‘Oh dear, that’s not what I meant to say at all!’
The Need to be Alone
For a long time, most of my life in fact, I questioned whether I am capable of having a successful, long term relationship. Not because I’m awkward or because I can’t understand what anyone could possibly see in me (although those are both overriding concerns of mine), but because I can’t be around people for extended periods of time. The thought of someone being in my personal space sickened me. As an introvert, I burn out from social interaction unfathomably quickly. When I leave a social event, or sometimes even during a social event, I don’t want to associate with anyone.
The reason I talk about long term relationships instead of short term ones is because the more a relationship progresses, the greater the risk of eventually living together, sharing a bed, and invading each other’s personal space. I’ve had relationships in the past where the interaction has become more and more intense and I am simply not interested. Not because I don’t like the other person, but because they want to spend more and more time with me. Of course, inevitably this leads to break ups.
However, this all changed when I met Ella. Ella, like me, is an introvert. She has the same worries as me in terms of living in each other’s personal space. Stereotypes dictate that a relationship comprised of two introverts is destined to fail, because they don’t talk to each other. Surely, at least one member of a couple has to be extroverted? Well, given my current circumstance, I strongly disagree. As I’ve said before in previous posts, introverts can talk your ear off if they want to. The key phrase here is ‘want to’, as in, they seldom do.
If you’ve read my previous post, Introverts as Friends, you’ll know that I tend to develop different personalities depending on the situation. In this respect, Ella is very much the same.
The Interaction of Two Introverts
I met Ella about a year and a half ago, at a small optician’s in my local town. I’d gone in for a new pair of glasses. Of course, being me, I’d had several nervous toilet trips beforehand and was going over and over in my head the words I was going to say to the receptionist, preferably in the right order. Anyway, I walked up to the desk, and explained that I had booked an eye test. The words came out in the correct order, and I came across as a normal, functioning member of society. At least I hoped so anyway.
As I sat and waited my turn, this lovely looking, smartly dressed woman materialised to direct me into the optometrists office. There was nothing particularly of note here, and to be honest I was concentrating more on not tripping over and making myself look like a complete clown in front of everyone in the store. I completed the eyetest, did the usual ‘the first lens was better’ malarkey, and lo and behold, my prescription had changed and I needed new glasses.
Next came the worst bit. The part where you have to sit in front of the dispensing optician whilst they get all up in your face and stare at you. In my case, the staring involves the inevitable realisation that I have an asymmetrically shaped head. Anyhow, my dispensing optician was the same smartly dressed woman that had directed me into the optometrist’s office. ‘At least it’s consistent’ I thought. I saw her name tag: Ella.
Now, Ella is the kind of person that, despite being introverted, will always try to talk to someone to make them feel at ease. Which as well as being a lovely trait to have, works incredibly well on me, because I’m a socially awkward mess. Me, being sat in front of her, a good-looking member of the opposite sex, was naturally intimidated. But Ella being Ella, started talking to me. And for some reason, I started talking back. However, it felt so natural, I wanted to talk to her, she wasn’t just another stranger trying to make awkward small talk. We bonded over tv series we both like, and the appointment passed like a flash.
Normally, in this situation, once recovering from the trauma of having a full blown conversation with an attractive woman, perhaps narrowly avoiding having a seizure, I would most likely admit that I don’t stand a chance, and get on with my life. But, there was something about Ella, the way we spoke so effortlessly. The thing that stuck in my mind was that she was putting on the same ‘customer services’ personality that I am so accustomed to. She, like me, was most likely having the exact same internal battles in her head that I often have.
So, after my glasses were fitted, the lenses were ordered and I was instructed to return in a week to collect them. I went on holiday, and returned to the shop a week later. Of course, I hadn’t forgotten Ella. In fact, I was a little bit nervous going back to the store in case she was there. Which, given the kind of individual I am, was refreshing. For once I wasn’t worrying about having to talk to the person on the reception desk.
Anyway, I arrived and sat down to collect my glasses. A significant part of me was dissapointed because it wasn’t Ella serving me. Until, she appeared out of nowhere, asked me about my holiday and continued our conversation from last time! Me, absolutely flabbergasted that a member of the opposite sex had remembered who I was, what I had spent the last week doing, and what the topic of a conversation we had a week ago was, I was sold. I became convinced that she liked me. I wanted to ask for her number, but… completely bottled it. So, I paid for my glasses and left, metaphorically kicking myself in my stupid, introverted brain.
