I saw a funny Facebook post the other day about how self-quarantining and social distancing was, for introverts, the culmination of their life’s work. I saw one today that said, “Check on your extrovert friends; we are not OK.”
For a self-described hermit, who has been practicing social distancing since at least the age of twelve, I have a lot of extroverted friends. It’s not my fault. I am like a magnet for social people. I have tried valiantly to wear my scorn and antipathy on my sleeve, but they all brush it of as bluster and introverted bravado and then want to talk about how funny it is that I pretend that I am a hermit. An hour later, when they are done talking at me, I have already crawled into my mental hole, and they tell me what a good listener I am…a vicious cycle, indeed.
I even happened to marry one – a kind, beautiful, chatty-Cathy of an extrovert. Before amiable-Anna stayed home with the munchkin, she had been a professional extrovert, paid to talk to little people and to teach them how to become social butterflies, themselves. She was an elementary school teacher. If you sit down and think about it for a minute (any longer and the already impish introvert in you will get really steamed), elementary school is a not-so-subtle indoctrination into extroversion and general gregariousness. The few of us who resist, and resist with some steadfast conviction, make it out relatively unscathed…only to be substantially scathed by middle school…
So, it comes to pass that my dearest, chatty-Cathy wife was thrust back into the teaching fray in the midst of the pandemic. She is home, stir-crazy, with the munchkin and the minion, the dog, two cats (one of which is delightfully antisocial and crotchety and a bit of a spirit animal of mine, though I won’t readily admit it), and 17 goldfish. Interestingly, the term “stir-crazy” likely originated as a slang term for “Start-crazy,” referring to the notorious 19th century British prison of Start Newgate in London where prisoners were isolated as a form of punishment.
So here she finds herself, committed to house arrest for the greater good, in the hacienda de hoosegow, an extrovert in exile, which is, perhaps, the most apt term. Like Napoleon in Elba, she is so close—yet so far from her social network of moms and coffee dates and general social frivolity.
I cannot understand her angst and longing for social interaction. Apparently talking to me is not enough for her, even though talking to her is often more than enough for me… I don’t pretend to understand how the extroverted mind works, but even though I am loath find comfort in a flock (the very root of “gregarious”), I understand that chatty-Cathy, amiable-Anna needs socialization. Therefore, I arranged a playdate on Saturday with my assistant and paralegal, the only two people I can stand and who, likely, did not have the plague. This playdate for Anna was a tacit understanding that I understood, and, I dare say, even condoned her socially-accepted, normative, “friendly” tendencies.
She enjoyed herself thoroughly.
It is Tuesday, and I am still recovering and recharging.
So, hug your extrovert in exile. Let them know that this too shall pass. And then, gird your loins, because they are going to want to talk about it…