I fucking hate zoom. How did my generation, the millennials, go from refusing to communicate except over text message to being available 24/7 on-call for video chat? We leapt horrifyingly over the normal phone call stage and into a mode where you can’t even say ‘mmm-hmm’ and ‘ah-hah’ while folding socks because you have to have your face fixed in an ‘I’m attentively and thoughtfully listening’ mask hiding the so much internal screaming that is inside.
How do you like to have phone conversations? I don’t, let’s be frank, but if I really must, then I prefer to be half-dressed (seriously, why wear clothes nowadays) and doing something like tackling the two weeks worth of laundry that’s been on the floor for ages, not held captive to a screen. If we are going to talk, at least let’s make it useful and you can accompany me as I do some task that I normally find horrific, the horrificness of the phone call cancelling out the horrificness of the housework. In this case, two wrongs do make a right.
I know I sound like a massive bitch. I know that every person I’ve zoomed with in the past weeks is gonna be thinking ‘ermahgerd! Is that me?’. I don’t hate you all. Truly. I love you, I just hate technology when it intrudes in our lives like this.
Let’s talk about introversion
People think introverts are shy – that we are socially awkward, that we can’t hold a conversation, that we need ‘help’. What might surprise you is how hard it is to actually spot an introvert – many of us are very skilled at the art of conversation – we just hate it, that is the difference. Introversion does not mean ‘I can’t’, it means ‘I don’t want to’.
I am not shy, I just do not believe in talking just for the sake of it. I much prefer to talk on here, or in my journal, in writing, where no one can fucking interrupt me (ahhhh, the peace). Once people find out you are an introvert, they make the big mistake of thinking that it is their job as the non-introvert to fill all the gaps in conversation and talk at us with a 90%/10% talk to listening ratio. Nothing makes me more anxious than being talked at, and quite seriously, being stuck with a chatterbox feels like being tied up in a straight jacket while they assault my earholes, without relent. News flash – if someone is not giving back a full 50% of the conversation then the conversation is not consensual. Stop holding us captive to your need to be a windbag.
Our own catch-22 as introverts is that we are genuinely very good listeners – and you know what, most people love a good listener, which means that as an introvert, people will luuuuurve talking at you, which is the last thing you need. Welcome to your own nightmare! Fucks sake. Do you know why I’m a good listener? Because as a child I was taught to sublimate my own needs to please everyone else. You try being raised in a conservative Mexican household where backtalk is not allowed, where you have to be polite and always say hi and bye to strangers and leave a good impression. Have that conditioning for nigh on two decades, and then report back to me on what a great actor you are at pleasing everyone else while hiding your resting bitch face deep inside your frozen, smiling, face muscles.
Our narratives shape us. I was always the “good girl”, the star student, the nice one. My nickname was and still is Chula, which means “cutie”. My sister’s nickname, on the other hand, was Pinga, which means, (excuse me while I chortle into my tea), “dick”. Pahahahah. Of course, our stories got repeated over the course of years until behaviours that could have been ephemeral became as calcified and rigid as train tracks. No surprise that I am still always known as the sweet one, the one that is cariñosa and never hurts anyone’s feelings. And my sister, on the other hand, is a sardonic Daria type – not always easy to get along with, but always truthful.
I am tired of being stuck in the good girl facade but it is hard to break when all around me keep trying to reinforce it. An ex-boyfriend of mine commented once that when I am on the phone to my mom, my voice goes up several octaves. It is literally like I am regressing back to being three years old. I feel the weight of other people’s expectation so heavily that I find it hard to say what I think sometimes, hard to disappoint them – so of course many times I prefer to pull back instead rather than face the mental conflict.
Let’s talk art and introversion
My art is fueled off of my time alone. If I am surrounded by people, I cannot create. I have always hated bands that wanna “jam songs out”. Songs that are written by jamming, ie. by fucking around with other people at the same time, are rarely very good. Normally the result is the mediocre lowest common denominator of the band members – the equivalent of finger painting, translated to pub rock. Nope, I do not create around people. I need to have private space and allow the words, images and sounds to flow without interference from the outside world. Once a song nugget (or a poem nugget) has reached the embryonic stages, it will circulate around in my head and take on a life of its own, growing in my dreams, growing while I am in the shower, growing while I am driving. But, always, no matter where I am, creativity hinges on alone time.
I first heard the term ‘introvert hangover’ from Puss Johnson and as soon as I saw it it made sense. Similar to going on a massive drinks bender, I can have what appears and maybe even feels to be a great time, smiling and laughing and chatting and all other ‘ings’ that relate to the art of socialising. I may even actually enjoy it at the time, but oh mama, am I gonna pay for it later. And I do pay, whether it’s a zoom call, whether it’s a phone call, just “hanging out” (eeeeurgh), whatever. Humans – you all drain me. Sorry.
However I’ve learned that just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean that you should do it. I am really good at listening. According to some people, I am a great conversationalist (barf). People make the mistake of thinking that because I am good at these things, that it is pleasurable. Sorry boo, it is not. I might like human interaction for 50% of the time but then the other 50% I’m fretting about how long it’s going to take me to recuperate my energies and go back to feeling human afterwards. Introvert hangovers are just as brutal as real ones, where you need to lie in a dark cool room under a duvet and you want everyone to fuck off unless they are bringing you junk food.
The truth is I’m very happy in my own company. If being a loner was a diet, I’d practically be a breatharian. I work from home for my day job (and yes of course as an artist without rich parents, I still have a Job with a capital J). Even prior to the pandemic, if it wasn’t for playing gigs, I could go weeks on end without seeing another human except for my partner. And my partner gets the highest praise that an introvert can give someone – he is not a “people” – by which I mean he is quite possibly the only human on earth that I can be around 24/7 and not feel exhausted by his presence. We are each happy in our own neuro-atypical bubbles, alone together, like otters holding hands in the sea.
I admit when the pandemic first struck, yes of course I was devastated for all the human loss, and worried for my loved ones. But the introvert side of me was loving the shit out of finally not needing an excuse to be alone all the time. And going back to my hate rant on Zoom. Zoom has robbed us all of that blessed peace. I think we all need to learn how to be alone and slow down, and what have we done – we’ve copped out. Rather than be alone with our own brains, we’ve created a computer simulation of a world and stepped into that instead. Come on people. The world has literally given us a free retreat, and people are choosing to run around stressing themselves out online instead.
I didn’t think it was possible to be less people-y than I already am, but each week I keep finding new glorious highs of solitude. Currently, I’m in the middle of a social media detox, my calendar is beautifully clear of social obligations, and finally, my creative juices are flowing again.
However, even a hardcore introvert like me does need some human interaction, as long as it’s on my own terms. Hence reaching out through this article. I want to be alone, but I also want to know that my thoughts have reached people, that they resonate with others who may feel similarly. If you too are also are tired of people, are tired of Zoom, and social media- if you love people but just wish you could love them from further away – this article is for you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have got to go practice my resting bitch face.
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