Before I get into heated, sensitive, and perhaps offensive subject matters, a little background. For me the month of August started in July. July 31st, to be precise. It was my sister’s highschool graduation and we threw a lavish party. I mean, this is the dream birthday party of every ten year old. We had races, human chess, food art, lemonade, and prizes. At around eight o’clock when all the cousins and children under 13 and people who lives in other states were packing up to go, and the sun was just dipping behind the horizon and everyone wanted to go crash on the couch until bedtime, we broke out the glowsticks and the bathing suits and the stereo and rocked out in my brother’s large swimming pool until almost midnight.
The next morning was August 1st. We got up, went down to said brother’s house, cleaned up as best we could, put food away, ate ice cream for breakfast, sorted out useful party stuff from garbage, packed up the car, and drove into town to set up at the park for my 25th birthday party, an event I wanted to throw because I was moving away in a couple of weeks. We decked out trees with streamers, set up tables, made punch, signed a guest book, and ate cupcakes from my awesome cake-decorating boss. When the sun started to sink behind the horizon we cleaned up, again, and drove home, again, and ate leftovers, again, and crashed on the couch watching Good Mythical Morning until midnight and the last relatives decided to go home.
It was awesome. It was exhausting. It was enough party to last me until Christmas.
Two days later, Monday, August 3rd, my sister’s maid of honour, my childhood best friend, and the sister of my brother’s wife, came to town for a week. Tuesday we all went with my sister to Bowling Green to get her wedding dress fitted. We went out to eat at the mall. I convinced everyone to go to the bookstore I had coupons for. Wednesday, August 5th we hosted a memorial service for a close friend’s mother who died seven years ago. It would have been her 50th birthday. We had food, displayed a quilt, and sat in a circle and shared memories. It was good. It went very well. It was 10 PM before everyone left. Thursday I went out with one of my best friends–my last chance to see him again before I moved. We had lunch. We went shopping. We met up with my sister, sister-in-law, and their out of town guests for free root beer floats at A&W. I didn’t get home until well after supper time. Friday the friend’s husband and his best friend came down for the weekend. Friday night was party night. I went over to my brother’s house and played poker with spare change we dug out of our car seat cushions. Saturday night we all drove into town to get ice cream at sonic. Sunday (yesterday as I’m writing this) my sister’s fiancé came over, they bought real poker chips to play with, and I stayed out until midnight. But this time I didn’t play poker. I took my book, I read for an hour, and then I sat in their upstairs movie theatre and watched Harry Potter for five hours. I was the stereotype of anti-social. I didn’t care.
Today is my little brother’s 13th birthday. We have an invitation to a birthday party for his friend who’s birthday is tomorrow. I’m not going. Neither is my sister in law. She’s clearly an introvert. I go back and forth between classifying myself as extrovert and ambivert. But at this point it really doesn’t matter what kind of -vert we are. That much partying would kill anyone’s desire to socialize.
This is what so many of my introvert evangelist friends miss when the post blogs with topics like “The care and feeding of introverts.” So many of us have experienced the exact same things that are considered to be “introvert” characteristics, and treating those activities like they belong to an exclusive club is ignorant at best and, at worst, they can be very hurtful. It’s not that you’re not special. It’s just that everyone else is special too. We may never be as sensitive, as insecure, or as desiring of solitude as you, but it doesn’t mean we don’t feel those emotions, share those experiences. We’re all human, after all. We may express ourselves differently, but we feel the same emotions.
So this morning, prompted by a healthy round of people over-dose, I began composing ironic, slightly deprecating remarks about introverts and anti-social activities. Most of these would probably get me alienated from all of you forever. Therefore you shall not see them. But one that I actually revised twice sort of stood out to me. It was supposed to be the beginning of this post, but given how many words my introduction turned into, I guess it’s going to be the ending. It goes like this.
Remember all your confident, extroverted friends at school? The ones who never got rejected, had insecurities, or had to overcome any obstacles whatsoever? Yeah….neither do I.
So here’s the thing, friends. We’re all different, every one of us. We all have something we’re afraid of, something we hide, and you can’t judge by appearances. Just because someone turns down party invitations doesn’t mean they’re an introvert. And just because somebody is an introvert doesn’t mean they hate parties. And just because someone is strong and confident doesn’t mean that they’re never afraid. Just because someone is anti-social doesn’t mean they don’t like people.
Just because someone is anti-social doesn’t mean they’re an introvert. They could be partied out. They could have an abusive family. They could be overwhelmed by school. They could have a suicidal friend. They could be going through a break-up. They could have the flu.
And just because someone parties like the world is ending doesn’t mean that they’re an extrovert, that they’re confident in public, or that they never experience any of the insecurities you feel. To be honest, some of my hardest partying friends are introverts. But you could never tell by looking at them. So any time you say “Introverts don’t like to party” you’re spreading a lie, locking people into boxes, and doing a disservice to introverts, extroverts, and parties alike. Because we’re all different, and there are always exceptions.
And we’re all special. Not just the shy ones, and especially not just the cool ones. The only way to really know how to treat your friend is by talking to them, being there for them, and taking the time to get to know them for who they are, not who the labels or guide-lines or how-to’s tell you they are. So maybe the next time you get frustrated that nobody knows you, instead of saying “I’m an introvert and you should know better than to pressure me into coming to your party” you could try “I don’t do well with large gatherings of people, so would it be okay if I just came by for a few minutes and left early?” And instead of alienating all your extroverted friends by accusing them of misunderstanding and excluding you, you could recognize how much it hurts them to be shoved out of your friend circle because they’re different, because they talk too much, because they reached out to you in the only way they know how–and you rejected them.
Dear friends, I am not an introvert. But I swear to god, if I get one more party invitation this month, you will wish I was.