I’m one of those annoying extroverts you hear so much about. I’m comfortable meeting new people, and get fairly close fairly soon with like-minded folks. Even if I don’t know a person really well, I feel comfortable talking on this weird level of intimacy that I can’t quite describe. I reveal these weird sound bites about my life that sound a lot more personal than they are. I’ll say something about my parents’ divorce, how it wasn’t the kind where Daddy doesn’t come home one night, but instead the kind where one day their separation was legal, and all of a sudden seeing him during school vacation was about custody instead of just seeing your dad for Christmas. I’ll talk about sex in an almost clinical way, as if I’m giving a lecture titled Feminism, Gender, and Deviance: Exploration of Assigned Meaning in Post-Modern Alternative Culture. (“In the historical schema, bisexuality has been conceptualized both as “other” and as “neither…”). I’ll let slip harmless tidbits of gossip about mutual acquaintainces that will turn out, upon further reflection, to be generally known.
This type of personality has served me fairly well, I find. Certainly it comes in handy if you’re going to get paid (or not, as the case may be) to talk to people by the hour in therapy. It’s even better when your job is to sit behind a booth at a college fair and make the same four jokes over and over to the high school juniors walking by with their parents, clutching their bags full of over-produced junk mail. Mostly though, I find that it makes things nicer and funner and better socially. When I’m on, I’m on. I will sometimes find myself charming someone’s aunt at a wedding or flirtatiously neutralizing a potentially difficult political situation during my birthday party, and laugh at myself a little, like, ooh, social butterfly Chiara! Way to work those conversational skills, or lack thereof! But mostly I enjoy people in general and like to talk (as readers of this journal may have noticed by now) and so it’s all good.
The corollary here is that when I bite it, I bite it hard. I’ll be gossiping viciously only to look up at the offending party staring at me with a mixture of horror and contempt. I’ll loudly declaim a half-formed opinion in front of someone who actually knows what they’re talking about and will backpedal in the most inelegant fashion possible. I’ll begin to babble uncontrollably…this always happens during job interviews, for some extremely unlucky reason…if I think that whoever I’m talking to doesn’t like me enough. So, good things and bad things, this extroversion. Simple enough.
This past weekend I went to my first “destination wedding” as such, on lovely Orcas Island. A childhood friend of Carl’s was getting married, and he and I (Carl, not the childhood friend. He had other stuff to think about) were recruited to drive a fifteen-person van full of PhDs from Caltech to the aforementioned destination. This was me, several months ago when Shanti and Martha were up here making plans: “Oh, let us know if there’s anything we can do to help! Anything at all!” Shanti, not being a fool, immediately roped us into the roles of Bus Drivers to the Extremely Intelligent after all my gushing, “No, really! You just let us know! Give us a call! Anything to help out friends!” I was fine to do it, and it wasn’t until I had finished making a Wedding Taxi poster, complete with stickers, on the way to the airport, that I realized I was going to be spending 36 hours with mostly strangers. On an island, so it would be extra hard to get away, what with the ferry schedule so unpredictable and everything. “Just leave it all to us! Wedding taxi, ho ho!”
It turned out okay. More than okay, as I liked everyone who was at the wedding and had a very good time. I found myself, simultaneously, wanting to spend a lot of time alone with Carl and also wanting to be in the thick of things. Spend hours talking to your boyfriend’s high school friends the night before? Check! Go on a pre-wedding hike to Mt. Constitution? Sure! Watch the bride get her makeup on? Why not? Physically put your head under the brides dress (what was I thinking?) and help her put on her “cincher”, the purse your lips and go “No, I think it’s better without”, and then volunteer to go back under there and uncinch her? Sign me up, apparently. I had ample opportunities to watch myself shift into full-on Extrovert Mode, complete with special features Hug Everyone and Flirt With Everyone, Up To and Including The Bride’s Mother. I saw myself sit at various tables and talk to various people, and dance a little and sit down again in protest because I thought Carl wasn’t leading correctly, and then get up again and dance with him when he asked me so nicely to please put up with him. I watched myself talk with lots of different people and smile and like everyone and dance around and make some slightly snotty comments about other people dancing with a very cute boy who happened to be the bride’s brother. By the way, I am completely aware that you go to hell if you comment snottily on other peoples’ dancing. Especially if it’s at a wedding and everyone’s having a great time. Especially if you’re no great shakes as a dancer yourself, as is amply evidenced when you decide to change out of your wedding outfit and put jeans on and treat the entire party to the spectacle of you dancing with wild, arm-throwing-around, butt shaking, hip thrusting motions, to Jungle Boogie. ‘Get down, get down,” says the song, and get down you do….and if ten seconds later you’re bitching about why isn’t there more eighties’ music and is swing dead already or what…well, then, your extroversion officially crosses the line over to “snotty and bitchy and judgmental.” Sigh.
Okay, so we’ve established that…I can be mean and gossipy and rude even as I can be happy and friendly and bouncy and a good bus driver. We’ve also established that both these things are connected to my being a person who gets a lot of her energy from other people and being social. Now, my question is, does this make me a more shallow person than someone who is quieter and more introverted? I’ve tried, at various points, to be a poetry-journal toting, black-wearing, somber, long haired mystic, one of those girls who is always deep in thought and sits off in the corner by herself, brows furrowed fetchingly. I tried to work that persona, in a move of stunning originality, my first couple of hours of my first day of freshman orientation. It failed miserably, of course, because I literally couldn’t keep my mouth shut for more than ten seconds. Because I am a born camp counselor. Because I guess I am really self-obsessed (“What? And you keep an online journal? How outr顦#8217;) and feel that everyone just needs to know, in some dark corner of their souls, about the time I was in the Dominican Republic and fell off a waterfall, or about my feelings on the low-rise jeans issue, or about…anything that comes into my head. Come on! Hey, over here! Look at me! Talk to me! Listen to my story! Loooovvvvvvvveeeee me!