The look my aunt would get in her eyes, the narrowed stare as though hoping to adopt x-ray vision and look right inside my head for clues, is a look I've seen many times in my life. I don't think I'm particularly mysterious. In fact, I've often shown my cards and blown whatever advantage I've had over others, choosing to disclose rather than withhold and finding afterward that I wished I'd been a better puppet-master. I've been labeled publicly as arrogant, and I've been told I'm the most modest person folks have ever met. I've been both uncaring and incredibly giving. Aloof, friendly.
The true answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but in looking back on these opinions, the more negative the opinion of me, the more extroverted the opinion-holder. Those who hold court wherever and whenever just don't get me, because I'm their polar opposite. Don't get me wrong; you can spin me off into the lengthiest of ramblings if you push the right button. The problem is, people don't always find the right button, and when they have, sometimes they'd glanced it with their elbow as they were passing by on the way to what they really wanted to discuss. I'm not an all-topic conversationalist. It's not that I don't have an opinion. It's just that I don't assume you'd find my opinion interesting enough to discuss, and the reason I think that is because much of the time, I can't find your opinion interesting enough to discuss.
Don't confuse this with misanthropy, although I'm guilty of having momentary ambitions toward becoming a misanthrope, particularly on the 6 train when standing between a music lover with $2 earbuds and someone using their cell-phone to seed their contacts with their mundanity. It's just that small talk, the mother tongue of social engagements, is pointless torture for me. If I ask you about the weather, it's because I want to know whether one should put on a sweater before leaving the house. I'll make the attempt to pick up your loose threads of chatter; I'll tell you what I've heard from family in the southland about current weather trends down their way that may turn north, I'll chime in about the latest movie I've seen if it relates to your anecdote about seeing last weekend's #1 hit, I'll compare music libraries and try to get you to divulge the one song on your iPod you wouldn't want your friends to know is there, and I'll gladly discuss your kids and their activities, mainly because I'll want to discuss my kids and get my brag on (my kids are pretty awesome, you'd brag too). But if I walk into a room and there's a spot where everyone is gathered to hear what that one guest is soapboxing about, I'm going to get within earshot to make sure he's not saying the building is on fire and we all need to get the hell out, and then I'm going to find the crudité.
I've always been that person that at first wondered why people didn't think the way I did, then tried hard to think like they did and finally tried to be comfortable with my own way of thinking. I didn't put a label on myself, I've been mislabeled enough to distrust the very idea. However, my wife stumbled upon an article that's eight years old, yet speaks to me as if written this morning. Rather than slapping me in the face with shame, the article let me know it's not some personality defect to not love to be surrounded by people at all times, that this isn't some bad mood to get over. The article also intimates that while people who think the way I do are in the minority generally speaking, we're in the majority in creative fields.
Society is dictated by those with the biggest mouths. That's not me. That won't be me. I'm not an extrovert.
I'm an introvert. It's not an obscenity, not an insult. My brain fires a different way and allows me to do different things than most people do. I think writing is one of them. It was certainly a comfort when I was younger to be able to sit and write for a few hours, write assignments, stories, essays. Adults aren't "supposed" to do that. We're not "supposed" to go off to another room and be creative. We're not supposed to be contemplative, to sit quietly. We're supposed to be sociable, go out to a club, go to the movies, gather our friends for a beach bonfire like some goddamn beer commercial. Clearly the philosophers of old were wasting their time, they should have been shaking their booty instead of sitting on their ass, thinking.
The bottom line is this: Everyone gets a fair shake from me. I have made it a tenet in my life for a long time to accept people for what and who they are, because I truly believe you can't change people, they're always going to turn out to be what their chemistry and upbringing has made them. There are always exceptions, but let's be honest, how many exceptions do you see on a regular basis? That's why they're called exceptions. So, everyone gets a fair shake from me. If we become friends, that's terrific. If you think I'm arrogant or aloof, you'd better have hard evidence, because telling me what I'm thinking ain't gonna cut it. You're not going to read my mind if you don't understand the language.
* About that former fiance - It struck me as I typed that phrase that you don't really hear people talking about failed engagements all that much. I mean, they happen, I'm not that unique. I guess it's the stigma we usually pin on failure, like you must have done something wrong in order for the relationship to have gone south. The only thing I did wrong was get engaged to the wrong woman. Failed marriages you hear about, sure. What was I supposed to do, get married and then find out she'd been unfaithful? I guess that's another way I've been thinking differently than most people.