Do you cringe when your child comes home from school with a party invitation? Do you come home from your kid’s play dates more exhausted than he is? Do you duck and hide when you run into other mothers at the grocery store?
You’re not alone. Really, you’re not. You’re just a loner.
According to population studies, one-third of the general population is introverted. (Studies of gifted children suggest that up to sixty per cent of the very intelligent are introverted—and they all grow up). That means that at least one out of every three women you meet feels, more or less, like you do. They just won’t admit it.
Why? Why do loners have such bad raps that no one will admit that they are one?
Look at the people who shape public opinion. I’ll bet that no introvert ever ran for a public office. It would take one hell of a cause to get me out there shaking hands with thousands of people I’d never met, making small talk and pressing the flesh at fundraising dinners. Likewise, the journalists and TV hosts aren’t likely to be introverts. You mean I have to call people? Talk to them? Pretend to like them? Not going to happen.
So, when a poor, unfortunate child who is depressed and unhappy because he doesn’t fit in at school does something bad, to someone else or to himself, he gets labeled a ‘loner.’ Whether he really is an introvert, or is an unhappy and unfulfilled extrovert, is irrelevant. The label has come to evoke these images in our brains, because the people who write the stories aren’t introverts, and don’t understand.
Plus, there’s the whole ‘it takes a village’ mentality. Mothers, you see, are not allowed to be introverts. Our foremothers, who raised eleven children in a farmhouse miles from everywhere, running the farm while their husbands left for months at a time, while fighting off wild animals (some of the human type) and simultaneously educating all eleven children, are now turning over in their graves. It’s just lucky that no one can go back in time and tell them that they were doing it wrong.
Nowadays, children’s lives are not complete unless they are whirlwinds. They are bounced from school to playdates to sports to religious events to more sports to parties to gymboree. Mothers, their chauffers, have to socialize with other mothers at each of these events. We are told that these occasions are necessary parts of our child’s socialization experience. Mothers who attempt to save their sanity by cutting down on their child’s activities are evil. After all, it takes a village.
What it does seem to take is a village full of criticism. Mothers, especially, get to hear it all. For some reason, motherhood is one of those activities that just invites outside suggestions, unsolicited advice, and general condescension—and it starts very early.
Honestly, is there any other activity that engenders such annoyances? Can you imagine someone walking up to a physicist on the street and telling her that her lab space is set up wrong? Or grabbing a mathematician and insisting that her formulas are running amok?
We put up with the little old ladies and the crotchety old men and the mothers of perfect children, because apparently, it’s part of our job.
But the next time one of them has you cornered, take a second to look to the mother on your right, and then the mother on your left. Chances are, one of them understands. Smile, and maybe you will make a new friend.