Thursday, June 19, 2008

Excuse for an apology

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.

10 comments:

Thom said...

The "it's not a disease" bit is very true and important. I found comfort in reading that it is not something to be "cured" and, anyway it can't be. All you can hope for is to be able to manage your shyness, and not let it take over your life. (Sometimes, we do get a little self-indulgent and feed the retiring demon too much.)

It's important, though, to come to terms with the fact that even if you become a stand-up comic who farts on stage on demand (sorry Uncle P!), you will always be a shy person... that you'll always have the basic traits. And most of these are good traits: kindness, sensitivity, an ability to listen (SO RARE!!!!)...

About the people taking it personally, I think it works out that the ones who matter, understand. Of course, this is dangerous thinking - that the ones who don't understand, don't matter... or maybe it's true?

But think about how much nonsense you take from other people--nosiness, rudeness, comments about your hair... your need to retire once in a while is hardly as demanding as the old schoomate who HAS to tell you that you've put on weight and then gets upset because YOU get upset.

There's a trait that's not so desirable: shy people tend to blame themselves for the things other people do or don't do, "hence the guilt you didn't deserve". I think, the next time, think of the ease with which Elise from DMC tells you that you're having a bad-hair day (DON'T tell me that such a person does not exist!) and, with the same blase, careless ease, get yourself out of the room for a well-earned break.

Thom said...

And on the subject, I sometimes wonder whether I have a sign on my forehead saying, "I am open to all your thoughtless comments about my appearance".

I can't believe how easily people I don't know well enough, make remarks or suggestions about my hair or beard or clothes or weight that I wouldn't DREAM of making to them.

Gargoyle said...

It's very true about putting up with a LOT from others. Whenever I'm most furiously resentful, it's because of a huge sense of injustice about this!

Gargoyle said...

I think the introversion is separate from the shyness. In the sense that I don't need to be by myself because I'm shy of the company. I just want to be alone. Or is that all part of the same thing?...

Thom said...

I think you can separate shyness and introversion, but it's usually a buy one, get one free I think!

Gargoyle said...

Ha ha ha probably!

Krishnan Menon said...

If we were all in the same city we could be sitting around a dining table drinking tea and having this discussion in person!

Gargoyle said...

True true true

Thom said...

Okay okay okay okay okay okay okay okay. Okay okay.











Okay.

Anonymous said...

Ughh. Why did you quit smoking?

Its a summer evening. I'm dying for a smoke.

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