It’s Columbus Day, and a few doors down our neighbors are whooping it up. Or maybe they’re fighting, I can’t really tell. That’s because to an introvert like me, even the friendliest celebrations imply a threat. Every after-work party is a toast away from turning into a Beer Hall Putsch.
All my life I’ve struggled with introversion. I’ve never felt comfortable in groups, and growing up in Mexico I preferred to read comic books over partaking in games of soccer or attempting the violent overthrow of the government. While it was difficult to make friends, being by myself led me to develop a love of reading and a talent for drawing. I was also exposed to a lot of colorful terms for “homosexual” from my non-introverted classmates.
Paradoxically, while my introversion was one of the reasons I became an artist, it also became one of the reasons I eventually stopped pursuing art as a career. I didn’t find much success not due to a lack of talent (if you think success is dependent on talent, I submit to you the art of Josh Smith), but because of my crippling discomfort at gallery openings, my utter inability to schmooze, and the fact that I break out in sobs if anyone makes eye contact with me.
Which is why it’s gratifying that, thanks to the recent success of Susan Cain’s Quiet, the Power of Introverts, people are discovering the importance to the arts of fellow introverts such as Johannes Brahms, Samuel Beckett, and Miley Cyrus.
Inevitably, with the little glamour that this attention brings to introversion, a whole industry has developed around the concept, including thousands of online quizzes to help you figure out whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. I’ll let you in on a little secret: If you can’t tell whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert you don’t need a quiz, you need a dictionary.
It seems to me that a more interesting question is whether you’re an introvert or a misanthrope, two categories that overlap in significant ways. Since both types are uncomfortable with others, how can you tell which one you are? I’ve developed a simple quiz. All you need to do is pick how you would finish each of the following sentences:
Introvert or misanthrope?
1. In conversations you do most of the talking…
a) To yourself, because you are too afraid to leave the house.
b) Because a bound and gagged listener doesn’t have much choice.
2. When there is group activity, you are more observer than participant…
a) Which is understandable, as you’re peeping through a small hole.
b) Which is the whole reward of being an arsonist, isn’t it?
3. You find it hard to keep a secret; you feel compelled to share it with someone…
a) And thankfully, your cat never tattles.
b) And thankfully, dead men tell no tales.
4. You keep a diary…
a) Written in Klingon.
b) As the prosecution keeps reminding the jury.
5. Whenever you have a question, you seek others’ opinions…
a) Do I?
b) With the encouragement of a cattle prod.
6. If you have to choose between a book and a movie…
a) You pick a book, with dragons on the cover.
b) You pick a movie, because a snuff book doesn’t quite cut it.
How to tally the results: If you feel like keeping your answers to yourself, you’re an introvert. If you feel like punching me in the face, you’re a misanthrope. Either way I won’t join your soccer team.