Thursday, January 20, 2011

in defense of shyness

Hey bitches. I took a break, but I'm back now. Got something to say about it?

I didn't think so.

Sorry, I've been hanging out with Chuck Norris lately. And by "hanging out with," I mean "googling so I can learn how to sound tough." So there.

Being shy sucks. I would know: I’ve been shy my whole life, at times painfully so.

In one particularly awful instance, I ran out of the classroom in the middle of an oral presentation in fifth grade because I couldn’t take everyone staring at me anymore, and I got the only C of my elementary school career. 

While trying out for a play in middle school, I sprinted out of the room mid-performance, and I never attempted to act again. 

At a poetry reading in high school, I managed to finish an intensely personal rant about my shite boyfriend that would have horrified my mother, but I had something akin to an out-of-body experience – I could hear my voice, see my hands shaking, hear the paper rustling as though coming from somewhere else, as though the trauma became too much, so my brain detached. 

A few years later, during a mock-debate in a college political science class, I blacked out completely. (But apparently I did okay, because my professor asked me to join the Model United Nations club. I politely declined.)

As I’ve gotten older, talking in front of people has become easier, but being put on the spot still makes my knees shake funky-chicken style, my palms sweat, and my cheeks blush. My voice quavers, and thus begins a downward spiral that culminates in me crying in the shower with a bottle of wine, wondering what the hell just happened.

Wait, WTF just happened?

What sucks even more than being shy, though, is when acquaintances or people I don’t know misinterpret my shyness as assholery.

Here are three common misconceptions about shy people, and why you shouldn’t believe them: *

We are not stuck-up or aloof.
We may appear snobbish because we tend to stay outside the action, but shy people are introverts and observers by nature, so though we may not jump to participate in conversations or introduce ourselves to strangers at parties, it isn’t because we don’t want to. It’s because we’re scared of you. Or more accurately, we’re scared of what you might think of us.

We are not avoiding you.
This applies specifically to neighbors, teachers, co-workers, friends of friends – anyone we see on a semi-regular basis who we may only know on a surface level or in passing. We’re not steering clear of you because we don’t like you or don’t care to get to know you. In actuality, we’re nervous about getting to know you, especially if we have a friendly, cordial acquaintanceship, because we don’t want to fuck it up by saying or doing something stupid.

We do want to be your friend.
It’s true – shy people need friends, too. We just might suck at making the first move. And because you interpret our wall-flowery nature as stand-offishness, you avoid us in turn. But don’t make this mistake – we probably think you’re cool and would love to talk to you (in fact, the more we seem to avoid you, the more this is likely to be true), but first we need to know we’re not imposing and that you also want to talk to us.

* Caveats: 
  1. All of these statements become null and void if the person with whom we are shyly interacting is a total douchecanoe. In that case, we are avoiding you, we don’t want to be your friend, and we really don’t care what you think about us.
  2. If you feed the shy person booze (i.e. wine, vodka, tequila, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc.) they will abandon shyness in favor of dancing.
  3. Most importantly, once shy people get to know you, all is good.

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