I don’t particularly care for people.
I like the people I like — Mister Mister, my friends, most of my coworkers, a large part of my family — but the rest of the human race just kind of melts into a blur that I could take or leave. Preferably leave.
I can totally relate to Garcin: “Hell is other people.” I find people, on the whole, to be rude, inconsiderate, selfish, self-absorbed, pushy, nosy, bothersome, offensive, and just generally in the way.
And I really hope my kid doesn’t feel the same way.
For years, I took personality tests that labeled me as an introvert. I’d tell you they were wrong. Around my friends and others close to me, I’m a loud mouth. I’m weird and talkative and not at all shy.
And then I read this article from a 2003 issue of The Atlantic, “Caring for Your Introvert,” and I realized that all those free Internet tests had been right.
Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast.” Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay — in small doses.”
And it’s true. My own personal version of hell is having to deal with coworkers in our office kitchen while I’m preparing a snack. I’ll softly groan when I approach and there’s somebody there eating their lunch. I’ll wince when I hear somebody approaching while I’m undertaking the 5-minute task of paring my orange down to nothing but orange — no peel, no pith. I hate small talk, and know I’ll have to engage in it. I don’t want to have to answer questions about what I’m eating, how I’m feeling. I just want to be left alone — until I don’t want to be. I despise chatty cashiers. I loathe running into acquaintances at the supermarket. I used to get really pissed off at Mister Mister when he would come into the bedroom to say hi while I was folding laundry. It was my quiet time. I didn’t want to say hi. I didn’t want to tell him what I was doing. Not even my own husband. And I don’t even hate him.
A frequent expression you’ll hear from me is, “I hate people.” I always assume their intentions are terrible. I always imagine a huge affront being made on me. Like last weekend, when we saw a movie, and afterwards, a older man coming out of the row I was standing behind — indeed, standing so he could follow his wife out of the row — loudly stated, “Excuse me. Thank you.” Immediately, I took that he meant I was approaching too quickly and was rudely shouting at me to slow the mother eff down and let him walk because I’m a whippersnapper and he’s 70. I mean, I seethed for like 15 minutes. And Mister Mister, who doesn’t especially like people either, told me I was being unreasonable.
I mean, when one misanthrope tells another to calm down when it comes to hating people, you know we have a problem on our hands.
I don’t want our child to see me like that. I don’t want him to grow up assuming that everybody is annoying and mean and awful. I don’t want him to view the world from the glasses of an asshole who could spend the rest of his days in a bomb shelter with a library of good books and be just fine.
And more to the point, I don’t want my viewpoints and preferences to deprive him of social contact. I want to be able to take him to playdates despite the fact that I want to throttle his friends’ parents. I want him to like his teachers even if I find them unbearably chirpy. I want him to want to make social connections and learn things.
I don’t want to turn my kid into a school shooter.
I worry about this a lot. I am who I am, and I know this. I could probably go a little easier on my vocalizations, and make more of an effort to be pleasant. Deep down, I will always be an introvert, but I don’t have to be so openly hateful. I don’t want my kid to hear me say I hate people. I don’t want him to see my rage while I’m behind the wheel. I don’t want him to catch on to my eye rolling when a fellow shopper isn’t paying attention and is about to wheel right into me. I don’t want him to hear me snap about strangers — and I especially don’t want him to hear me snap to loved ones.
Because in the end, even though I appear fine with my seething discontent, I wish I was nicer. I wish I could make more fluid small talk. I wish it didn’t physically pain me to talk about the weather and exchange pleasantries. I wish I didn’t feel as constantly awkward as Mister Mister assures me I’m not. I think extroverts just have it easier. I think that people who like people are just happier. And I want my kid to be happy.
If you’re an introvert, and especially if you hate people — and are also a mother — how do you make this work without completely screwing up your kids?