PinguAs any socially anxious person will most likely avoid eye contact and not tell you, a major reason why they might not wear a watch is because they become abundantly aware of how much their watch-wearing arm swings about compared to the other arm. My idiot brain, for example, worries that I might end up looking like Pingu on cocaine. To be fair, I reckon I could probably pull that look off.

A watch brings with it the irrational worry that other people will treat you differently based on the speed of your arm-swing. As someone whose brain worries constantly about this rubbish—even when I’m not wearing a watch—let me take you through a tour of my head.

First off, let me be clear. I know worrying about this is stupid. I know this. I understand that other human beings have infinitely more important things to think about than me and how quickly my arms are swinging. But my brain refuses to let it go. It literally keeps me up at night and won’t shut up about it.

And as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, my brain and I are essentially separate entities.

The Primary Objective

hiding

My main purpose, when doing anything, is that I be as inconspicuous as possible. I aim to blend in with the background and go about my day unnoticed by others. I’d rather observe than participate. At the same time, I don’t want to be so inconspicuous that my inconspicuousness itself becomes conspicuous. A balance must be struck.

The Problem Begins

Whenever I put a watch on, my brain starts having a panic attack. When you’re walking around, your arms naturally swing at the same rate, like pendulums. If you add weight to the end of one of these pendulums, it’ll fall out of sync. Wearing a watch means your arms won’t swing at the same rate and people will notice you.

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In order to not be noticed by everyone else who’s walking around like a normal human being, I need to make sure my arms are swinging at the same rate. The arm I wear a watch on swings more than the one that is free of physical and mental burdens. Obviously, I can’t swing my non-watch arm as much as my watch-wearing arm because then people would wonder if I’m having some sort of seizure and immediately look at me, which is the very thing I’m trying to avoid.

On the other hand, my watch-wearing arm swing can’t be as slow as my regular swing, because then people would think my watch weighs nothing, which they know is impossible. Two potential outcomes here.

One, they’d think I’m intentionally trying (and clearly failing) to trick them into thinking I’ve got a weightless watch. I’d be branded as a rubbish liar and cast out from society.

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Two, they might actually think I own a weightless watch and come over and ask me all sorts of questions, which is an equally terrible outcome. This is why I’m not a fan of fancy watches and why I loved my inconspicuous yet classy Pebble Steel.

Potential Strategies

Hmm. How about you just not wear a watch then? you ask. Skip all the hassle. No watch equals no worries. 

According to my idiot brain and its ability to make up meaningless statistics, the majority of people wear watches and if you don’t wear a watch, you’re different and therefore noticeable. To blend in with society, a watch is needed. If I insist on not wearing a watch, my idiot brain would constantly irk me to at least pretend I’m wearing one, which is extra effort and entirely useless.

Late

I don’t want to get into it, but not wearing a watch is not a viable solution. Trust me on this one. You might as well have said the ideal solution is to not have hands. Ignoring the obvious sarcasm of that hypothetical response, I’d like to point out how stupid an idea that is because your watch would slip off all the time. Also, not having hands is clearly noticeable.

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On the other hand, you could cut off one arm and then get a bionic arm in its place. It will be obvious that your arms are weighted differently and so no one will question why they swing at different rates. You would be able to get away with your awkward arm-swinging gait.

But again, a bionic arm is quite noticeable. People will definitely ask you how you tragically lost your arm. Was it because you did something heroic? Was it some traumatic and horrific accident? “Because I wanted to wear a watch,” isn’t really the best answer. Also, bionic arms are ridiculously expensive.

POCKETS!

Seriously? you ask, raising an eyebrow. Why are we discussing this? You’ve spent close to 700 words saying nothing useful. Just shove your hands in your pockets and never deal with arm-swinging issues again!

Yes, sometimes the best strategy is to shove your hands into your pockets and spend the rest of your day thanking God pockets exist.

Shoving hands into pockets is especially difficult when one doesn’t have pockets.

But more often than not, pockets are used to hold things other than hands. I’ve got my phone, wallet, keys, spare change, and all kinds of rubbish in there. Adding my hands to the mix would just bulge out my pockets, which is noticeable and awkward. Also, shoving hands into pockets is especially difficult when one doesn’t have pockets (or hands, bionic or otherwise).

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So, how to deal with this petty, insignificant, not-a-real-problem struggle?

The Otherwise-Engaged-Arm Approach

One strategy—my personal favourite—is to keep one of my hands actively engaged. Maybe I text someone (spend an hour thinking of the perfect text, type out “Hey,” and then spend the next few days cursing my inability to be eloquent), check the weather, or glance at the clock and “suddenly remember I was supposed to do something,” abruptly turn around, go home to grab my watch, convince myself I didn’t need to go outside anyway, and spend the rest of the week doing nothing at home and berating myself for my life choices. Fun times.

