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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Introvert

The picture of this book appeared in a Facebook meme, proclaimed as the "saddest book" ever written. I haven't read it, and I don't own it, because it still looks like too much trouble. Boiling a couple of hot dogs is more my speed. But the import behind it--that there is a market for the solitary, is accurate.

I am introvert, and I live alone, except for a dog. On the Meyers-Briggs scale, there are four parts of the personality with two sides each. One is introvert/extrovert, so most of us are one of these two (people can score in the middle). I am profoundly introverted, and have been as long as I can remember. Basically, an extrovert is someone who likes and needs to be around people--they grow stronger with their association with people. Introverts, while not necessarily misanthropes, are wearied by people and need to be left alone a lot.

I write this not with any particular pride--there are now introvert advocacy groups who try to explain themselves to people. They will say that they are not necessarily aloof or not shy, however, I am shy. I think this stems from my very early childhood, when I was living with my parents in college housing. There were no other small children around. I was comfortable with adults, and indeed, as long as they were alive, I enjoyed spending time with my grandparents and would have rather listened to their stories than play with other kids.

As I grew up I enjoyed being by myself. My mother recalls that I could be put in a room with some toys and I would be quite happy. I made up games with baseball cards and had my own adventures with army men. I recall one time that a kid came to the door and I ran outside to get away from them. My father, who is a very sociable man (but also an introvert) thought something was wrong with me and pushed me into things like Cub Scouts and Little League, but while I was not tortured by it I didn't particularly enjoy it, either.

It didn't help that we moved around. Not as much as army brats, but enough that each time we moved I retreated further into my shell. To make friends I had to be approached. When I moved to New Jersey in the middle of tenth grade one of my first friends was a kid named Dennis. I sat behind him in English class. He said to me, only a bit jokingly, I think, that the first time he noticed me was when I sneezed.

I fell into a group of theater kids my senior year and was fairly social. I got over a fear of speaking and took to the stage, and now I have no problem addressing a crowd. I even did improvisational comedy while in college, and had a circle of friends, and got along with my roommates okay. But ask me to speak to a stranger and I'll think of a million excuses not to.

I've been in therapy a few times, and the therapist I'm seeing now is encouraging me to join groups and things like that. It's a bit like my father all over again. But I'm wondering if I'm just one of those people that is happiest when alone. Like many introverts, I'm secretly happy when plans are cancelled. I don't go to parties. I don't go to clubs. When I have an evening when I have absolutely nothing to do I am enthralled. I can read, watch a movie, talk to the dog, anything. I don't have to deal with people.

Of course this has interfered with having a love life. I haven't really had one. The only relationships I've had have been long distance or with someone who is already involved with someone or both. The girl I've sort of been seeing while her in Las Vegas lives with her ex-husband, and we've finally come to the conclusion that we're better off as friends. I joined a dating service, eHarmony, and realized once again why I don't like them--they put me in the position of rejecting someone, when I hate it so much. I have communicated with a woman who seems very nice and she gave me her phone number but I'm afraid to call it.

I'm not a hermit, nor do I have any interest in being one, but when I have fantasies they usually involve me in some remote place--I've written before about living on a private island--but I think I need some contact with people, at least a little bit. I just need a few friends every once in a while to maintain contact with the human race. But if I analyze it fully, I'm happiest when I'm by myself.

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