I’m an introvert. Introverted enough that sometimes even my own company is too much stimulation and I must lie quite still in the dark.
I know a lot of extroverts. Extroverts are not okay right now.
I’m trying to empathize. The problem is, in some ways this is a slightly sad version of my best life. I’m currently forbidden to commute, encouraged to take solitary walks where no one is allowed to stop me to talk to me, and I am being socially encouraged for the health of my fellow Americans to eat takeout while I catch up on my stories, when possible. Apart from being separated from friends and family, this is some weird version of the dream.
To try to empathize, though, I close my eyes and imagine the introvert version of this crisis. It would be some new problem that makes home unsafe, that makes being alone or in small groups a public-health hazard. We’d be required to be in groups of ten or more at all times, not allowed to go home and put on the jim-jams and rest our tender vocal cords for a few hours.
In these uncertain times*, extroverts are finding all kinds of new ways to connect. Technology makes this possible. It’s fantastic.
The problem is, this is something of an arms race, because introverts are running out of plausible ways to say no. What excuse do we have?
“I’m busy napping at that time.”
“That’s the hour when I scrape off dried egg bits from the wall due to my tragic soufflé attempt.”
“I have to stare out the window to race pigeons against each other, and if I look away I won’t know who won.”**
“I owe it to the dozens of loyal psycho-pomp-dot-com readers to get them the content for which they clamor! No time to chat!”
It’s hard to say these things without unintentionally implying that “I would literally rather stare at my fingernails in silence than connect with you.”
Because that’s not it! In fact, I love connecting. There’s no better feeling than keeping up and catching up with old friends. I only wish I had far more hours in the day, or perhaps some kind of live-in servant who could do my salaried work for me (again, just call me Lady Mary) so that I’d have enough time to recharge the old batteries properly in between.
In ordinary times, there is an active world out there that I can choose to participate or not participate in. Often, my choice not to participate is shrouded in mystery: “I’m busy.”
Doing what? Clubbing? Volunteer swamp clearing? Working on my army of rumored novels? Making medieval war dioramas out of toothpicks? Road tripping? Seeing my good friend you-don’t-know-her-she-went-to-a-different-school? No one knows.
But what plausible busy-ness do I have now?
It’s the great equalizer. All that remains is (gulp) being straightforward about my preferences and needs.
To summarize, in far fewer characters:
It’s an arms race.
**No pigeons were harmed in the making of this diversion. In fact, no pigeons were aware that they were racing, as far as I know. I think pigeon racing probably all happens in the legendary pigeon underground, and if I knew about that, I certainly wouldn’t be at liberty to post about it here.