Can We Talk?

Please?

No, really, I want to talk to you.

Maybe I’m the only person in the world who genuinely wants to talk to people. It feels that way sometimes. I read article after article about how it is VERBOTEN to strike up a conversation on public transportation (I do this constantly), about how EVERYONE HATES calls and voicemails, please just text (I loathe texting. It is a necessary evil. Please, if you can, save us both the time and me the anxiety over your vocal inflections, and just call me).

And I’m an introvert! No, really! This is maybe one of my biggest pet peeves– how people use “introvert” to mean “shy”. To quote a little classic cinema, You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.

Being an introvert doesn’t automatically mean you’re shy, or intimidated by people, just like being an extrovert doesn’t make you automatically outgoing. Being an introvert means you draw your energy from being alone. Being an extrovert means you draw your energy from being around other people. Say you give Ingrid Introvert and Edna Extrovert both all-expense paid trips to private cabanas on deserted tropical islands, because you’re generous like that. Ingrid will find this super-relaxing, and come back feeling refreshed. Edna might also have a great time, but she’ll come back exhausted, needing to catch up with people RIGHT NOW. Similarly, Ingrid might have a blast at Edna’s 24-hour birthday extravaganza, but afterwards she won’t want anyone to so much as LOOK at her for a few hours before she has energy for more than watching Downton Abbey.

I’m an introvert, like Ingrid, but I’m pretty damn outgoing (incidentally, my brother is the opposite– a shy extrovert). And so, after a nice quiet evening to myself, I’m tickled to have a chat with someone.

Is this a gendered issue? There’s this archetype I see of women in public places not wanting to talk. And while I hate being sexually harassed same as everyone, I don’t really care what the gender is of the person on the Metro who says “Oh, is that Storm of Swords you’re reading?” Let’s talk Red Wedding!

I grew up in the era of “Stranger Danger,” but somehow that was warped to my mind as “Get to know ALL THE PEOPLE– then they won’t be dangerous strangers!”

Again, context is everything– I’m not quite so obtuse that I can’t see why it’s a horrible idea to chat someone up alone on a dark street, or any other isolated-to-semi-isolated place. If you’re engrossed in your paper, I’ll leave you alone (although if you’re reading my favorite book, all bets are off). I have enough manners to know not to just start yammering to someone in a coughing fit, or who looks like they’ve been crying (except maybe a gentle “Are you okay?”).

But when soda companies base an entire ad campaign on the idea that it’s unusual for people to return smiles, when actual scientific studies show that a polite few words with someone on your morning commute will make you happy, when I literally would never have met one of my best friends in the world if I hadn’t commited a faux pas and commented on her awesome Fezzik notebook, I have to wonder if we’re all getting a bit too cagey. Maybe it’s not hideously awkward and weird to exchange a few words with your fellow creatures. Maybe it would lead to a world that feels less lonely.

Your thoughts? Talk to me. I’m listening.

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One thought on “Can We Talk?

  1. You’re not alone! Admittedly, I’m too shy to initiate conversations with strangers in public myself, but on the few occasions that strangers have initiated conversations with me, I’ve appreciated it very much. I also share your dislike of texting; writing out a reply to someone seems to trigger my perfectionist impulses, and I end up spending ages composing the reply when, in a face-to-face conversation, I would have just said the first thing that came into my head and it would have been fine. The lack of immediate feedback in texting is also a recipe for anxiety.

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