We introverts have been pretty bold over the past year, saying things like “We’d love to come to see your new baby just as soon as all this pandemic is over,” and “Once things get back to normal, we’re going to have a biiiggg party.”
Now that things are approaching normal, we have a confession to make: We didn’t mean a word of it.
We were just pretending we wanted to be around people, when in fact the pandemic was social Teflon that gave us superhuman powers to avoid human contact. Now, a return to what the rest of you call “normalcy” is, to us, like Scotty taking down the shields. We feel painfully exposed.
What, we have to go back to the office? Are you kidding? Haven’t we just established over the past year that people are more productive when they don’t have to wear pants?
You don’t even have to be an introvert to despise chamber mixers and art gallery openings and even happy hours. My hearing — and I know I’m not alone — is such that for at least the last 20 years, in a crowded restaurant or a room full of chatter, I cannot make out what the person standing right next to me is saying.
So I watch people’s lips move and act like they’re the most interesting people on Earth when, in fact, I have to clue what they’re saying. I have learned how to fake interest and interspace small “hmm, that’s food for thought” nods with larger, “whoa, I never thought of it THAT way” nods, and I don’t know what I’m agreeing with.
They could be saying that former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie is going to rise from the dead and reclaim his title of Dejazmatch of Gara Mulatta, and I’d be fine with that. At one time or another, I probably agreed with someone professing Ringo to be the most talented Beatle.
And because people always think what they have to say is fascinating and insightful, no one ever seemed to twig to the fact that they might as well have been talking to a lamppost.
Matter of fact, for an introvert, the only thing worse than not being able to hear people is being able to hear people. For us, small talk causes a reaction similar to a mental form of poison ivy, running the scale from a mild irritant to a full-blown psychotic eye gouging.
If you are a normal person, you have no idea how eternally blissful it is to go through an entire year without hearing the words, “Hot enough for ya?”
“Think this rain will ever stop?”
“Well, it always has.”
If you want to walk up to us on the street and ask our level of concern over China’s dominance of the market for rare-earth metals, we’re fine with that. Just don’t be like the guy with the Progressive insurance sign who says, “Mondays, right?” He’s lucky the guy across the table just shakes his head and says “What about ’em?” before taking a pull on his coffee. Most of us would have thrown the coffee in the other guy’s grill.
While other people are gleefully posting photos of their vaccination cards on Facebook, we are hiding ours. We do not want people to know we are fit for human interaction. In fact, if asked, we are quite liable to lie about it.
Sure we’ve been vaccinated, but we’re not going to tell you, because you’re going to want us to come to your wedding, or stop by for tea or meet your new personal trainer. It’s not that we don’t like people, it’s just that we want contact to be meaningful and limited, not frivolous and constant.
And if to attain that we have to fashion ourselves as Fauci-hating anti-vaxxers? You don’t know how far we’ll go.