A new world for introverts
We have an opportunity, as we create a new world order, to rewrite norms around socializing that are more introvert-friendly.
The other day I had plans with friends, in-person. We met up for a birthday brunch in the garden of a local restaurant — yes, still outside, even though we’re all vaccinated, because some of us aren’t ready to go maskless in a crowded indoor space just yet. It was swelteringly hot and the waiter was having a bad day — he had to excuse himself mid-sentence at one point as he choked up. The man at the next table spoke loudly into his phone.
It was fun, at first. Novel, and almost kitsch, to be sitting at a table with people who were not my husband and daughter, ordering brunch food and a brunch cocktail, talking about things other than our deepest, soul-level feelings. A feeling of I remember this washed over everything, so that I was simultaneously participating and yet removed, which I always am, as a writer — as myself — but was even more so, on this day.
Then the heaviness set in. Keeping up with conversation, the humidity, the sound of the jovial man prattling on at the table next to us. It was all: Pungent. Overpowering. This isn’t a comment on the people I was with, but the way in which I was with them.
I crumpled into a car for the ride home. Back at my apartment, I got inside, touched down, felt safe, but the residue was all over me, a residue that’s stayed with me for days. I felt — polluted.
The next day, I read a friend’s tweet: “All this socializing is exhausting,” she wrote, reflecting on her experience of the world opening back up. “Amen,” I replied; she felt moved to clarify, “It’s not that I don’t want to see people, it’s just so emotional.” “Ah,” I tweeted back. “For me, it’s that I don’t want to see people.”
I was astonished by my flagrant, anti-social stance, and worried about hurting people’s feelings, but it was true: I do not want to socialize. Connect deeply, one-on-one? Participate in a facilitated group experience, around a topic of interest? Yes, when I’m up to it. When I arrange my schedule just so. But socializing, in the traditional sense, where you bounce around in other people’s energy, no matter how thoughtlessly…