Having lived my entire life as an introvert in extrovert clothing, all my observation of human interaction is through jaundiced eyes.
When I was younger I’d assumed it would get better when I was older. Actually I assumed I would get better – thus not only accepting that the fault was mine, but that it was a fault. Now that I am older, unrelenting social requirements still leave me raw and ragged, but I don’t worry that I feel this way. It's not a disease.
But social gatherings, especially of close friends or family, are complex systems whose equilibrium is based on a finely drawn pattern of behaviour. The males of the species may retreat into strong-silentness without (much) comment or interruption, but the females seem to be expected to be gregarious at all times, especially by, to and with other females.
Most of all, people, for reasons I do not even have guesses for, take introversion personally. When you want to be on your own, they either want to know what's wrong or they look reproachful or worst of all, embarrassed, like they’ve just been made to look stupid. So the solitude becomes impossible to insist on, unless I want to be left with guilt I didn't deserve and fury at this.
I had started to feel in recent years that maybe I’d changed. But it turns out I had just found a way around it – my cigarette break had created, unrecognised by me, an escape route. It was a perfectly legitimate reason to go off on my own and stare into space.
Now that that excuse is gone, my nerves fray and fray and fray, all my resources pulled into just holding it together. I become a rubber band, one of those cheap ones that don’t stretch very far and break easily.
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