Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why I Would Rather Wet My Pants Than Talk to You

How does it feel to be shy?

I would like to think I'm writing this on behalf of all shy people everywhere and not just because I'm feeling sorry for myself. Of course the two need not be mutually exclusive.

If you are a child, being shy means that when the brand-new ball you were playing with ends up in a neighbor's yard, you let it stay there rather than going to the neighbor's door, ringing the bell and asking politely if you can retrieve it.

It means that, in a strange setting, you will risk wetting your pants before summoning the courage to ask where the bathroom is.

As an adult, being shy means feigning illness when you're invited to a party -- either that or spending most of your time at the party hiding in the bathroom.

As for the telephone, actually ANSWERING IT is OUT OF THE QUESTION and being required to MAKE A PHONE CALL to someone, even if you sort of know them, is like being asked to sing the National Anthem wearing your rattiest-looking underwear in front of an enormous crowd assembled before the Washington Monument on the Fourth of July.


Of course I can't explain that in a way that will enable your average extrovert to understand on a gut level.

For starters,  when forced to attend a social gathering, your body begins to act on its own without your permission. For instance...

Your hand, reaching out to procure an hors d'oeuvre, knocks the entire platter onto the floor.

The hors d'oeuvre itself then gets stuck in your throat and launches a coughing fit that turns your face bright red and causes you to sweat profusely until you look like an escapee from a TB ward.

When someone (out of pity or simple politeness) tries to engage you in conversation, you find that the language centers of your brain have experienced a breakdown so that the few words you're able to retrieve have little or no correspondence with what you actually intended to say.

Usually you can remember your name or something that sounds a lot like your name.

If "Hello, how are you?" ends up sounding more like "Habbaba, boody-boo," at least it's a reasonable approximation.

Answering the question, "What do you do (i.e., for a living), though is a lot harder:

"I'm...uh...teach...um...waddayacall'em -- chitlins, I mean children...derailed, I mean, delayed...with...um, disabilities...you know, autistic or assburg...I mean, asperger's syndrome at a...um...preschool...uh...up on a hill.... What's it called?...Windhill...no,no, Windell, something dell, no, dale, yeah, Marindale School in Marin...um...County. It's part of San...San...something, not Frisco, but..."

Usually the person listening catches the word, disability, and assumes you're referring to yourself. Which, in the main, is undoubtedly true.

During the remainder of the party you stand around silently, your facial muscles desperately trying to hang on to something resembling a smile. Probably you look like someone suffering facial paralysis or whose Tourette's Syndrome meds are just starting to wear off.

After the party's over, you go home and go straight to bed hoping to sleep off the humiliation, but, of course, you become an instant insomniac who must relive every embarrassing moment of your phenomenally inept performance.

The average extrovert is no doubt wondering what, exactly, it is that you're afraid of and why you can't just talk yourself out of your illogically-based assumptions.


A paraplegic can't use logic to gain control of his legs. A person suffering with the flu doesn't use logic to reduce his body temperature. A tortoise can't use logic to turn itself into an osprey. A warthog can't...well, you get the idea.

You can go into psychotherapy, of course, and many of us shy people do. In truth, though, after you uncover your repressed traumas and learn to face them boldly, you're likely to discover that you are still shy.

You could, of course, take drugs. Depending on your drug of choice, though, you may find yourself in a condition far worse than the collective symptoms encompassed by the label, shy.

I hate to say this, but in the end I think you're kind of stuck with your condition. Probably you were  born that way, a product of your genetic inheritance.

Nature is, I think, an irrepressible experimenter. Some of her experiments are kind of scary, like when she invented sociopaths to see how they might adapt to and/or influence the web of life. At some point she threw hyperactive people into the mix. And then people with autism.

Somewhere, in the course of evolution, nature decided to experiment with humans who viewed most other humans as a potential threat to their existence, humans whose inner alarm system would go off at the mere prospect of interacting with strangers. Humans, in other words, who are



               irrefutably and emphatically


1 comment:

  1. Habbaba, Boody-Boo!

    I have found that, in attempting to foregather socially at a parTay, it helps me to become someone I am not. Shy I am, certainly, but how about Pirate-Hooker Gypsy Virginia? She's not!

    NB: period/genre costuming is essential in this regard.

    Wanna borrow my hook? Yarrr!