Creepy is as creepy does.

Just from my observations, it seems there’s a whole lot of creepy going on in the world these days. Sure, all of us have had our awkward moments, sometimes lurching right toward creepy. But there’s a difference in moments of creepy and a whole lifestyle of creepy. So, I thought it important to write some guidelines on how NOT to be regarded as the creepiest person in the room. Which I hope I’m not. (I do have awkward nailed down, though!) OK, enough chatter. Here’s the list.

1. Be self-aware. In simplest terms, this means THINK! Think about what you’re about to do or say. If someone said these words to you or did whatever, would it freak you out or make you feel comfortable and at ease? Rely on the filter between your brain and your mouth. Sure, we’ve all had those moments in which we’ve said something that sounded SO much better in our heads, but if that’s all you’re ever saying, you might be coming across as awkward and/or creepy to others. So just think! You don’t have to overthink everything you say, practice how to act, or use cue cards, but learn some social norms and play within them.

2. Watch your face! A friend’s high school boyfriend once didn’t like me because he thought I was, quote, “always making faces at him.” I wasn’t; I just happen to have an expressive face (what I think, feel, etc. will come across my face. There’s no hiding it. It’s why I can’t be a judge on “American Idol.” That and the fact they’ve never asked.) Anyway, that situation led to some awkwardness, but it’s your face, particularly your gaze that often leads to you being considered creepy. Mindy and Rachel and I talked about this at length last night. You may be staring off into space, have bad eye sight that results in squinting, or just think that staring at people like Hannibal Lector makes you cool, but it doesn’t.

3. Personal space is real . . . and important. Some of us LOVE our personal space. Some of us have bigger personal space bubbles than others and don’t really want you in it unless we really like you and have invited you in. Some people are simply completely unaware of personal space. And that’s creepy, or at least figures into being considered creepy. If people are continually taking two steps back when you’re talking with them, you’re probably too close. Recognize this, then do something about it!

4. Some things aren’t exactly appropriate. Sure, with your close friends and loved ones, you’re free to talk about whatever and anything goes. That’s generally not the case in ALL situations. Some topics should not be discussed at the lunch table. Some topics are something that really need to stay between you and your best friend, husband, boyfriend, mom, whomever. If the topics you pick to discuss in social situations always cause an awkward silence to descend, they’re probably not the best topics to discuss. And so what if it’s your house or you think sex/your baby’s diapers/potty training/whatever is the most important thing in your life right now! It is your job as host to make people feel comfortable. It leads to awkwardness, avoidance, and perhaps the creepy label when you don’t.

5. Don’t become a Facebook stalker. I’m just saying.

6. Social skills make a difference. Some people are socially awkward and unaware. You know this. You work with some; met one at the coffeehouse. This can lead to AWKWARD and veer toward creepy, though. I’m sure most of these situations arise from someone simple wanting to get to know you better and not knowing how to do so. Following people around making weird, stilted conversation involving the tidbits you know about their lives isn’t it. Neither is simply inserting yourself into that person’s life at every opportunity or calling someone up to ask weird questions that are not appropriate for the level of relationship you have (i.e., Am I psycho? Why do people always leave me? Can I ask you to do [insert strangely intimate favor]?) At some point, you have to step back and let the other person make an effort. If they want to pursue the relationship, they will. But if you’ve made it sufficiently uncomfortable with inane conversation, assuming you know the person better than you do, and saying inappropriate things, they probably won’t want to pursue a relationship of any kind, whether friendship or something more.

I’m sure there are so many other things that lead to being thought of as awkward (and perhaps creepy), but I’m out for the moment. And believe me, I know awkward. I’ve found myself in enough of those situations. But after a weird conversation the other night that I can’t figure out if it was just wanting to share info or off-base flirting, the grocery store bagger incident, and such, I’m out to rid the world of creepiness.

Or at least take it down a notch or two.

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