All of my life I have felt like the odd-one-out. I couldn’t have basic, nice, ordinary conversations about sports teams or the weather. Small talk stymies me; after “hi” and “how are you?” I am a bit at a loss. I am more at ease talking to one person about ideas, books, or delve into their past. I don’t care for large parties, late nights or wild scenes. And when we’re at a party, my husband constantly scans my face for the “look” that says, “Let’s go.” And as much as I love visiting my friends, I also love being alone. Once some of my friends popped in unannounced, and I told them that I had been reading. They walked into my quiet home, no music, no TV, no noise whatsoever, and saw my book by my chair. They were a little stunned, “You’re actually reading?” Sigh. “Yes, I’m actually reading.” What I didn’t say was, “How long are you planning to stay so I can get back to my book?” The majority of my activities are solitary: walking, reading, writing, cooking, and even teaching. In the classroom it is me alone running the show with my students. In the meantime I envision my future hermitage.
So it was rather a revelation when one of my friends sent me a link to a review of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It was like seeing my face on the Jumbo-Tron at a ball game: “That’s me! That’s me!”. Holy smokes, I’m normal?! I’m not weird and there are others like me? This may not sound all that revolutionary, and you may be thinking, “Wow, you are a person who loves to be alone who learns that you love to be alone. Yay, you.” However if you grow up in a society that values group collaboration, Super Bowl parties, and team sports, admitting that you wish everyone would please shut up and turn off their music and that you’d rather be alone is practically un-American. You feel bad for turning down (or wanting to turn down) invitations; it’s nothing against other people. You recognize that you are the stick-in-the-mud and go along with the noise because it’s what everyone else wants. It’s exhausting. So, it’s a relief to know that I do not suffer from a social abnormality.
This does not mean I am never out and about. I am. When I go out, the majority of my visits have a few things in common: they happen during the day; I am visiting with 1-3 friends; and they are in a quiet setting. I often wondered if I am the way I am because of my hearing, and the list above is suited for someone who is hard of hearing. Loud, bustling places with lots of people talking in the same conversation is especially difficult for someone who doesn’t hear well and reads lips. Yet, there are people who are hard-of-hearing who are social butterflies and love the night-life. So it’s just me.
Readers, are any of you introverts? What are your observations about life as an introvert?