What Trump and Comey teach us about social awkwardness
As you might have heard from coverage of former FBI director James Comey's recent testimony before Congress, he and Donald Trump had somewhat of an awkward relationship. So awkward, in fact, that Comey testified he begged his boss Jeff Sessions, not to leave him alone in a room with him. Their interactions were, in their final days, a blisteringly inelegant goof; a half-hilarious, half-disturbing study of the Curb Your Enthusiasm-style chain of events that can lead from mere awkward interaction to total crisis.
Comey is the lawman who got fired for investigating Trump's alleged Russia-assisted election engineering, which he talked to Congress about about today. The biggest political story since November, the testimony is interesting not just because it’s revelations could lessen Trump's time in office, but because it all hinges on a few private, deeply uncomfortable conversations between two guys acting out the always-gross false friendship between employees and their bosses.
See, normally, FBI directors and presidents aren't in the same room together. Comey and Obama stayed distant. It's the same way high school counselors and students don't go to the same pizza joint.
But Comey and Trump did hang. Or, rather, Comey was “summoned” by Trump for a series of brotherly chats, during which Comey has said Trump brought some very un-brotherly things up.
According to his testimony, Trump repeatedly asked Comey for "loyalty," telling him things like "I hope you can let this go" and asking him whether he wanted to "keep his job" as head of the FBI. That was awkward enough for Comey, considering Trump had already told him twice he could keep his job.
However, while Comey did still want his job, he also did not want to let things go. So, he did what anyone in that situation would do and slid away from Trump like a slug away from an owl, trying to keep Trump's trust while also secretly recording their conversations in case Trump slipped up, his testimony says. This was excessively uncomfortable for him — other reports have him hiding in the drapes like a bureaucratic chameleon, and he reportedly told all his friends "don't leave me alone with him. He's weird."
It's all great drama: Comey's discomfort with being alone with Trump is charmingly delicate, a “Mommy help me!” moment that’s made all the more unbelievable considering his muscular position as the head of the FBI.
But, Comey's squicky awkwardness is also deeply relatable. We've all sweated out social awkwardness, especially with our bosses. Those moments when you'd rather dip your tits in liquid nitrogen than share a room with the person who pays you are pervasive, and we can all understand what Comey must have felt like as he was pretending to be Trump's buddy while simultaneously gathering evidence to bring him down.
Trump and Comey's social weirdness has shown a light on other awkward situations. We'd like to highlight what a person can learn from these, how we can all benefit from America's new Reality Show.
House parties with whiny exes. This always happens with small friend groups or small towns — it's a fact of life. You've stopped bone dancing, but you have to stay cool and cordial. Even though there's beef. Even though she left you. You may want to give in to your Comey impulses and investigate them like Flynn, to know exactly when their Twitter jibes with fat-faced fucking Bryan went from @-replys to DM's. Can you subpoena their phone? You cannot. Life is hard. You want to avoid.
Visits from busybody landlords. Every tenant breaks one rule. Stolen cable. A friend on the couch. A field of marijuana in the spare bedroom. And your landlord, with a day's notice, has the right to inspect your domain. This is so awkward. Knowing that you're doing something that could get you kicked out. Knowing all the power they have over you. And where would you sleep? Fat-faced Bryan is not an option. Not after what he did with your ex. You want to avoid.
Sidewalk talks with overly-cheerful neighbors. It's just, like, if you talk to them this time, they're gonna wanna talk to you every time. And sometimes you just wanna check the mail without an hour conversation about dog breeds. And sometimes you feel bad because you're a hungover 29-year-old woman and it's 2 p.m. and you're still in in sweats. It's death. Like the Comey-Trump thing — you want to avoid.
Watercooler moments with bosses we're not sure like us. This is the most directly comparable to the Trump-Comey thing. People who are insecure about their abilities in their jobs hate face-time with bosses. As if the boss could smell incompetence up-close they couldn't from across the office. As if, during small talk, we would blurt out "I'm underqualified and also I sharted!" As if, by avoiding the interaction, we could slither through work and survive another day, like a cockroach. You want to avoid.
Are there lessons here? There are. First, achingly awkward social situations are universal even on the highest level of government. Second, and more lightheartedly, awkwardness can be used to (hopefully) make social change. Life is just one long "Arrested Development" episode, and social interactions are awful whether it's high school, the neighborhood, the friend group or the Oval Office. Time and time again, we learn that we're all the same, no matter whether we're white or black or orange, poor or rich or pretending to be rich to sleep with models — we're all insecure. We're all vulnerable.
We are all James Comey.
Granted: we don't take notes on our convos because we're scared our bosses might lie about us. Still; the principle is the same.