I get mistaken for being a shy person a lot, and to be fair, that’s because I used to be – my junior high experience left me that way, with a trust in humanity that was almost completely destitute. Still though, I did manage to knock out that particular social hangup, and so I can often hold my own in social situations. There is, however, a difference between being shy and not having anything to say to people you don’t know, and so if there’s a big crowd that I’m locked in the middle of somewhere, I’m going to be the weird guy standing off in the corner. Or, more likely, somewhere near the bar, slamming rum and cokes.
It’s not because of anxiety, but because of pressure. It’s an awkward feeling trying to mingle in a big crowd of people I don’t know, had no idea even existed until that day, and will most likely never see again. What am I supposed to do, walk up to some random person and bug him about the weather and football team? If I’m in a big crowd where I don’t know anyone, most of the time there are very few subjects I’m really able to talk about as a common point because all the politically correct subjects bore me to tears. This is part of the reason I follow professional sports – sports are a uniting subject which are followed by many people, frequently out of civic pride. Even then, though, I tend to screw up a lot of the time because I tend to go all out in my fandom – hockey, baseball, and soccer are my favorites, and you can’t be anything less than devoted to follow them – and take a viewpoint which is a lot more analytical than most people are used to. If the subject turns to a subject besides sports which I’m truly interested in, someone is definitely going to want to kill someone else by the end of the party.
I’m an introvert, and wish me luck in trying to get anyone at all to understand this; or at the least, trying to get extroverts to understand this. This doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or shy, although it makes me come off very awkwardly sometimes. What it means is that I like being alone or in very small crowds consisting of a handful of close friends – friends I know well enough so they’re not offended or surprised by very much of what I say or do. It also means I’m prone to spending long periods of time lost in my own head, in some sort of trance, and that if I get disturbed over your own trivial matters, you’re going to be on the giving end of a single-sided conversation. It also means – and this is the part the extroverts truly fail to ever fucking understand – is that my introversion is never, ever going to change. It’s not a choice or a mental block. It’s an orientation, and whining about it will be like whining about my race, deformity, or sexual preference: Complaining about it, setting rules against it, or trying to force a difference isn’t going to end well. I’m not going to change. You’re stuck with what you’ve got.
Unfortunately, the extroverts are the ones ruling the world, and so I’m the one who has to make the adjustments accordingly. I’m very good at that, and it helps that I have an adventurous side which masks my introversion quite nicely. But like every introvert, I take socialization in chunks, and eventually I’m going to need to head off to the corner and hit the refresh button.
What most people don’t realize is that my silence doesn’t mean I’m upset or rejecting anyone. It means I just don’t have anything to say at the time – get me going on something I’m interested in and you’ll want to cut your ears off to escape. Yes, I get lonely, but there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely, and being alone is something I can handle most of the time. If I’m reading or writing alone and the phone rings, I’m not prepared to hold a conversation and anyone on the other end who has to listen to what is little more than my surprised grunting has to live with it. This being the case, my phone conversations tend to be blissfully short even on the occasions I do have them. The sound of a ringing phone might as well be that of a nuclear bomb – loud, scary, and I want to dive under something for cover.
On the outside, there gets to be a time when I don’t want to be around everyone else anymore. Even at my best, I try not to bog myself down with too many social plans, and at large gatherings, I usually don’t want to stay the whole night. (This is where the booze comes in.) If I’m at a really big event for a long time, it will take me time to recover – sometimes a couple of days. I’ll read a lot, write a lot, and vegitate during my recharge period, and frequently not say very much. This is pretty easy living where I do for now because it’s so far off. Yet, living in a more crowded place, there’s more pressure to socialize from people who don’t quite get the fact that I do want to socialize, but I prefer to do it on my own terms. If someone stops by, I try to make them feel at home, but this also requires a rechagring period.
And yes, it’s harder for me to make friends. I’m well past that kids’ part of life where people can just meet anyone at random and be best buds. For introverts to develop friendships, there has to be a lot of common ground, and if there’s uncommon ground, my new friend has to be very good about understanding my viewpoint. Smaller crowds of people I know well and like are where my introvert shell falls off and I feel liberated. I do have many friends outside of this little inner friend sanctuary whose company I truly enjoy, and yes, this inner circle does make it exceedingly hard to get to know the real me. If you make your way in, though, I’ll be your loyal ally for the rest of your life.
Which, depending on your view of me, may be a good thing or a bad thing.