Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Accommodate Me

Princess - Matt Nathanson (mp3)
Holding You Is Like Keeping Water In My Hands - God Love You For A Liar (mp3)
I Won't Wait - Albany Down (mp3)

If you know any introverts on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this graphical Internet Meme. Introverts share this, bless their hearts. It annoys me something fierce.

The message of this graphic? Hi, I’m an introvert, and you’re the problem, asshole.

We’re living in a time when we increasingly expect society to adapt to the individual. We’ve gone Bizarro Darwin.

Are you an introvert? Do you have mild dyslexia? Are you left-handed? Are you red-headed and fair-skinned? Do you have a dairy or nut allergy? No matter what your challenge, weakness, disability, it has increasingly become not your problem, but our problem. The burden of responsibility falls on everyone else.

Maybe QVC is to blame. All those mattresses and pillows -- now with memory foam! It conforms to your specific head and body shape! -- have fooled us into believing life should be like memory foam, that all we should have to do is stand there while the world revolves around us.

I’m guilty of this nonsense, too. My daughter has a dairy allergy. For a long time it was pure torture watching her suffer through birthday parties, sleepovers, special school events. Everything at birthday parties and kid events has milk. The pizza (it’s always pizza). Cake. Ice cream. Cookies. Everything. And there’s our daughter, pulling out her Ziploc bags of PB&J and her Oreo cookies -- thank God for Oreo cookies, one of the few tasty desserts my daughter can enjoy -- while the drooling mob attacks Little Caesar.

She often cried -- not about milk and cheese, but at the injustice of being an outsider. And as parents, we bristled when people seemed callous or indifferent to our daughter’s plight. Why would they have eight boxes of ice cream yet nothing dairy-free? How dare they!

Now she’s 10, and it hardly phases her. Plus, she’s healthy. She eats more salads and vegetables than almost any kid her age. While her mother and I agonized and whined, she adapted. Because kids are resilient. Adaptation is what they were built to do.

Adaptability is one of humanity’s most amazing gifts, yet it is increasingly devalued in our society.

In the horrifying and hypnotic world of Game of Thrones, humans seem capable of adapting to just about anything. At least, the ones who survive more than a few hundred pages. The ones who cannot adapt or adjust -- regardless of how “good” or “bad” they might be -- die or suffer. You need not read or watch too long to realize how very much we have in common with Westeros.

By no means am I knocking introverts. As this article in Wired posits so well, introverts are the quiet backbone of our country’s successes, and I frequently envy them their ability to disappear utterly into their work or passion, their talent to drown out the social noise. Meanwhile I, the extrovert, often feel like the cat compelled to paw at each and every ball of string flying past me. I swear to myself that it’s unhealthy, that I have to stop... and then that next beautiful yarnball whizzes past... and I just have to swipe it. I HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO!!!!

But an introvert who looks out and blames everyone else hardly helping anyone. They're just setting up a useful excuse for later. Introverts who cannot converse socially, who cannot tolerate being interrupted, who cannot adapt to unexpected change, will suffer. There’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it, either. Because this stuff just happens. Life is messy like that.

Poignantly, one defensive extrovert offered this link, on How To Care For Extroverts. It's every bit as valid and every bit as annoying.

Read both lists. Side by side if it helps.

Now, I damn dare you to sit in a room with one extrovert and one introvert and prove you "care" equally about both of them. Hell, it’s impossible. What shows love for one slaps the other in the face. The only guaranteed act of kindness is to "not insult either of them publicly," and I’m friggin’ dying to know which personality type, other than a masochist, gets off on public scoldings.

So instead of graphics that show us how we should tiptoe around each other’s frailties and quirks, why not share graphics that turn the tables?

"Things Introverts Should Practice to Occasionally Enjoy Emerging From Their Rabbit Holes."

"Things Extroverts Should Practice to Help Prevent Annoying the Shit Out of Everyone."

Better yet, just listen to the wisdom of my pal Mahatma: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


Anonymous said...

Overreact much?

Did it ever occur to you that this list not trying to change the USA but just for friends and relatives? In other words for ppl who "CARE" about introverts? As in if you know this stuff about an introvert you might be a better friend or relative?

Daisy said...

Lily liver, um, I mean anonymous has a point. Knowing how to interact with personality types other than your own is a useful skill. However learning to overcome your personality type can be a skill as well. Whatever happened to rules of decorum and etttiquette?

Billy said...

