As you may have gathered, I’m not really a people person. There’s a lot to dislike about people–cruelty, prejudice, selfishness, boundary issues (children with their nasty, sticky jam hands, close-talking, man-spreading, man-splaining, etc.), all manner of deep-seated personality flaws, their illogical, yet, rampant and pervasive belief in the superiority of themselves over other species—the list goes on and on. (Listen, I get that your mom told you how special and important you are and it warmed the cockles of your fragile, egomaniacal heart, but out of approximately 8.7 million species in the world do you really think it just so happens that you’re the coolest/smartest/greatest of them all? I mean, look at the amazing variety of creatures on this planet—narwhals, isopods, tapirs, cockroaches (that’s right, they were here long before us and they will be here long after, laughing from the rubble as they watch our cities burn). And dogs—who in their right mind believes they’re better than dogs? You show me that person and I’ll show you a hole they can crawl into while they wait out the rest of their pathetic, foolish existence.) And people en masse are the least appealing of all. Sure, I like individual people, but the idea of people as a whole—humanity, if you will—is a real turn-off, so you can imagine how I feel about parties, organizations, festivals, group activities—anything involving hordes of people, swarming like locusts or any number of plagues (it’s almost Pesach and I’ve got plagues on the brain). I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this aversion to my own species and come to the conclusion that it is, for the most part, due to genuine distaste, or at least disinterest, but there’s also an apparent fear of vulnerability that presents apathy as the safest solution. Best not to care too much, become too involved, or tip one’s hand—after all, to be above it all is to be out of the grasp of anything that has the potential to do harm. Unfortunately, that path comes with the possible side effects of missed opportunities and never fully engaging in certain aspects life. As with all things, it is a delicate balance.
As an introvert with a small and truly remarkable group of tight-knit friends and family, who doesn’t crave much social interaction and often avoids it at all costs (back when I had a schedule that left Wednesdays free, I designated it my Zero Human Contact Day), this lack of ability to forge relationships and build community doesn’t always present a problem. But I do get lonely on occasion, and being the aforementioned introvert that I am, I’m not great at reaching out. This is of particular concern to me as I plan on picking up and moving halfway across the country to a place where I will know absolutely no one (Zero Human Contact Life!) and won’t have my network of long-suffering friends and family to rely on for company. I’ll have to (gulp) meet new people and (shudder) get to know them. This is a daunting prospect as I tend to dislike strangers by virtue of them being strangers. I know, I know, everyone starts off as a stranger until you get to know them, so you have to make an effort, put yourself out there, yadda yadda, whatever—listen, I don’t have the temperament for that mishegas. I have gone on maybe a handful of first dates in my life and each time returned home thinking, “That person seemed nice enough, but I don’t really know them and therefore I feel nothing for them and oh my god—what if I’m incapable of real, human emotion?” (But that’s a thought spiral for another time!) The point is, I tend to shy away from situations that might put me in meaningful contact with people outside of my pre-approved circle of humans, while relegating the rest of humanity to the blocked list. (Sigh, if only this function existed in real life.)
This is true of everything from home and work life to extra curriculars and romance (or lack thereof). Like the rest of my family, I’ve never been much of a joiner. Once, in preschool, my mom came to pick my brother up from school and found him standing at the side of the classroom watching the other kids play Simon Says. When my mom asked him why he wasn’t joining in he replied, “Why would I want to play a game where other people tell me what to do?” So young and, yet, so wise. Sadly, he grew up to be a truly awful brother, but he’s in recovery now so we can still admire his wit. Despite being athletic, I balked at the idea of joining a team sport and in my family “group project” is a dirty term synonymous with “living hell.” We all assume that either we know what we’re doing or we don’t, in which case we’ll figure it out on our own, but throwing other people into the mix can only muck up the works, right? I’ve never had roommates that weren’t insects or gastropods (everyone knows slugs, rescued from a box of orchids at work, make the best roommates, or that spider who hangs out on your bathroom ceiling and watches you shower—his name is Henry and he’s a sparkling conversationalist). No woman is an island, but she can certainly camp out on one and set fire to the escape boat. (Better hope that coconut phone comes with a call-block feature.)
So now the question is, how do I break years of habitual solitude and reach a tentative, gloved hand out (people are gross and have germs, okay?) to make acquaintance with my new neighbors and classmates without being so turned off by the experience as to neglect breaking through that discomfort in order to find those precious few people I might actually want to be friends with? (The answer is probably alcohol.) I guess I’ll have to let my guard down, drain the moat, release the drawbridge, call off the dragons, and just get over myself and this ridiculous notion I have that immersing myself in a community of people is something to be avoided or scoffed at. I am by no means, “too cool for school,” so I have got to stop setting myself apart and then lamenting how isolated I am. I’ll never be the one hopping around like a sorority girl on uppers, waving pompoms and shouting catchy rhymes about school spirit, but I need to figure out how to embrace the idea that allowing myself to be open and vulnerable enough to engage with other people without the armor of apathy and contempt, and to communicate and collaborate in a group environment, is an enriching experience and not a maniacal form of torture dreamt up in the bowels of hell. Or maybe that’s a complete denial of my true nature, humans really do suck, and I should just amass a large pack of dogs and bathroom spiders to keep me company. Yeah, that definitely sounds like a better option. Humans—who needs ’em?