If my phone’s not readily available, then that means I’m probably holding a cup of tea or a newspaper. Basically, the idea is to keep one of my arms busy. This way, my other arm can swing at its natural frequency. Since there’s no other arm to compare the swinging arm to, people will never know if I’m swinging too fast or too slow. And the genius of this approach is that it doesn’t matter which arm I keep preoccupied.

It’s a great idea, isn’t it Heisenberg?

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*slams table* Thank you!

The otherwise-engaged-arm (OEA) approach is simple and effective. Not only does it look entirely inconspicuous, but it doesn’t require any additional effort. The trick is for your arm to be actively engaged. You can’t walk around with your phone in your hand if you’ve no plans of using it to fake a social life. What you’re doing is adding unnecessary weight to one of your arms and disrupting your arm swing, which is the very problem we’re trying to solve.

You can’t walk around with your phone in your hand if you’ve no plans of using it to fake a social life.

One of your arms should be actively engaged. It needs to be at least at a 90-degree angle. For example, if you hold a cup of coffee, you’re hardly going to swing that arm about like an idiot. It’ll be fixed at that angle and it’ll look perfectly normal.

Pro Tip: Remember to take a sip from the cup every now and then, otherwise they’ll catch on to your ploy.

If you have nothing to hold in your hand, don’t have a medical sling readily available, and aren’t comfortable with breaking your wrist, then your best bet is to take your jacket off (assuming you’re wearing one) and drape it across your arm, like the gentleman on the left.

It’s better to suffer the unbearable wrath of winter than have your arms swing at different rates.

Or at least, that’s what my idiot brain tells me.

No jacket? You could massage your temples and tell people you’ve got a killer headache. You could scratch your chin and pretend your philosophising. You could rub your eyes and say you lost your contact lens or something. You could fold your arms across your chest and tell people you’re perpetually disappointed with the Suicide Squad movie. Worst case scenario, pull an Xavier and tell everyone you’re cosplaying.

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Overthinking Much?

You might think that I’m overthinking this (I definitely am), but I’m barely scratching the surface. You see, while all this is going on inside my head, I also need to dedicate a portion of my idiot brain to control my face/body and act like I’m not thinking about this at all. Act like I’m just as casual and normal as the rest of the watch-wearing-while-walking-at-the-same-time population. Other people don’t think about this kind of stuff, right?

Although the OEA is a great idea, my idiot brain has other concerns it needs to focus on. For example, it needs to take into account the weight of the watch itself. Many people own more than one watch, and they’re hardly the same weight. Depending on which watch you wear, you need to adjust your arm swing to accommodate. This takes time and practice.

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And what about people who wear fitness trackers or bracelets/bangles? If any of these are on the same arm as the watch, you need to recalculate your arm swing. You can get away with weird arm-swings if your watch and bangles are on different arms, because people know the two can’t be weighted evenly.

But what of rings? Rings are important.

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Calm down there, Sauron, you say. What in Eru’s name are you on about? 

Well, what I’m getting at is that you need to be aware of the weight on each arm. This is vital if you want your horribly-awkward gait to go unnoticed. Rings add weight, however small, to your hands (and to your soul, if you happen to be a Hobbit on your way to Mordor).

Another issue people forget about is sleeve length. They don’t take into account what happens when they roll their sleeves up unevenly. At this point, you should understand the severity of such a horrible oversight.

The worst possible thing you can do is own an ill-fitting timepiece.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but I’ll tell you anyway. How you wear your watch matters too. Some people wear their watch near the wrist, others slightly higher. Others wear it high (mid-arm) but are skinny enough that it keeps sliding down to their wrist whenever they walk.

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The worst possible thing you can do is own an ill-fitting timepiece. Every instance you go flailing your arms about like an overly-enthusiastic air dancer, you are disrupting the very concept I am trying my best to instil in your cranium.

Obligatory List for (Hopefully) Satisfying Closure

People like lists, so here’s a checklist of stuff you should work on if you wear a watch and want to blend in with society.

