It’s a Friday night, and my husband and I have just decided on pizza for dinner. I’m elbow-deep in a blow-out diaper and wrangling a screaming, unwilling toddler who is attempting to throw herself off the changing table. While I hold her thrashing legs down with my forearms and contort my wrists to wipe the poop out of her tiny vagina, I manage to grunt, “Better get a lemonade for the girls to share, too.”

My husband nods. “Yeah, good idea.”

He’s holding his phone in his hands, but he doesn’t attempt to make the call. And I don’t expect him to. Instead, I finish with the diaper, make a feeble attempt at redressing my daughter (Fuck it. It’s Friday night. Nobody should have to wear pants.), wash my hands, then I call the pizza place. They recognize my phone number, pull up my account, and we get our usual delivered to our door. When the doorbell rings, again, my husband doesn’t move. I get up (naked toddler running behind me), pay, give the guy a good tip, tell him to “Keep warm out there!” and hand the girls their lemonade.

I’ve been with my husband for 12 years.

He’s never called the pizza place.

Or the Indian place.

Or the Mexican place.

Or spoken to a salesperson.

Or given anything more than an awkward smile when a stranger in the grocery store tells him that he has “Such adorable girls!” (My favorite response? “Thanks! I made them myself.”)

Such is life with an introvert.

I don’t expect him to call the pizza place, or chat with the friendly stranger. I know that’s my job. It is as solidly written into our marital contract as that whole “love, honor, and respect” thing.  I know that he needs to quietly unwind after work, and he knows that I need to tell him every mundane detail of the previous ten hours. We compromise. I ramble on, and I let him play puzzle games on his phone, knowing that he’s only about 1/8 engaged with what I’m saying. But it’s okay. It’s what we both need.

See, introverts? I get it. I am your extrovert ally. I’ll get the waiter’s attention after he gives you a regular burger instead of a black bean burger. I’ll ask your Aunt Meredith all about her genealogy research, and I’ll crack as many raucous, inappropriate jokes as I can when it’s your turn to host book club.

I’ve got your back, introverts.

All I ask is that you do me a favor in return.

Shut the fuck up.

Ironic, right? The half of the population known for verbally freezing in groups of 3 or more, and I’m asking you to stop.

But, seriously, just stop.

Recently, I’ve noticed a rash of online articles, memes, and posts from self-proclaimed “introverts,” all of which beg the rest of us to “care for” or “understand” or “be gentle with” introverts. To appreciate the incredible, gentle flower petal/snowflake/tiny miracle of God that is an introvert. Mostly, these things plead with the rest of us (those insensitive assholes, extroverts) to recognize that introverts are misunderstood, creative artists, whose inner machinations are more complex and sensitive than anyone truly appreciates. That they are the proverbial glacier: only a small portion of their true selves is visible above the surface, while 90% floats, unseen, in the waters beneath.

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Excuse me while I vomit.

Let me preface this by coming out. As an extrovert. As the extrovertiest of the extroverts. I feel recharged, inspired, energized, excited by social interactions, by long talks and laughs over coffee, by dancing with a stranger at a concert so loud your ears ring for days, by telling the lone woman in the grocery store that I like her coat. As a writer, as an English PhD, I’m constantly looking for other people’s stories, for narratives. I thrive on that. I live for that.

And guess what?

Social interaction makes me anxious too.

It freaks me out to think about silence (You remember that Alanis Morrisette song where she asks, “Why are you so petrified of silence? Here, can you handle this?” Then she cuts out the sound? It raises my damn blood pressure every time. Seriously). It stresses me to think about a lull in the conversation. When I’m heading to a social gathering, no matter the size, I always use the drive there to think about potential topics of conversation, to keep subject matter fresh in my mind. “Okay, so Dan’s a professor. I can ask him about syllabus construction, first-generation college students, how well his institution treats adjuncts. I can tell the story of my dissertation defense.” “Veronica’s a stay-at-home mom, so, obviously, kids are going to be a big topic. Also, local schools, freezer meals, that crazy anti-vaxxer lady who came to the last craft night. I can ask her opinion about Maddie’s latest ENT appointment.” Often, I don’t need to go through my prepared list—I can usually just let the conversation flow—but my anxiety about being likable, being interesting, being a good friend, being funny overtakes me every time. I can’t turn it off. I don’t know how.

And if there does happen to be a lull in the conversation? I just don’t know how to react. I go into panic mode. Even if no other person in the room notices or cares, my brain starts whirring. Silence! Silence! Silence is death! We’re all gonna DIE!!

The other day, I had two friends over. One is a friend who was just becoming one of my closest friends before she and her family moved away last year. Just one town over, but far enough that I don’t see her as regularly as I had been. I still desperately want to claim this woman as my friend. I want to prove that I am worthy of her friendship. I consider ours to be a new relationship, so my fear of boring her (and therefore, losing her) is high.

While we were eating lunch, I started talking about my latest eye exam. I laughed, “The optometrist kept saying, ‘Wow, you have such interesting eyes.’ You know that’s never a good thing to hear!” I was going to then talk about how nerve wracking it was for me to order eyeglasses online for the first time, but we all started discussing our crazy vision issues instead.

Then, later, there was a lull in the conversation. It got so bad, that my other good friend took out her phone to check Facebook (Death! Silence is death! She’s going to hate me and leave me and never want to come visit ever again!). I wanted to revisit the topic of ordering glasses, but I started by saying, “So, the other day, the optometrist just kept saying, ‘Wow, you have such interesting eyes!’”

