Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Please Shut the Closet Door on Your Way Out

Well, the blog is a little late this week because I’ve had a bunch of stuff going on—not the least of which was that our neighbor finally caught the chicken-killing stray dog that’s been hanging around our neck of the woods. And we weren’t even here to enjoy it.

Instead we were at the funeral for one of Beaven’s cousins. And I can honestly say it was the first funeral I’ve ever been to where they played “Dancing Queen” as part of the funeral service. Cousin Ricky was farther out of the closet than we ever dreamed, I guess, but it made for a great funeral. Except that he died far, far too young. The world needs a whole lot more folks who would want songs like “Dancing Queen” played at their funerals. But we don’t want the funerals. We need people like that alive and walking around among us spreading their effervescent joi de vivre. Everyone should have the zest that Ricky had. However, sad to say, not everyone does. Not in a way that we can see.

Because there is still one more closet some people are hiding in. People who have been born just a bit different from the rest of us, an invisible condition that keeps them hidden from society’s gaze. While all the lesbians, gays, bis, and transgendered people are jumping out of closets right and left to resounding cheers from people like me, there is still one group of people hiding in the back of their own closets begging for us to keep the door shut. These people are cowered there in the dark holding the door shut with both hands with all their might. You can’t tell by looking at them. You would never guess what they are unless they told you.

Introverts.

Not only did I inadvertently marry one, I gave birth to two of them. Coincidentally, they are all three left-handed. I’m not saying there is a correlation. But they out-numbered me in our household and never realized the power they held. They could have demanded the entire house be arranged for left-handed people but didn’t. Instead, they chose to wield the Introvert Hatchet on many a potential social event, which was far more painful for me than living in a left-handed house.

I passed up a zillion cool parties because I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. I eventually began hosting my own parties for friends whenever Beaven went out of town. Now that he’s retired and doesn’t travel for work I encourage him to attend his annual Ham Radio Convention in May. It’s the best party of the year. In fact, lately I’ve had to give two parties that weekend now that I have friends here in Winnsboro. Come one, come all.

I understand introverts up to a certain point but never well enough, it seems. Any discussion of how hard it is to be an introvert usually ends with me desperately wanting to form an Introvert’s Club so they would have friends to commiserate with. The plans grow in my mind in a burst of mental energy: they could have conventions and reunions and theme parties. I visualize monogrammed jackets: “International Introverts Association.” And no sooner do these thoughts pop into my mind than I have to laugh at myself. Because I give a typical extrovert solution to an introvert’s problem.

A perfect example of the Introvert’s Curse is that Elizabeth and the dear departed cousin Ricky were in a class together in high school. (I told you he was too young to die.) Ok, wait—we have to back up to an ever better example. First you have to know that Beaven never wanted to attend large family gatherings with his cousins because they were large family gatherings. Even Family stuff. Get the picture? Consequently, our kids didn’t grow up knowing their cousins. And dear extroverted Ricky, bouncing out of his own closet hopped into Elizabeth’s on the first day of a class. Hearing Elizabeth’s last name he told her he thought he was related to her. Mortified to be outed as an introvert, she avoided him the rest of the semester and missed a great opportunity for a family connection. Even Family, folks. It is that bad.

I will never understand these people and they will probably never understand me. Elizabeth, Emily and Beaven understand each other and I am left in the dark most times.

They don’t do parties or large crowds. They hate being the center of attention. The only time either one of my daughters did anything remotely extrovert-ish was walk down the aisle at their own weddings with a couple hundred people watching. And I’m still trying to figure out how they managed to pull it off. I know they both were in cold sweats at their own bridal showers. And Emily made me promise I wouldn’t let anyone give her a baby shower. Her fear of being on stage far outweighed any desire for material gain or homage to her fertility. Beaven had an offer to be in a movie Oliver Stone was making in Dallas once and he turned it down not once, but twice.

There’s an excellent  new book out called The Introvert’s Way. It’s by Sophia Dembling and I highly recommend it to anyone who is introverted or loves someone who is. It’s full of concrete and helpful hints. I especially liked her suggestion to go to the bathroom at a party whether you need to or not because being in your own small private space for just a few minutes can help. I have a friend who regularly goes to huge week-long youth retreats even though she’s an introvert. I asked her how she manages during the week and she told me she takes long showers as often as she can.  Just like going to the bathroom at a party, having a small, private space of your own helps.

Probably the hardest part is getting the other half of the world to understand that introverts aren't  stuck-up or stand-offish. Because this personality quirk is invisible, people have no idea why they are so quiet in crowds and thus misunderstand their lack of social engagement.

And you’re sure as hell not going to get them into personalized black leather jackets that read “Introverts Club.”

So back into the closet they go, reminding me to shut the door on my way out.

2 comments:

Barbara said...

Pat and his mother are left-handed and definitely not introverts.

Lynn Donachie said...

You should also read "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain - it's recent and excellent!