When you grow up with a general preconceived opinion of women, you quickly learn how to become liked and popular. It becomes a means of survival. It becomes a life skill.
So I was quick to learn that women can’t be quiet or shy or reserved. They had to smile and appear fun most of the time. This wasn’t just something I cooked in my head. This was a societal expectation that I was reminded of time and again.
I couldn’t sulk, brood or whine. I couldn’t withdraw from a conversation. I couldn’t abruptly end an interaction. And it didn’t matter how uncomfortable a conversation or interaction made me. I was expected to always be smiling and ready to make small talk.
Small talk! The biggest struggle of an introvert. It is also what our superficial society judges people on.
It’s hard for us to understand how human beings aren’t assembled in a factory, fitted with the same emotions and personalities on an assembly line.
It’s hard for us to understand that while some of us thrive in company, some of us find more meaning in solitude.
It’s just hard. Extroverts really determine the pace of the world and introverts try to catch up and some give up and remain introverts. Some, especially women, become pseudo extroverts.
I can tell you this that out of all the unfairness that this world has dealt to me because of my gender, this stands out starker than many others.
The expectation that people have of me that I would be a warm and fuzzy woman always is unnatural and has led to me being uncomfortable with my own self on many occasions.
The fact that I can’t make small talk has been held against me and other women have tutored me many times over the course of my life on how to talk about meaningless trash for hours.
It’s exhausting. Emotionally and spiritually.
Some people have complained that I’m very open and emotionally close with my children and my patients.
Well, an introvert isn’t a grouchy monster. An introvert just identifies with a tribe a lot more specifically than an extrovert.
Sometimes I wish I was a man. Then people wouldn’t worry about why I was so quiet or so moody sometimes or not actively engaging in a conversation. My mere presence would’ve been enough. But I’m not a man. And in a man’s world, a woman isn’t allowed to be an introvert. She can’t choose when she smiles. She can’t just have a minute to herself in her house full of guests. She can’t use the bathroom quickly to remove the emotional overload that intense company brings on her. She can’t.
So many injustices that women face everyday. Some are so obscure that they don’t even matter. But when I’m forcibly making a conversation with a neighbor about how their roses are looking so lovely and the conversation goes on and on, I’m overwhelmingly reminded of how I can’t just dissociate myself from the conversion and retire to my home. I can’t because I don’t want to be called rude.