Pick-A-Day

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Introversion Sucks

It’s strange—I have a shell and I find it immensely difficult to crack it. Similar to the shyness described recently by the CQ, I too find myself fleeing office birthday parties as soon as I reasonably can—avoiding small talk.

I’ve been aware of my tendencies for a long time, although my current rumination was brought on by an incident in my German class where we were talking about what our neighbors were doing (designed to teach us pronoun usage, time specification, and German sentence structure where the verb always goes in the second position). As we were doing this, it occurred to me that in my two years in Germany I have made virtually no effort to talk to my neighbors in my apartment building, quite the contrary I try to avoid them.

The building has three floors and five flats. The top floor is a single flat whilst the other two floors each have two flats. When it comes to the ground floor, I have seen the back of the small flat’s occupant once, as he was going into his flat—I think I have seen the woman in the large flat once. On the first floor (read American second), I have had more communication, speaking with the husband and wife maybe once every three months. The elderly woman in the small flat, I’ve spoken to once or twice—her son a few more times, but never more than ten words at a time.

Lest you think I am linguistically inhibited, I can stretch this pattern back in time.

Take my first flat (ok, apartment) in Bloomington: I spoke to my immediate neighbor maybe once every three months, and I never spoke to the person above me who had a prodigious amount of sex. At the second one, I knew one of my neighbors and I spoke to the other one maybe once every four months. I did become friends with one of the shop keepers on the ground floor of the building—and if you need a globe or luggage, I highly recommend stopping by his website or shop.

But after that I lived two places where I never spoke to my neighbors—I had no idea what their names were, what they did, or, quite frankly, anything. (For the record this was while I was living with Joel (Scotty’s husband) and Brandi Ice, Bloomington’s most famous drag queen.)

It’s really difficult for me to make friends and I have to work at it. I can safely say that here in Germany I have many close acquaintances but there really only one or two people whom I would call a friend. None qualify as a “close friend.”

(Aside 1: Am I not the only person who thinks the word “friend” has been cheapened by services like myspace? When I hear about people who have 400 “friends” – or more – I wonder what the word friend means. To me a friend is somebody who I know something about, somebody I can call and shoot the breeze with. Flickr lets me have “contacts” who can take on the “friend” attribute, which is nice since Contacts are people whose photos I am interested in, but not necessarily people I know. I have marked people “friend” if I actually know them.)

Thinking about it is immensely depressing.

It’s the same whether I go to bars in the States or in Germany: I just don’t talk to people I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever initiated a conversation with a stranger, except on an airplane when the flight is delayed. I need to have a connection—somebody I know who will start the conversation and get the conversation going. I completely lack the skills and abilities to do this, and, even more annoyingly, I have the ability to stop people who are interested in me: I can reflectively see that I once had a (cute) Amtrak conductor in hot pursuit, as well as others at various times, but I shut them off cold. (Ok the conductor was while I was in the closet, but I still shut people down quickly; with the exception of people who I am completely and totally uninterested in, see Erfurt’s S., as an example of somebody who pursued me long after I was explicitly clear that I wasn’t interested.)

(Aside 2: The last time I nearly overcame this self imposed shyness was when I was hanging out in a gay coffee shop in the States. I blogged about it.)

Back in Bloomington I was able to use the Internet (specifically gay.com) to find people to hang out with—people who shared my bizarre sense of humor and eclectic taste. There was something about the style of interaction that made it easy, plus an accommodating population. One of my frustrations with similar forums in Germany is partially me: I will not compromise: I am gay and I am out and I’m unwilling to compromise on that point. If I see a cute boy I will talk about it.

I’m starting to get lonely.

5 comments to Introversion Sucks

  • Aw, don’t be lonely. Not only did you talk to me when I was a stranger, but you actually met me in person. That’s no small feat if you’re really as shy as you say you are. I enjoy talking to strangers, but I tend to refrain from fucking them. My ex was exactly the opposite. Frankly I like the fact that conversations carry fewer STDs.

  • koko

    it’s okay pumpkin! i’m also very shy and introverted. i’m far more comfortable in very small groups (people i know preferably) or by myself. i didn’t know any of my neighbors at my old place, except my friend who lived in the next building over and i don’t know anyone here nor do i think i will.

    do i need to send boy to comfort you?

    i really do miss you! xox

  • Sorry to hear about your loneliness. As you know from your real life knowledge of me and my past journal entries, I also have introverted tendencies, and I’m not much of a partygoer. I hope you are able to make new, close friends in Germany.

  • mateo

    I also rarely talk to my neighbors, though part of the joy of getting home is being able to get away from everyone else!!! I find it hard to believe that you don’t talk to a lot of people, Adam, since you seem able to talk about just about anything, but I know how breaking the ice and making the initial contact can be a hard hurdle to overcome. Sometimes you just have to make yourself do it! It ain’t easy, but it can definitely be rewarding!

  • Hey guys, I didn’t mean to come off as completely gloomy, just more a reflection of who I am and how hard it is for me to deal with new/strange people that I haven’t already had a chance to establish raport with–usually via a third party (which, Nome, the internet qualifies as!)…