Introverts: The Quietest Club of All

Psst. Hey you. Are you alone right now? Isn’t it wonderful?

If you said yes, welcome to the club. You may be like me, one of a growing percentage of admitted introverts. You crave solitude and need quiet alone time to recharge, which, let’s be honest, makes it sound like you’re an iPod or Seven of Nine from the old Star Trek: Voyager series, irony of the Borg Collective notwithstanding.

In reality, there are several degrees of introversion. There are people who end up in the kitchen talking to friends at loud parties, and those who grit their teeth during a routine trip to a busy grocery store, only feeling secure when they’re back at “home base.”  When it comes to flavors of introversion, taste the rainbow. Many of us detest being rushed or forced to make snap decisions, others are great with crowds but have trouble relating to people one-on-one.

Each level has its passionate defenders, and as the old saying goes, “If you can’t find someone to disagree with you, visit the Internet.” (If it’s not an old saying, it will be soon.) There you will find hordes of people debating what an introvert is and isn’t, all from behind the firewalled security of computer screens. Introversion is turning into a hot topic across online media, mainly because the virtual world is the one place we can express ourselves without all the messiness of actual conversation.

There are even people who insist they are introverts, they just balance it with equal parts of happy extroversion. I call these people “normal,” because I can’t even listen to audiobooks without thinking there’s entirely too much talking in my day.  Everyone needs quiet time now and then, but introverts need more.  We don’t need special stickers on our cars for parking, but a little patience when we flash that “deer in the headlights” look after a party invitation is always appreciated. In return, we promise to work on our conversation skills so we don’t embarrass anyone at the company picnic. But if someone brings a dog to the picnic, we’ll probably just hang out on the bench and talk to it while everyone jumps in the burlap for the sack race.

As awkward as it feels for me to publicly admit introversion now, imagine what would have happened if the American Psychiatric Association actually named it as a disorder in the latest manual for diagnosing mental illness.  Pharmaceutical companies would have jumped on board, followed by uncomfortable television ads. “Are you shy? Introverted? Easily fatigued by interacting with other people? Try ExtroAll! ExtroAll gives you the internal fortitude to go out and mingle with the world every single day! Chat up your hairdresser without fear! See the wallet full of grandbaby pictures from your bank teller! Scream at the guy who cut you off in traffic! Do it all with ExtroAll! (Warning: ExtroAll may cause such side effects as verbal diarrhea, emotional constipation, performing tasks in your sleep like running down morons with your car or streaking the Academy Awards, third eye blindness and anal leakage.”)

I definitely don’t need drugs; I have enough imaginary conversations going on in my head as it is. My preferred method of self-medication is a bookstore visit, followed by an afternoon of reading. If you’re in the Introvert Club, too, I’ll probably see you there. Don’t worry, we don’t have meetings. But I might give you a nod as we pass each other in New Fiction.

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