“But small talk with stiff-backed strangers at a swanky cocktail party is by far my least favorite part of my job. Send me to a famine of a flood and I’m comfortable. A few rounds of the room at a social event, however, leave me exhausted.” Bryan Walsh, The Upside of Being An Introvert (And Why Extroverts are Overrated) Time Magazine
In middle school, Horizon Skate was the place to be on a Friday night. In those days, Horizon was a dark, dank, foggy with smoke destination where a deejay played a rotating assortment of pulsating top 40 hits. Every single kid piled onto the rink whenever he played The Beach Boys’ Kokomo. As an interminably shy 12-year old who would never quite fit in, but who kind of wanted to, I went a couple of times. I found the whole experience to be emotionally draining.
20+ years later, Horizon is pretty much the same, minus the smoke. I know because I lost Ben there on Saturday afternoon.
Rather, “they” lost Ben on Saturday afternoon. I was just there to pick my kid up from a birthday party. The host had no idea where he was.
“He’s around somewhere,” she said.
“Somewhere” was a vast area mobbed with elementary school-aged kids maneuvering about the place in roller skates, playing arcade games in wobbly roller skates, trading tickets for prizes in wobbly roller skates, and drinking large sodas in wobbly roller skates. In other words, Horizon Skating Rink is the fifth circle of hell.
I went to the laser tag room: no Ben. I checked in the jungle gym area: no Ben. I checked in the arcade: no Ben. (I did, however, get hit in the thigh with a skee ball.) I sat and stared at the kids circling around and around on the skating ring, twisting and shaking to a Justin Bieber song. No Ben.
I noted the many unguarded exits, the strange men loitering in the vicinity, seemingly enraptured with whatever was on their cell phones. I watched people pour in and out of the front door.
I began to become unhinged.
They called his name over the intercom. Three times. He didn’t show.
Eight employees on walky-talkies were deployed to find him.
“He’s wearing a blue shirt, jeans, has blonde hair, and he’s six. He’s only six,” I blubbered.
We found him waiting in line with his arcade tickets to redeem his prize of two small rubber lizards, one of which would consume the other in the van on the way home.
“Did you hear them call you name?”
“Why didn’t you go to the snack bar?”
“Why didn’t you go to the snack bar?”
“What’s a snack bar?”
I was livid. I was angry at the hosts of the birthday party, angry at Horizon for not being militant about the entry and re-entry of their most precious clientele, but mostly angry at Ben for his complete apathy regarding my near breakdown.
So I did anything a mom with a bruised thigh courtesy of a rogue skee ball angry with her child for running off would do: I took Ben to the store and bought him copious amounts of candy and treats.
The prodigal son came home.
Later that evening, I accompanied John to a swanky ball at the convention center. I acquiesce to being John’s date if he follows one rule: he does not leave my side.
The event, of course, had an endless shrimp cocktail bar, and who can resist endless shrimp cocktail? I sure can’t.
“I’m going to get more shrimp cocktail,” I told John. When I returned to where he was, he was gone.
I did a lap around the room. No John. Another lap. No John.
I was starting to become unhinged. It appeared everyone in the room was comfortably chatting with someone they knew intimately while I was wandering around, lost and unbridled.
I finally found him talking to friends in the complete opposite corner from where I had last seen him. He greeted me like I was another acquaintance on the VIP floor, completely unaware that I was yay-close to dissolving into a weepy puddle in the middle of the ballroom floor.
I read the above-quoted article in Time Magazine with interest. (Also learned in Time Magazine: The Miller’s grizzled langur monkey, believed to be extinct, was recently found in
Borneo, in areas it had never inhabited before. Good news for grizzled langur monkey fans!)
While the extrovert (i.e., my husband) becomes energized in large social situations, the introvert becomes emotionally taxed. While extreme shyness is hopefully a thing of my past, according to the innie or outie quiz in the magazine, I am a hard-core introvert. And it can be difficult to be an introvert in an extrovert’s world. (There are those, of course, who fall in the middle of the spectrum. They are called ambiverts.)
“From the moment we wake up to the second we go to sleep- preferably after relaxing with a book in bed- introverts live in an extrovert's world, and there are days when we’d prefer to do nothing more than stay at home. But while our temperaments may define us, that doesn’t mean we’re controlled by them- if we can find something or someone that motivates us to push beyond the boundaries of our nerves. I’m happy to be an introvert, but that’s not all I am.”
Next Saturday, I choose to stay home. Ben’s staying home too. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
Your happy song of the week is a request by Miss Corrie: “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, a song, I think, that speaks to introverts and extroverts and even ambiverts alike.
Take the quiz: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/27/quiz-are-you-an-introvert-an-extrovert-or-an-ambivert/