This image has been attached to several articles about introverts, because apparently introverts love sweaters and hate peripheral vision.
Everybody’s talking about introverts these days, whether they’re posting that viral TED Talk about how between half and two thirds of all people are introverts, or just posting that BuzzFeed article with all the three second looping gifs that generally approximate things introverts do. Now people are ‘coming out’ as introverts all over the place, and I just want to go on the record here: I was an introvert before it was cool.
It’s weird seeing society come around to the idea that there’s nothing wrong with people wanting to spend time alone, because I’ve spent a big part of my life making up elaborate excuses to spend time alone because I don’t want people to think I’m some kind of depressed hermit. I’d give you examples, but I don’t want to blow any of my better cover stories.
Now that it’s socially acceptable to say, “I just want to be alone right now because of who I am,” introversion has lost some of its luster. After all, sneaking around is half the fun! Back in the day, being an introvert was like having an affair with yourself – you’d make up fake plans or illnesses to dodge your friends so you could spend the evening having a steamy tryst with some Indian takeout and season 3 of Frasier.
By and large, social interaction is really exhausting for me. Conversation in particular is a big source of anxiety. I’m obsessed with showing the other person that I’m invested in what they’re saying – even if I’m not, and in LA that happens pretty often because fuck the webseries you just booked nobody cares – which means that I devote a lot of energy to nodding, looking appropriately thoughtful, and periodically making statements to demonstrate that I’ve been listening, such as, “Wait, Desiree just stole your waterskis? Oh my God, I’d be pissed too!”
I really do enjoy talking to people – that’s why I take conversation so seriously, I guess – but putting my best foot forward gets pretty taxing after awhile. Couple that with a loud environment (hate loud noises) with lots of other people (hate crowds) and inadequate seating (hate standing up) and you’ve got the perfect recipe for me wanting to go home at 9:30.
When I finally started drinking my junior year of college, part of the reason I went from zero to alcoholic in a matter of months was because alcohol made all of the difficult things about social interaction a lot easier for me. At Taylor’s, a couple of pint glasses full of Potter’s whiskey with a squirt of Diet Pepsi was all it took to make me an extrovert for the evening – and a grumpy introvert with the runs the following morning.
In LA the drinks are smaller, more expensive, and less effective. After two Jack and Cokes I’m just as introverted as before, but now I’m out $20 and feeling guilty for having spent it. Meanwhile, I’ve got some guy aspiring actor/comedian talking to me and he’s clearly just doing bits from his standup act in lieu of actually being engaging, my feet hurt from standing up all night, and all I can think about is how nice and quiet my room must be right about now.
It’s at this point that I reach what I call the Introvert’s Bar Dilemma. If I’m not having fun after two drinks, it becomes a gamble: If I have a third drink, I might loosen up enough to enjoy myself and have a great evening, but I definitely won’t be able to drive home for awhile. Ordering Drink #3 is basically doubling down on my plans for the evening – it’ll either be the moment the night gets awesome, or it’ll be the mistake that dooms me to spend the evening drunk, bored, and trapped at the bar, hiding in a bathroom stall and Googling up “how to get sober as fast as possible” on my phone.
Of course, I’m too risk-averse to be much of a betting man, so most of the time if I’m not feeling it after two drinks I’ll just call it quits and go home. Then I usually spend at least an hour of the evening hating myself for bailing on a room full of drunk sexy people my age so I can take my pants off, watch Netflix, and eat something covered in Sriracha.
You can show me every image macro about how healthy and normal introversion is and I’ll believe every word of it, but I’m still going to have a little existential crisis whenever I spend a Friday night sitting on my roof with my laptop tinkering with a screenplay instead of going out and having as many youthful LA experiences as I can.
From my roof on Fridays I can see limos and high performance sports cars winding their way down from the hills past my apartment, heading for bars and clubs on Ventura Boulevard. I know that those cars are full of douchecanoes, and that I would have no fun whatsoever if I followed them to where they were going. Still, part of me wonders if I should go out anyway, even though I’ll hate it, just for the sake of having a spontaneous experience while I’m young.
One of my biggest regrets from college is that I spent two years being uptight and stuffy about drinking and parties when I could have just lightened the fuck up and had a lot of awesome, memorable, potentially embarrassing experiences. I’m scared that I’m making that same mistake now, and that in 20 years I’ll be regretting the fact that I spent the best years of my life in a 12 by 12 room performing rather bleak self analysis.
Knowing as I do now that introversion is totally normal doesn’t do a lot to help my guilt about not going out more often – but that’s fine, because feeling guilty for basically no reason is one of my favorite hobbies. What does help, though, is knowing that at least half of the human race is in the same boat as I am.
On my roof this past Friday I looked up from the limos and sports cars in the street and spotted a guy my age standing on a third floor balcony outside his apartment up the street from me, smoking a cigarette and looking at the same cars I was. After a couple minutes, he stubbed out his cigarette, stepped through a sliding glass door back into the warm light of his bedroom, and sat down in front of a computer.
Suddenly my alone time didn’t feel quite as lonely.
Truman Capps wonders how many introverts Netflix has created.