Letting people in

I know what you think of me. You’ve read a couple of my blogs already and you’re still in tears with laughter. You think to yourself:

“Golly! This guy really knows the score. He’s sharp and witty. He’s probably a delight to be around and, if I had to guess, just a gorgeous sculpture of a man as well. I’m sure that wherever he goes, people gravitate to him, ask for his counsel and fawn over his every word, hungry for each anecdotal morsel to coax another belly laugh.”

Not so, my friend. Well, you can make an argument about my beauty if you like… go ahead. No? Ok, fine. The truth is: I’m boring… like painfully, saddeningly boring.

Now, (again) I know what you are thinking: “Here we go. Another damned 1000 words about how he’s an introvert. Heard it. Hate it. Don’t appreciate it.”

Well, sir or madam, if you are not interested in my introspection, the easy solution would be to close your browser window, power down your laptop, close the cover, place it into your satchel and hurl it off of a cliff, with you wearing it. In any case, this is a tale of hope and reform – of a man finally blossoming into… well… still a man, but a less-awkward one.

But first – yeah, I’m an introvert. I’m just not good at all of those difficult things you normies take for granted, like genuine emotional responses and facial expressions. The part of my brain that is supposed to be wired for small talk and banter contains a complex network of sensitive receptors for perceiving the flavor of peanut butter and how awesome going to the movies by myself is. On top of that, I’m highly sensitive to people invading my personal bubble – like to the point where once you’ve entered the sphere (unwelcomed), the closer you get the less I can hear what you say and the more I can hear my brain urging me to chop your throatspace. I quell that urge. I still sometimes flinch at and lean away from physical contact, though. Baby steps.

The point is that I’m broken. It’s a natural human feeling to crave interaction with other humans, yet whenever my wife asks me, “don’t you want to make new friends?” I make that face like the emoji that’s showing its teeth but not quite smiling (otherwise known as the best emoji).

Furthermore, I’m boring – or at the very least, that’s what I project. As soon as someone starts asking me personal questions, my brain queues up a game of How Quickly Can I Politely Escape This Interaction? – a game in which I hold 8 Olympic Gold Medals. How that translates to you, as a friendly person, has undifferentiable similarity to talking to brick wall with glasses… and so you politely move away. Thank you, sir or madam.

Even this, one of the most central aspects of my character – my creative endeavors – took me a very long time to feel comfortable sharing with others and I’m still not all the way there. I’m fortunate enough to have had numerous individuals tell me how much they enjoy my writing and how funny they think I am; and to you wonderful folks I’d like to say: I’m sorry. I’m sorry your praise was met with a forced, half-smile, nod of pseudo-understanding, and lightning-quick turn-away and change-of-subject. I really did appreciate your comments. It’s just that even your acclaim feels like an intrusion of my privacy. Even more fortunate, perhaps, is that I’ve been able to commiserate with so many people just like me, who feel like they’re trapped on a deserted island of their own creation and find contentment in that seclusion.

But there’s hope! Why just last week I was in Mexico on a business trip and managed to make friends of 10 or so strangers. And it was so natural; just like any normal person would have done it. I paced back and forth in front of a bar about 20 times, looking into the window to see if there was a single open stool at the bar and convincing myself that no one was likely to talk to me anyway. After a half-hour of that I went in, ordered a beer and fixated, unflinchingly, on the soccer game on T.V. Inspired by my newfound social courage, I allowed a random lady to ask me questions, which I bravely answered truthfully. Through no actual initiative of my own, I managed to meet up with her and her group of friends several more nights during my trip, each time deftly navigating normal social interaction after normal social interaction. It was pure majesty. I don’t know what I said exactly but it must’ve been tens of words if not fifteens of them, over the course of the week.

On top of all that, I actually liked these people too. Like, a lot. There were 13.5 unprompted shoulder touches, 6.25 occurrences of incidental knee contact due to bench adjacency and 3.7253 hours of eye contact – all that and I never felt like I needed to run home immediately and cry sitting down in the shower. Progress!

I’m noticing gains in my local interactions as well. People I’ve known for years are having the epiphany: “Wow. He actually does like people and stuff sometimes.” And I actually do! Faced with the absolute certainty of an “I told you so” from my wife, I had to tell her thank you for making me a better person. She’s certainly not known for her patience but, bless her heart, she’s stuck around long enough to see the best of me and constantly urges me to project that side to others. Her advice and influence have made my life better, my writing more robust and my connections outside of my personal bubble so much more rewarding. So, here’s my public gratitude to the love of my life. Thanks, dear.

I’ve got a long way to go and I still don’t like most of y’all, but a lot of y’all are alright.

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