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Accommodate Me

Monday, 2 April 2012

Princess - Matt Nathanson (mp3)
Holding You Is Like Keeping Water In My Hands - God Love You For A Liar (mp3)
I Won't Wait - Albany Down (mp3)

If you know any introverts on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this graphical Internet Meme. Introverts share this, bless their hearts. It annoys me something fierce.

The message of this graphic? Hi, I’m an introvert, and you’re the problem, asshole.

We’re living in a time when we increasingly expect society to adapt to the individual. We’ve gone Bizarro Darwin.

Are you an introvert? Do you have mild dyslexia? Are you left-handed? Are you red-headed and fair-skinned? Do you have a dairy or nut allergy? No matter what your challenge, weakness, disability, it has increasingly become not your problem, but our problem. The burden of responsibility falls on everyone else.

Maybe QVC is to blame. All those mattresses and pillows -- now with memory foam! It conforms to your specific head and body shape! -- have fooled us into believing life should be like memory foam, that all we should have to do is stand there while the world revolves around us.

I’m guilty of this nonsense, too. My daughter has a dairy allergy. For a long time it was pure torture watching her suffer through birthday parties, sleepovers, special school events. Everything at birthday parties and kid events has milk. The pizza (it’s always pizza). Cake. Ice cream. Cookies. Everything. And there’s our daughter, pulling out her Ziploc bags of PB&J and her Oreo cookies -- thank God for Oreo cookies, one of the few tasty desserts my daughter can enjoy -- while the drooling mob attacks Little Caesar.

She often cried -- not about milk and cheese, but at the injustice of being an outsider. And as parents, we bristled when people seemed callous or indifferent to our daughter’s plight. Why would they have eight boxes of ice cream yet nothing dairy-free? How dare they!

Now she’s 10, and it hardly phases her. Plus, she’s healthy. She eats more salads and vegetables than almost any kid her age. While her mother and I agonized and whined, she adapted. Because kids are resilient. Adaptation is what they were built to do.

Adaptability is one of humanity’s most amazing gifts, yet it is increasingly devalued in our society.

In the horrifying and hypnotic world of Game of Thrones, humans seem capable of adapting to just about anything. At least, the ones who survive more than a few hundred pages. The ones who cannot adapt or adjust -- regardless of how “good” or “bad” they might be -- die or suffer. You need not read or watch too long to realize how very much we have in common with Westeros.

By no means am I knocking introverts. As this article in Wired posits so well, introverts are the quiet backbone of our country’s successes, and I frequently envy them their ability to disappear utterly into their work or passion, their talent to drown out the social noise. Meanwhile I, the extrovert, often feel like the cat compelled to paw at each and every ball of string flying past me. I swear to myself that it’s unhealthy, that I have to stop... and then that next beautiful yarnball whizzes past... and I just have to swipe it. I HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO!!!!

But an introvert who looks out and blames everyone else hardly helping anyone. They're just setting up a useful excuse for later. Introverts who cannot converse socially, who cannot tolerate being interrupted, who cannot adapt to unexpected change, will suffer. There’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it, either. Because this stuff just happens. Life is messy like that.

Poignantly, one defensive extrovert offered this link, on How To Care For Extroverts. It's every bit as valid and every bit as annoying.

Read both lists. Side by side if it helps.

Now, I damn dare you to sit in a room with one extrovert and one introvert and prove you "care" equally about both of them. Hell, it’s impossible. What shows love for one slaps the other in the face. The only guaranteed act of kindness is to "not insult either of them publicly," and I’m friggin’ dying to know which personality type, other than a masochist, gets off on public scoldings.

So instead of graphics that show us how we should tiptoe around each other’s frailties and quirks, why not share graphics that turn the tables?

"Things Introverts Should Practice to Occasionally Enjoy Emerging From Their Rabbit Holes."

"Things Extroverts Should Practice to Help Prevent Annoying the Shit Out of Everyone."

Better yet, just listen to the wisdom of my pal Mahatma: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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