As a kid, I was really shy.
Like, painfully shy, the kind of kid who not only wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but would generally hide behind my mom’s leg and cry when spoken to. The kind of kid who was afraid to call my friends–this was before cell phones, you’ll recall–because I might have to talk to their parents. Sometimes I was even afraid to talk to my friends themselves. I was a regular Beth March, only without the piano skillz.
After long years of sucking it up buttercup, I’m in a better place. I can now call and order pizza with no qualms. I can ask for assistance finding the right size windshield wipers. I make my own doctor’s appointments. I can give an audition calmly and clearly, and at a loud enough volume to be heard in the back of the house (actually, I never really had a problem with that. I dunno, cognitive dissonance?).
But certain parts of me still shrink from social interaction, and conversations, made awkward by me, are part of daily life. I will always be the person who would rather order the pizza online, given the choice.
The weird thing about all that is that I feel great affection for human beings. Even though the Myers-Briggs classification method has been mostly discredited, I’ve pretty consistently scored as an INFP and feel like it rings true.
Although they may be reserved in expressing emotion, [INFPs] have a very deep well of caring and are genuinely interested in understanding people. They make very good mediators, and are typically good at solving other people’s conflicts, because they intuitively understand people’s perspectives and feelings, and genuinely want to help them.
…In a meta kind of way. In a real life way? I can be rul prickly.
Is this your story too? I’ve noticed that people don’t hug me. Or, the only people that hug me are family members and those people who hug everyone. After a while you have to realize the vibe is coming from you.
Recently we had a prayer vigil at work (not unusual–I work at a seminary) for the president who was dying. It was just as awfully sad as you’re imagining. People who felt compelled to do so stood up and read out verses or poems or started songs, and it was really quite beautiful, as such unscripted slices of life can be. But at the end came the obligatory, go-in-peace, hug-your-neighbor moment. And for me came the gut-level (but quickly covered) reaction, familiar since my youthful Sunday School days, of UGH. Why? I don’t know. I like everyone I work with.
I don’t fit in as a mom. At the inflatable playground, the other mothers’ eyes slide off of me. I play with my kid and write an email to my friends about book club. Nor am I among those of my peers doing Great Things with their lives. Some people are networking, and volunteering, and furthering their careers and whatnot, and I’m just over here like, Ima look up historical events on Wikipedia.
I like to watch those people though. That’s partly why I’m attracted to drama and writing–storytelling in general. I have considered the idea that my only completely natural aptitude might be a desire to connect with humanity. Notice I said desire, not ability. My college acting instructor used to tell me I was thinking about my character instead of being her. I tell you truly and strangely, sometimes I feel like I’m thinking about myself instead of being her.
But only sometimes. Even INFPs don’t sit around thinking deep thoughts all the hours. Mostly I think about how I’d really like to say something canny and hilarious right now, but the words that come out of my face don’t match what’s in my head.
Back to the vigil. By chance I was sitting next to a new coworker. A girl nearish my age with really good fashion sense. We could probably be buds–if I was capable of simultaneous extended eye contact and coherent thought. Alas, the golden opportunity rapidly devolved into that awkward peace-be-with-you hug followed by a run out the door that would make Napoleon Dynamite proud.
So the next time you feel a chill from your neighbor, throw her a bone instead of shade. Chances are she’s not aloof, just strange.
But I still don’t want to hug it out right now.