  1. Everyone walks in their unique way. Don’t copy someone else’s style (unless you’re trying to moonwalk) because people will notice. Walk how you always walk. As awkward and uncomfortable as it may be, it is your unique style. Own your gait. OWN IT.
  2. Buy one watch that will work in both professional and casual situations. Make sure it fits properly. Luke, nice of you to hang around. How would you react if I told you people think it’s good to own more than one watch?
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  3. Get comfortable with the size and weight of your watch. Practice wearing it on either arm.
  4. If you wear bangles, fitness trackers, or rings, make sure you’re OK with the weight distribution on your arms. Alternate how you wear these items, so you’re ready for anything.
  5. Own a jacket thin enough to comfortably wear during any season (you’d look weird wearing a winter coat during summer). Make sure the jacket is one you’d be OK with draping across your arm if the situation requires it.
  6. Buy clothes that have pockets. Try to limit what you put in your pockets so you can shove your hands in there in case of emergencies.
  7. You can hide the fact you’re wearing a watch if you always wear long-sleeved clothes, but make sure you don’t roll your sleeves up unevenly.

I hope, then, that it’s clear the best approach is the otherwise-engaged-arm. Not only does it look entirely inconspicuous, but it doesn’t require any additional effort. This means, you don’t need to dedicate that portion of your brainpower to act like you’re not thinking about this stuff. You can use it to worry about other stuff, like how often you’re blinking compared to the rest of the population. Obviously, you’ll need to takr into account wind speed, humidity, direction of travel, eyelash length relative to eye shape/size etc.

Also, please tell me and my idiot brain that other people worry about these sorts of things.

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3 thoughts on “My Idiot Brain and Watches: To Wear or Not to Wear?

  1. To answer the inquiry you posed at the end of your post, I’d like to affirm that I have similar anxiety, but instead of watches, my thing is earrings or necklaces. I’ve never been much of a jewelry chick after I outgrew my childhood phase of frequently playing princess dress up. Nowadays I do own earrings and necklaces, but I often feel hesitant to wear them in public because they obviously draw other people’s attention. Worse is when I wear studs instead of dangling earrings because studs are not as immediately visible from a near distance so I find people staring at me for more than the 5 second mark as they try to work out what color and shape the studs are. Then when people are looking at my necklace, I get self conscious and feel the urge to cross my arms or fidget or even get out of the person’s line of sight. I used to avoid wearing brightly colored clothes and only wore black because I was too freaked out by the prospect of people looking at me if I wore an eye catching color.

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    1. Hey Nat, thanks for the response! I’ve (thankfully) not had to deal with the earring/necklace issue myself, but I can see how it would be uncomfortable, especially if you’re wearing studs. When you’re dealing with anxiety, it takes courage to actually even decide to wear them, let alone deal with the pressure of people staring at you. How did/do you deal with the self-consciousness of it all? As you can see from my post, I just have thoughts (sometimes logical, often not) randomly popping up all over the place. One thought will create a hundred other tangential thoughts which will create a hundred more and they all go racing around in my head to the point where it’s impossible to keep track of it all.

      By the way, I read through your site and you’ve written some really interesting posts, so you’ve got yourself a new follower! Writing is incredibly therapeutic, don’t you think? You get to see things from multiple points of view and it helps you gain insight and understand your thoughts and (sometimes) focus your energies.

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      1. Definitely, I can relate to having logical and illogical thoughts pop up in my head when the anxiety hits. For some aspects of self-consciousness, I feel like I’ve been able to somewhat decide not to give a damn what people think when they look at me. Sometimes I am able to concentrate hard and just visualize (in my head) the person’s staring as a brief wave that is passing in front of me but not actually touching me, almost as if I’m observing the wave and seeing it but not being bothered by it at all. I don’t know why I took to having this kind of visual in my head, but it does help sometimes.

        Other times it’s a no go and I’m internally freaking out while feigning a “I don’t care” demeanor. My instant reaction when I’m stared at is to start feeling insecure and wondering if I look strange or if my jewelry looks like it doesn’t match me. I even start thinking the person doesn’t like me because I’m short, or because of my ethnicity, or if I’m not attractive, etc. It is incredibly intimidating to meet a person’s stare because if the non-verbal interaction when I’m holding someone else’s gaze. Sometimes it can be so unnerving, even when I manage to hold the person’s gaze, that part of me just wants to flee and go home, as just a person looking at me and my perception of it as threatening/negative has depleted my self esteem so much that I want to crawl in a hole and never come out. Then there’s the frustration of meeting the person’s gaze and staring back. The non verbal exchange aspect is weird, and I often am thinking to myself as I look at the person, “what do you want from me?? What do you see in me that has caught your attention and you can’t stop looking??” I usually keep my face neutral while this is going on, but the comical part is I forget that the person can’t hear my thoughts.

        Thank you for visiting my blog. I’m still surprised when people are keen enough to read stuff I’ve written. Writing is a great way to get my thoughts out there, which I would otherwise probably keep to myself. Comments on my blog posts are definitely appreciated. I enjoy reading feedback/advice that people have for me. 🙂

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