On the worst of my introverted days this is how I feel:
As a lifelong member to the society of the socially withdrawn I will always bristle at every attempt at small talk the rest of you try to make with me. Small talk for me is nothing more than cheap foreplay that should be just cut out of equation. Let’s just get down to the big nasty without the usual verbal dance of weather forecasting, child bragging, and mindless gossip. The only thing I hate more than talking about the mundane day-to-day moments of my life is being filled in on yours. Please don’t take it personally – I don’t find either of us very interesting.
This is how I think small talk should go down:
Person: Hi John.
John: Hello person.
Person: You are alive. That is nice.
John: Yes, I live. As do you. Aren’t we a pair?
Person: Agreed. Now, I’m going to leave and forget that you still exist.
John: Same here. Enjoy breathing oxygen.
I can’t for the life of me understand why we all like to talk to each other so damn much. Due to my unending introversion I can assure the rest of the civilized world that I won’t be the one who will ever be the one t initiate any social encounter. I could be dying from some ancient poison and notice that you are carrying a vial of the antidote around your neck and I still wouldn’t consider engaging you. Yes, I would rather bleed out through my eyes than to strike up a convo with you in order to secure my remedy. So, if in the future we end up talking outside of the post-office it’s probably your fault that it happened.
Unfortunately for me (or more accurately: you) I am suspicious of anybody who approaches me to talk. My initial thought is “What in the hell do you want from me?” Do you need money? I would gladly pay to get out of having to answer your interrogations about my life. What is this, Gitmo? If you want to know about the inner workings of my day to day existence I will require that I have my court appointed lawyer present. Cut to chase and tell me what it is you want! Do you want me to help you move out of your second floor apartment? I can’t help with that because I’ll vomit at the first drop of back sweat that will eventually start to form under my polo shirt. You don’t want puke all over your coffee table, do you? Of course not. Or are you asking me to watch you urine spraying cat? Sorry, you wouldn’t want me do that. I am required to sacrifice all cats I encounter to my Canine Lord Barkus. Normally, I would love to help out, but Barkus demands his blood tribute and I am very devote.
When I discover that people who want to talk to me don’t actually have an ulterior motive I become even more enraged. Conversation for the sake of conversation!? That does not compute. In movies each and every line of dialog helps move the story along. All the words that are spoken are meaningful and carefully scripted to funnel the characters toward an pre-determined outcome. In the real world we are happy to bump into each other and yammer away about the inane. It’s like long division – I just will never figure it out why we subject ourselves to this bullshit.
“Oh, you just got a promotion? That’s great. Hold on a second, I’m going to huff some glue.”
This all makes me sound like an asshole or world class narcissist. I think neither of those options are true – but of course, that is what an asshole or narcissist would be expected to say. I think my major problem is that I have grown too comfortable inside the walls of my own unsocial cave that I dug into the side a Hermit Mountain.
My father was the master at small talk. He could stop and chat with the best of them. He seemingly knew everybody in our town and could bounce from person to person in a manner that resembled a bee in a flowerbed. When folks would walk up to him with a hand extended his face would light up like a jackpotted slot. I have no doubt that when somebody approaches me to gab I probably have a look on my face that indicates I am in the middle of shitting out my colon. I always envied the way my dad was with other people. He genuinely liked other humans – there was nothing fake about his passion for people. His ability to engage with other people is one of the things that made him a great small business owner, and an even better person.
It has not escaped me that part of what holds me back in life is my shyness. My natural habitat is the inner workings of my own skull. It’s nice in here – but sometimes it does get lonely. All around me I see people like my dad shaking hand and networking with each other. They all belong to the “It’s Who You Know” Club and they are affirming each other’s existence with back pats and over-exaggerated laughs. Everyone else seems to be small talking their ways to a better life. I have no doubt that if I just could find a way to fit in better with people I would be the president of a bank – instead of the snarky keyboard clacker that I’ve become. I often wonder what it is like to not walk into a party and dry hump the wall or wish that somebody would pull the fire alarm. What would it be like to walk in and shake hands and tell people about how awesome we all are or to articulately complain about the “ridiculous” political scene in DC? How would it feel to not be so introverted that I spend most of my spare time working on a real cloak of invisibility?
It would probably feel pretty great. If I am being honest, there are times when I’m jealous of you small talkers. You all seem to be having a better time than I am. Whenever people accuse me of being rude because of how unapproachable I am I try to explain that I don’t ever feel like I’m superior to anybody else. It’s impossible for me to feel like I’m above people when I’m so deep inside myself.