Sophia Dembling’s new book, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, is sly, smart, wise, wise-ass and funny. In other words, it’s a lot like the author herself.
I read it slowly, savoring it and nodding and agreeing with her and recognizing myself on every other page. I was by myself, of course, since introverts, unlike grapes, do not hang out in bunches.
The truth is, I found myself getting more and more pissed off the longer I read it. “I’m realizing I’ve been oppressed by extroverts my whole life,” I told my marginally more extroverted husband when he showed up after work.
He told me I wasn’t really that introverted. This is a typical reaction, according to Dembling. People always go around assuring you you’re not really an introvert, using the same tones of kindness and concern they would use to tell you you weren’t really schizophrenic. Not really.
“I’m proud of being an introvert,” I told him. “The world has been shaming us for eons. It’s like high school, except now I have wrinkles.”
I went on, screaming about how introverted I was, and outlining some of Dembling’s points. Why do we feel something is wrong, simply because no one is talking? Why is it weird to need time to yourself? Why should you be apologetic for being, basically, a quiet person? Why does everyone have to be so goddamned perky and peppy?
That kind of introverted outrage is normal, too, Dembling says. We, the quiet, have spent our lives in a world that values sparkle and fire over still waters, no matter how deep. Nobody wants to be Melanie and everybody wants to be Scarlett. And, oh, sure, the meek might inherit the earth, but what’s it going to look like after the extroverts have hogged it for millennia?
Dembling cautions that we shouldn’t turn on extroverts or blame them — since they are, after all, pretty amusing and being around them is kind of like going to the circus. We also shouldn’t become introversion snobs, assuming we are deeper, more thoughtful and creative and sensitive than extroverts (even though it’s pretty obvious we are, but whatever).
Anyway, if you trend toward the quiet side, I highly recommend Dembling’s book. She’ll have you nodding your head and pumping your fist and swilling your wine with quietly heartfelt enthusiasm.
So that explains it, you’ll think. No wonder you loathe audience participation, charades, karaoke, costume parties and, worst of all, clowns. So that’s why you end up in the bathroom so frequently at chaotic parties (and did, even before you were menopausal). And why you despise practical jokes and April’s Fools Day and team-building and brainstorming meetings.
Most of all, Dembling pushes us to re-think the world and appreciate and respect our own inherent natures. Like the very best books do, hers lingered with me long after I’d finished it.
I could go on and on, but I am an introvert and I know when to shut up. So, good-bye and enjoy the good read.
(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)