@Anon - Clearly you are a new reader, or you would know I overreact to most everything. What the hell fun is in under-reacting? Regarding the intent of these rules, I must respectfully disagree. For introverts to post these snooty little things -- DON'T...! NEVER...! ENABLE...! RESPECT...! -- is just too blatantly self-serving for my tastes. (Kind of, um, like this blog.)

@Daisy - I do generally believe rules about embarrassing people in public, not interrupting, reprimanding in private aren't really introvert-specific issues...

Tockstar said...

I'm an introvert and left-handed and I didn't repost that meme, though I don't think it's quite as gallingly "make exceptions for me!" as other aspects of the societal phenomenon you discuss. It's just a personality thing. I would love to see a meme for dealing with extroverts because when an extrovert chides me for some introverty habit, I mostly just want to punch them in the face.

I do feel like I witnessed the first inklings of this "make exceptions" trend in the late 80s, though. I was in fourth grade and having all sorts of problems in school, mostly related to being profoundly disorganized. My parents mostly addressed the issue normally, with consequences and rewards and stuff, but a learning specialist suggested that they also make it fun or devise some way for me to feel "special."

Everyone came up with "You're left-handed and that means you're 'right-brained' and it can make you disorganized, but it also makes you special and we'll show you all these special things made just for special lefties like you!" Seriously. They got me a subscription to a magazine called Southpaw which opened on the left-hand side. They got me left handed mugs and a left-handed ruler so I could use the straight-edge without the numbers being upside down.

Far from being comforting, the stuff just creeped me the hell out. I kept forgetting to open the magazine or hold the mug or ruler correctly because I had been quietly adapting for my entire life, yet it was obvious that some GROWN-UPS were incapable of remembering how to open a magazine. As a kid, you want to believe that grown-ups have more of a grip than that.

Of course, I was still disorganized, so eventually I lost the ruler and the mug broke and the subscription to Southpaw ran out. Mom and Dad continued their tried-and-true methods of getting me a tutor and grounding me when my grades sucked and we all lived happily ever after. The end.

Daisy said...

@Tockstar- I am right handed and disorganized and my husband is left handed and crazy organized. So there you go.

@ Billy - what I meant about decorum etc.. Is that whether one is intro or extro they should all adhere to the same niceties such as shaking hands, not interrupting making eye contact etc...

Anonymous said...

I know that this is late, but as an introverted type person myself, I feel the need to comment. I don't see anything wrong with what's on the list. Different people react to things in different fashions. An extrovert is not going to react to something the same way as an introvert, and they will both react even more different in preference to certain situations.

I'm by no means saying that people need to tiptoe around a person's character, but if you want an introverted type person to open up to you, your approach cannot normally be the same as it would for an extroverted person. You won't coax a turtle out of its shell by prodding it with a stick, or making noise around it in an attempt to be friendly, and you won't coax an introvert out of their shell either. Both will only close up to you further, which is the opposite reaction that people desire. Introverts aren't broken, or anything. We just have a different approach, and if someone's current approach in talking to an introvert is not helping, then perhaps trying some of the things mentioned there will. I have other introverted friends, and extroverted friends, and because we respect one another, we get along fine.

When I hear complaints, its normally due to an introverts introversion being disrupted. It's a system of comfort, just as extroverts also have a system of comfort for themselves.

Also, introverts aren't just people who sit back, and blame everyone else. They're people who are cautious in what they get involved in, whom they talk to, and the moves they make. They're also not one for a lot of group activities, etc, because...well...they're introverts, and there isn't anything wrong with that.

Introverts do adapt. They have to in today's society. Extroverts adapt too. Both can coexist harmoniously, so long as their overall wants and needs are met. Extroverts like more extraverted activity, adventure, and going out. Introverts like more quiet time, being around who they want to, and having fun in a different way.

You dared for someone to sit in a room with an introvert, and an extrovert, and say that they cared about them equally, and I can tell you that I do. Many of my close friends are introverts and extroverts. Going even further than that...one of my best friends is an introvert. Another is an extrovert, and I care about both equally, and a great deal.

The purpose of the "introvert list" was to help people adapt to people more, and help extroverts who care about the introverts in their life to adjust to them more readily. An introvert is not as likely to try and change an extrovert. Indeed, he/she likely will want more peace and solitude...as that is more comfortable.

I understand that you feel that its kissing an introverts, butt, but I can assure you that its far from that. Maybe give the list a try with your introverted friends, or show it to some introverts that you know, and see how it goes. I can talk about this for days, so let me TRY to leave it at that. Take care of yourself, and be safe. This is the take and opinion of a living introvert.


-Mr. Wolf-