And she’s trying to be upfront about it…
We had friends over the other night that we hadn’t seen in quite some time, six or seven months I think, and we all wondered why that was? So I jokingly explained with what has become my standard response in these situations, “that I don’t like people.” Everyone laughed and agreed and the night carried on into the wee hours of the morning. But the next day my partner called me out on this statement.
“You know, you say that a lot,” he commented as we lolled in bed the next day. His tone was one that I’ve come to recognize as the start of a conversation I don’t want to have. “You say you don’t like people, but then we have people over and you have a great time. I don’t think I believe you any more. I think you’ve just made this your thing.”
I let out a long, dramatic sigh, which is my way of telling him to “fuck off,” and rolled away from him to think about what he’d said. Do I genuinely not like people or is this just some quirk that I’ve exaggerated in myself because it makes me different and gives me permission to be a shitty friend and not do stuff? (I really hate it when he makes me question my identity early in the morning.) I decided to avoid the question and got up to make the coffee instead.
But now that I’ve had a few days to ruminate on what he asked, I have a response. (I’m a slow processor when it comes to my feelings.) And the answer is “it’s complicated.” I know this seems like a cop out, but I suspect some of you get what I mean without me having to type another word. (I know Bossy does, it’s why we’re friends.)
But for those of you are happy extroverts who feel energized by the presence of others and lots of stimulus, allow me to explain. I’m an introvert, through and through. Being around people exhausts me, both physically and mentally, even people I like and love, including my kids, my partner and my friends. Why? It’s just how I’m wired. You see when I engage with people I put my all into it. I actively listen, I watch body language, I read between the lines and I tend to try to piece together what people are expressing more by what they are choosing not to say. And it’s tiring as hell. So I don’t want to do it all the time. I can’t, it’s just too much.
So why is this how I choose to interact with people? It’s not actually a choice for me. Again, it’s just how I’m wired. I hate small talk. I find it annoying and worthless. I suspect I am almost incapable of it and it often makes me seem quiet and weird to people who don’t know me well. I either go deep with people or not at all. And, unsurprisingly, that makes a lot of people uncomfortable or ends up with me in a therapist roll. All of which can be awkward and exhausting. Not great, right?
That’s not to say that I never want to be with people. In fact, in small doses and with a limited number of humans, I have been known to enjoy interacting with others, just not all the time.
Which brings me to my “I don’t like people,” statement that my partner challenged. Perhaps it needs a slight adjustment to “I don’t like being with people a lot of the time.” There, that’s a little more clear and slightly less anti-social.
Now to track him down and have an exhausting, lengthy conversation about how he still doesn’t get me after almost eighteen years together…or maybe I’ll just let it go and enjoy drinking my cup of coffee alone.