Oh. My. God.

I heard it. I just repeated myself. Word for word. My conversation is redundant! I’m not a friend worthy of keeping! I panicked. I rambled for awhile, then just trailed off. (And never talked about ordering my new glasses, by the way.)

That was two weeks ago. I’m still worried about it. I still think about it. I still haven’t asked her back, because, honestly, why would she come back to such a boring household as mine? I couldn’t even keep her entertained for an hour and a half! Why on earth would she want me as a friend?

See? We’re all neurotic. It’s a universal human condition. In fact, I’d argue that, the older we get, the more mature we become, the more we all start to understand just how important, how significant social interactions are. So we are doomed to become even more neurotic as the weight of interpersonal relationships starts pushing us down.

You’re not all that special, introverts. But neither am I. And I’m okay with that.

Also, I want you to stop posting those god-awful memes (usually, featuring a stock image of someone standing at the end of a pier, looking thoughtfully over a misty lake) that describe how you just need to be alone. You just need to recharge. No offense, world. I just need to take some time for me. Because I’m an introvert. And, like this misty lake, my still waters run deep. I’m special.

No, you’re not.

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Want to know what my favorite pastimes are? Running, reading books, weaving, writing, playing piano. Not exactly social activities. I love long, hot baths. I love my big, comfy red chair that is pressed against my wall-to-wall bookshelves, facing my favorite Georgia O’Keefe print. I love hot cups of mint tea.

I love to be alone.

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Again, it’s a universal condition, a product of just being an adult, that sometimes there’s too much noise. Too much touching (As a mother, I get “over-touched” pretty regularly. My three-year-old is particularly cuddly, which is wonderful. Until it’s not). Too much talking. With so many things to think about. So many things to do. So many other people to consider. So few moments for the self, for the individual, for creativity it becomes easy to feel overwhelmed. If you need alone time, odds are good that you’re not a tortured artist. You’re an adult. Because when you become an adult, you realize the necessity of putting yourself farther down on your list. Childhood is the time of selfishness. The time of the Id. And it should be. Adulthood happens when you intentionally, fearfully, sometimes resentfully push that selfishness aside and try to put other people first. It’s exhausting. And it should be. So guess what? We all need to take a break. We all need to chill. All of us.

Finally, introverts, please stop complaining about how nobody understands you. About how there’s so much more to you than what people see on the surface. About how too many of your interactions are just so scripted. So much useless small talk. Why can’t we all just get to the real issues? Life, love, sex, gravitational waves?

Let me be the first, Holden Caulfield, to express my sympathy for all of the phonies you’ve had to deal with in your life.

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If you are reading this blog, then odds are good that you believe that you know me. And you do, in a way. You know details. You know chronology. You know a lot of facts about me. But don’t think for a minute that I am ever under the illusion that my autobiographical writing translates to me being known. There’s a big difference between the persona I create through narrative, and me. Just as there’s a difference between fact and truth. I try very hard to blend the two in my writing. But no form of communication is ever perfect. There’s always more.

Here’s the thing: If “nobody” understands you, then the common denominator in that equation is you. You are the one who is responsible for your own message. For your own narrative. If you don’t tell us, then we can’t be blamed for trying to read into your silence. And, yes, that often means that we get things wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, I got into an argument with a close friend. Someone I’ve known my whole life. It was a silly argument, based on misinterpreted texts and Facebook comments. I had insulted her—completely by accident, though that is irrelevant, as she felt the slight anyway—and she responded privately that she wasn’t going to even engage in a response to my callous remarks. I immediately blew up, “Then how the hell are we ever going to solve this?? How am I supposed to know what I did wrong if you won’t tell me what I did wrong? I can’t read your mind!” She let me know, in so many words, that she was saddened by how little I truly knew her.

And she was right. I want to know her. So badly. But I don’t. I haven’t figured out how to crack her code. How to get her to feel comfortable enough around me to open up, to move beyond the raucous jokes at book club, and superficial conversations about favorite movies. I made an assumption about her sense of self based on the little scraps and bits that I had managed to scrape off the surface. And I was wrong.

(That’s my burden as much as it is hers. Part of being an extrovert is dealing with just how uncomfortable I can make introverts. I feel terrible when I see introverts shy away from me, overwhelmed by my advances and questions. Especially being so open about my own life, most introverts I know fear that I will suddenly start telling their stories for them. I don’t. I truly don’t. Narrative is sacred to me. Your stories are not mine to tell. They never have been and never will be. I understand why you’re nervous, but please trust me. I’m a narcissist. I only tell my stories.)

What I’m trying to say, introverts, is that you need to realize that we’re all just trying to understand each other. All of us. And we’re all a huge pile of neuroses about it. We are all in control of our own, personal narrative. That’s a frightening, enormous power to possess. And if you find yourself constantly at loggerheads with people, frustrated that your message is getting lost, then it might be time to rethink how you are presenting that message. None of us are mind readers, after all. Trust me, we extroverts are just as frustrated that we are repeatedly, regularly missing the mark with you. We want to know you. I want to know you.

I know that the thought makes you nervous. I know that it’s terrifying. I know that you just want to hope and pray that someone will just get it, without you having to explain it.

Well, I’m not sure that can happen.

But if you do want to talk about it, I’ll be here.

And I’ll even order the pizza for you.

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