfect, which, of course, makes sense for a book entitled This Is Awkward. Section breaks are prefaced with an “inner monologue” of sorts that is supposed to be an example of the author dealing with his own awkwardness, but sometimes feel like strange filler for a segue. And, of course, the book is written from the perspective of a pastor writing on something that is closer to a psychological subject matter, so if you’re looking for something written by a counselor, this book wouldn’t quite be what you want.

However, if you want to see an example of a man being vulnerable about his own background, coming from divorce and with estranged parental relationships, and then dealing with his own awkward and introverted self, this is a book for you. Sammy Rhodes sets out to encourage vulnerability through embracing our awkwardness, and acts an example of what he’s trying to demonstrate.

If you want to hear somebody’s story, the good and bad and ugly of it, then this is the type of book you want to read.

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