I like to describe myself as a socially awkward extrovert. If you’re having trouble visualizing, I’m the person standing as close to the center of a crowd as possible, desperately waiting for someone to say something—almost anything, really—so that I might join the conversation, but nervous about introducing myself. I attribute this to being an oldest child, eccentric, self-conscious, inclined toward performance, and continually, (maybe manifestly) worried that I needed other people far more than they needed me.
Which is exactly the sort of vibe you never want to put out if, like, you want people to like you.
Maybe it’s weird I ended up a writer, a solitary profession. I am also a single person without children (I’m respectively okay and absolutely fine about it). I like space, my space–large enough to populate with plenty of imaginary characters and all of my stuff–just enough to convince myself for hours every day, for days out of every week, that I don’t need other people the way that other people do.
This is, of course, bullshit.
A few years ago, when all the cool people were introverts, I tried to convince myself I was too. Because it seemed like introverts (at least the ones on the internet) were infinitely more interesting, popular, smarter and more creative than I was. They were exhausted by the number of parties they were getting invited to. They just wanted to go home and play with their cats. And I was like, “But I have two closets full of cocktail dresses and a teenager’s fear of missing out on things. Why am I not getting invited to those parties? What the hell!”
It’s always fashionable to be aloof, distant, mysterious. Content people, we’re told, don’t care if they’re liked. Healthy people are perfectly self-sufficient, perfectly entertained by their own company, endlessly engaged with their brilliant solo projects, wholly at peace with their own minds. But, like, I’m really not an introvert. Nor am I, perhaps, fashionable, content, or healthy. If anything ever laid that myth bare, it’s three weeks of social distancing and the fact that I sit around at night and fantasize about dumb shit like sitting in a hugely busy public place making up stories about people or chatting with strangers in the check-out line or having a conversation where more than one person can talk at the same time (Zoom is great, but . . .)
Sometimes this makes me feel defective. I think if I were an actual smart and interesting person, if I were, say, a real artist/writer/thinker/whatever I wouldn’t crave human company so passionately. I’d be cool chipping away at some grand opus, needing no audience at all, just the satisfaction of the work. And then I think, “Dude. For real. Do those people actually exist in the world? And would they be any fun to hang out with?”
I’ve been dreaming a lot about the mall this week. Maybe it’s because I’m already missing impulse purchased dresses off the sale rack . Probably because I’m missing the murmur of voices and footsteps and the overloud laughter from across the hall. Certainly because I’m a child of the 80s and always in the mood for a pretzel, an Orange Julius and that sweet chemical smell of freshly unwrapped cassette tapes from Record Town. It’s the little things, right? The people. The crowds. The sense that you’re all alive in the world. I know we’re all in this together, but sometimes it’s hard without the accidental (now highly dangerous) breath and catch of hand to hand to prove it so.
I don’t have any good mall pictures, but photo today is a window display of dresses that cost way more than my car, Fifth Avenue, 2018ish.