A Sudden Burst of Extroversion
However, the story was not over. I spent the weekend desperately trying to remove the thought of her from my head to no avail. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t worth it because I’m an introvert and I need my personal space. Eventually, I gave in. I had to ask her out.
But how would I go about doing it? I could’ve just walked into the store and asked her out straight. But no, that would’ve been creepy. If she didn’t like me, which I was constantly arguing for and against in my head, she’d say no. I’d look like a stalker, and my confidence would be ruined for the rest of time.
Monday morning arrived. I was sat at work, which is a half an hour drive away from Ella’s store. I finished at five, the store closed at half past five. I’d planned a fantastical mission in my head. During which, I’d race back to the store after work and ask her out like a knight in shining armour. Of course, this was all me fantasising, I’d never actually do it.
Five o’clock arrived, I’d finished work and was on the way home. Suddenly, I found myself putting my foot down, I was going back to the store. I parked nearby, walked up to the front door and stopped. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t a fantastical scenario in my head anymore. I was being creepy, she would say no, and I’d be hammered into the ground in shame. I skulked back to my car and drove home.
Tuesday, the same thought process was in my head. I raced back to the store, and the entire way back I was thinking to myself: ‘Who cares if she says no? It’s not like any of them know who I am’. Impressed by my sudden bout of logical reasoning, I strutted up to the front door and bounded inside, running on pure, unbridled adrenaline, fingers shaking fast enough to break the sound barrier. I lunged up to the front desk, and confidently asked for Ella…but she wasn’t in.
Wednesday, the same story. I appeared at the front desk and… she was absent. But, the receptionist recognised me. ‘she’s in tomorrow‘, she enticed, a smile on her face.
Thursday, full to the brim with dread, my extroverted rush fading, I headed in to the store. She finished early, I missed her yet again.
Friday, like a moth attracted to light, I could not stop going back to that store until I saw her again – I was in too deep to quit. For the fourth time, I sauntered in to the shop, and there she was…with her back to me. Now, at this point, most people would’ve confidently strided over, acquired her attention, asked her out on a date and lived happily ever after…
…but this is a blog about introversion. I tried to clear my throat and make myself known, but she was fighting with a vacuum cleaner and didn’t hear me. So, I walked over and tapped her on the shoulder. She almost jumped through the ceiling – perhaps the thought the vacuum cleaner was fighting back. At this point, introvert Cam had made a full resurgence and was now mentally chastising himself. Giving me time to recover, Ella proceeded to nervously talk to me. ‘It’s not every day that you miss your Prince Charming four times!’ she exclamed. Me, utterly dumbstruck with social awkwardness, all computational resources exceed in my brain, completely ignored that flattering comment and asked her if she wanted to go for a coffee. Of course, the words didn’t come out in that order. It was closer to: ‘coffee me you go get?’. To which she, much to my utter bewilderment, said yes! She then offered me her number, because I was too embarrassed to remember to ask for it, and the rest is history.
An Introverted Thought Process
I now, of course, know what was going through Ella’s mind throughout this whole ordeal. And it was both comical and understandable. In much the same way that I had been convincing myself that she didn’t like me, she was convincing herself that the only reason I kept going back into the store was because there was a problem with my glasses, and for some reason only she could fix them. The receptionist had obviously told her that I kept coming back, and naturally, she’d got to work convinving herself of every possibility except the most logical one. It is also worth noting that her brother was the optometrist, and he was sat in his office listening to me asking her out. If I’d known that at the time I probably would’ve collapsed into a ball on the floor.
But what we have both come to realise, a year and a half on, now entirely integrated into each other’s lives, is that when you are completely comfortable with someone, you share everything about each other with ease, and are fully comfortable with all of each other’s personalities. The reason introverts are so allergic to sharing their personal space, is that they find it incredibly difficult to let another person in. But, the message I am trying to convey in this post is that when you meet someone that you can truly connect with, it doesn’t matter. So, to my extroverted cousins out in locations unknown, if an introvert lets you in to their lives. You should treat it as a great privilege, as you can be sure that you will have a friend, or perhaps even a lover, for life.
As always, and until next time, I thank you for the read.