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If you’re an introverted married woman, you’re totally screwed, because society expects a woman to be ‘pleasant’ and smiling, unlike a man who can just be.
I had sulked through my 6th birthday, feeling like a porcupine might feel if it accidentally stumbled into a group of lovable golden retriever pups. My mum had baked my favourite chocolate cake, yet my palms were sweaty, my stomach churned and I wished I could be somewhere else. I wasn’t having a bad case of diarrhoea. I was just tired from all the cheek-pinching and the hugging. I just wanted to get back to my favourite corner in the house where my Noddy books were waiting for me.
Most of my childhood was spent in this manner: either revelling in my isolation or feeling extremely guilty for liking my own company over other’s. I didn’t know then that I was an introvert, and it didn’t help that I was often gently chided for my love of being by myself.
Things got more serious as an adult. I got familiar with the name-calling: princess, snob, and some others names that I have forgotten. The only one that has stuck with me and still manages to trigger me is “ghamandi” (snooty). It was a term generally used by the boys whose overtures I had rejected, and is still used by many acquaintances who need something from me which I am unwilling to give.
The G-word never ceases to annoy me. I am not proud. In fact, I am shy and timid. My biggest fear in life is that someone might notice me.
Most of the time, I wish I wasn’t an introvert because the pain is very real. Ever been in the middle of a fabulous party surrounded by gorgeous, funny people and still felt lonely and miserable? That’s the life of an introvert. It doesn’t help that introverts have a bad reputation thanks to all the crime thrillers and murder mysteries. It’s always the lone bachelor minding his own business that ends up being the serial killer. Women are worse off. Mousy little secretaries and quietly doting housewives have become famous for their little vials of exotic poisons.
I can’t remember the times that I have refused to take part in panel discussions, corporate speaking gigs, and even a few TV engagements, just because it stirred up the old palm-sweating and stomach-churning.
It’s the reason why I willingly let others take credit for my work simply because I can’t bear to be in the limelight. It stops me from reaching out to other like-minded people because I always wonder if they will think I am being too pushy. It would have stopped me from ever finding love if I hadn’t found another introvert whose quietness I could relate to. Still, I held on firmly to my introversion till my wedding day.
It was then that I realized that introversion is different if you’re a woman and yes, if you’re an introverted married woman, you’re totally screwed.
My husband is a fellow introvert. He could be engrossed in his own world and people would think that he was working on some complex work crisis or trying to single-handedly prove that Pluto is a neither a planet nor a moon but just an alien spacecraft. Most of the time, he’s only playing Candy Crush.
I am rarely given the same benefit of the doubt. If I am not interested in why my neighbour’s son ran away with the maid, or why Buaji’s pet turtle doesn’t like cabbage, I am often labelled with that dreaded G-word. It’s hard to explain to people that a scowl on my face when I am among people is just my natural desire to quietly fade away into the shadows and it is perfectly normal for me.
Everything made sense to me when I stumbled on an article on something called the Resting Bitch Face syndrome. According to this theory, if a woman has a serious expression on her face, which basically means that she is not gossiping, not giggling, and is probably not the life of the party, people think that she must be angry, rude or proud. As expected, it’s male equivalent, the Resting Asshole Face, isn’t given much importance because, really, who cares if a man isn’t being ‘pleasant’?
Women, on the other hand, are expected to be the Fevibond that holds the family and society together, preferably with a smile like an LED light – easy, effortless and extra bright.
So while marrying another introvert made perfect sense on a personal level, it only works if you live on a deserted island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. Since my husband and kids are also introverted, I have to go that extra mile at parties to be extra friendly just to prove to the world that we’re not just a bunch of Mowglis who were raised in the jungles among wolves.
To compensate, I have developed a good sense of humour. Unfortunately, this is often mistaken for gregariousness and sociability. People expect that a conversation with me would be like a non-stop stand-up comedy show, and are disappointed when they see the reserved, tongue-tied person that I really am. It’s then that I am asked if I am angry, hungry, ill or PMSing. Or all of the above.
Over the years, it has been simpler just to pretend to be interested in those around me and put on a false facade of being extroverted, because that is just what is expected. It doesn’t matter how toxic a friend or relative might be, if she wishes to talk about her digestion problems or her trip to Kanchepuram where she personally selected the silkworms for her designer sari, I am obligated to hear about it and console her or compliment her as required.
All is not lost though. Shahrukh Khan just admitted that he is an introvert. Even Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg have hinted that they are introverted.
I suspect the powerful introverts of the world are tired of being denied the right to be inside their comfortable shells and are silently creating an alternate world where introverts thrive. These entrepreneurs have taken over the internet and have created a world where people rarely have to interact with each other. We can now work from home, order essentials to our doorstep, and be endlessly amused on entertainment platforms without cracking a single fake smile or uttering a single pleasantry.
We have been so successful that we’re even bringing some extroverts over on to our side. It’s the revenge of the introverts and we’re having the last laugh. Silently, from a dark corner.
Image source: shutterstock
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Ashwina Garg is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. She is the author of the best-
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