Last week, I went to Gruene with my family, and we understandably found ourselves in Gruene Hall listening to Bill Kirchen kill it. I mean, seriously, the guy is amazing. As we sat on the long benches, an elderly couple sat next to us and struck up a conversation with my dad. My two sisters also joined the conversation, and I was suddenly, completely paralyzed as to what to say. So I just sat there, switching between feigning interest in a conversation I wasn’t really a part of and watching Bill Kirchen perform. It felt awkward and weird, and I was OK until my dad told the couple that I’m moving up to New York soon.
“I’m going to grad school,” I explained.
“New York City is a place I could do without.”
Yep. That’s what the man said. I let my dad and sisters take back the conversation. I left pretty quickly so I could go Google Hangout with my New York roommates. Take that!
I don’t know why I was literally incapable of talking to this couple. Usually, I have a witty comeback for someone who is throwing shade (can someone so old throw shade?). When my grandpa introduces me to his friends, I have no problem talking to them. I’m even charming sometimes! Just a week earlier, I had made friends with an agronomist at a local bar and grill. And to me, plants are pretty uninteresting.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers had us take a Myers-Briggs test. As if the world wanted to make 16-year-old me even more confused about who I am, my results were split between ENFJ and INFJ. How can I literally be both an introvert and extrovert at the same time? They’re opposites. So I decided to just pick one, and I opted for introvert. I knew who I was!
I enjoy time alone reading, writing, running, snacking, whatever, but I am also a very social person. Now, it may take me a little to warm up to you, but I do seek out relationships. I’m like Mr. Darcy, in that way. And the whole expressing myself better in writing rather than through spoken word thing…Anyway, depending on the night, I’ll go out to a packed bar with some friends or maybe a smaller pub alone. Sometimes I’ll talk to strangers. Other times, I want nothing to do with them, because eh. It all depends on my mood, which has actually been changed throughout a night by friends who dragged me along to unfamiliar venues. I may have been kicking and screaming.
For the past six or so years, I’ve been confused about the dynamic between Extroverted Leslie and Introverted Leslie. While talking about this with my dad one time, he said, “It’s as if you have to question which is the real you.” To an extent, I do agree, but I also feel like as a complicated, weird human being, I am allowed to be fickle and moody and whatever.
Not long ago, I saw something on Facebook about a mysterious creature called an extroverted introvert. I read this little piece and went down a rabbit hole of other things related to the topic. I’m proud to say that I have shifted my self-perception from confused introvert to extroverted introvert—official Myers-Briggs categories be damned!
Throughout writing this, I have also realized that my experience with the old couple in Gruene Hall doesn’t have to do just with my personality type. Let me tell you another story. In high school, each student was paired up with a resident of a nearby nursing home for a Secret Santa type thing. I mean, it was one-sided gift giving, so it wasn’t really Secret Santa, but that’s cool. The day we were supposed to go to the nursing home, my friend Brooke was sick. She enlisted me to take her gift to her resident, which I was glad to do. When I got there, I went to my recipient’s room to find a woman who was blind and promptly told me to go away, even after I explained to her who I was and why I was there. I left her new dressing gown by the door, because eff you, I don’t want this thing. Then I headed over to Brooke’s resident’s room, but I couldn’t find the correct name plate. I walked around a bit, wondering if I had gotten the room number wrong. I headed over to the nurses’ station and asked where this woman lived.
“She passed away two days ago, but we have a new resident there, if you’d like to give her the gift,” a very nice nurse informed me.
Many thoughts went through my head, like the image of a conveyor belt with people on it and memories of how scared I was as a kid when Christmas caroling in the geriatric ward. When I got back to the room, I knocked and found a pleasant enough looking woman sitting on her bed. I told her that I was there to bring her a present from my friend, and when she responded, I could not understand her. Her voice was croaky and quiet. I could make out very little and felt increasingly more and more like an a-hole every time I asked her, “What? Could you say that again?” So I nodded a lot and giggled a little, because I didn’t know what else to do.
But one thing I understood was something along the lines of, “You’re pretty stupid, aren’t you?”
Behold, another instance of my incapability of responding to an old person’s zinger! Somewhere in my mind, there is a block when it comes to interacting with elderly people when they’re being curmudgeons. It lies somewhere between wanting to respect my elders despite my wily nature and actually being sort of terrified by geriatric people. And when you add the fact that I’m an extroverted introvert, you get me without a word to say. So if you ever want me to shut up, enlist the help of your sassy, elderly friends.
Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 4 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.