The first time I asked a girl to a school dance in high school was terrifying.
I was a nervous wreck for days, and actually stuttered getting the words out of my mouth. It was a very socially awkward moment, not made any better by my sweaty palms and failed attempt to whisper my invitation.
The way to the dance - with my parents driving/chaperoning - was no less awkward. We went through the typical uncomfortableness at her parent's house: talking with her parents, figuring out how exactly to give her the corsage I'd bought[ref]Do I just hand it over? Do I attempt to pin it on her? What will her father think of me pinning a flower to his daughter's dress?[/ref], filling out an "application to date my daughter" for her father.
Returning to the car was my only escape ... and it was short-lived. I was no more comfortable with my own parents than I had been with hers. We rode in silence for half the trip, followed by the single most regretful conversation I'd had in my life.
As we passed a park she liked to visit to read in the sun in the grassy field, the only comment I could muster:
Grass is nice.
Then silence for the remainder of the ride. I have yet to live that down.
Last night, I went with my wife to a fancy restaurant in town. It turns out last night was also prom for a local high school, so there was no shortage of tuxedo/prom dress-clad teenagers dining with us as well.
Unlike teenage me, this group filled the awkward dinner silence with ... their smartphones.
The couple behind me sat in silence nearly the entire meal, both parties hunched over their iPhones - one browsing friends' prom photos on Facebook, the other playing Angry Birds.[ref]I'm honestly surprised that game is still a thing.[/ref] Their only conversation and interaction came when the meal arrived - and they took turn posting photos of their dinners to Instagram.
On the one hand, I'm jealous that teenage me didn't have a convenient way to escape from uncomfortable silence.
On the other hand, being forced to actually deal with uncomfortable situations is what's made me the person I am today. Teenage me couldn't talk on the phone - now I conduct most of my business remotely.[ref]I also have copious experience making marketing cold-calls, something that would've given teenage me a heart attack.[/ref] Teenage me couldn't ask a girl to dance - today I'm happily married. Teenage me couldn't carry a conversation to save his life - now I regularly attend social events and even speak in public.
Part of me was entertained watching the teens in the restaurant last night. Part of me was also terrified of what this particular difference between my and their generation will mean for the future.