Do you know anyone with dyslexia? It’s not that they can’t read or write it’s that they literally see the words differently than we see them? They learn differently, interpret differently. If no one takes the time to diagnose them they could spend their entire life feeling like they can’t read or that they’re dumb.
That’s what being an introvert is like, it’s being in a room where everyone is reading and writing and you want to learn, you want to read but you see the words differently. Whether it’s being around people or hating crowds or noise you never get comfortable.
I’ve been a loner most of my life. I remember turning eighteen and my mom bought all this food and a DJ and when no one showed up to the party she looked sad for me and I felt so bad telling her that I didn’t tell anyone. The two friends I had that showed up looked at me like I was crazy, “Why didn’t you tell us? Everyone would have come.” Even then I just liked being alone, at least that’s what I thought it was.
Now here I am years removed from that moment and it hasn’t gotten any better. I don’t really maintain friendships well, my body language is horrible and even when I have to talk to people I can come off as cold or uncaring.
Something I rarely write or talk about is the perception people have of me. Since I was a child I’ve been called everything from gay to arrogant to mean to stuck up to anti-social, even crazy; the list goes on. I usually ignore most of it or use humor or insults to push back. The truth is though, often times all I wanted was to fit in. To not be the guy that walks into a room and doesn’t talk to anyone or tries to start conversations and people feel as though you’re mocking them or uninterested.
It’s as if you’re locked inside of your own mind. You know the right things to say and do but your hands and face and energy give off this vibe that betrays what you meant. I’ve spoken to people for hours at a time and even with that I can tell they aren’t comfortable around me.
What makes it worse is that I’m smart and funny. I don’t say those things in an arrogant way, I say them because it’s confusing to people. How can you be an introvert when you don’t have a problem talking to women or making a crowd laugh if you’re talking about your book or giving an interview? How do you explain to people that you have to force yourself to do those things? That your heart is beating out of your chest and you find solace in the quiet after the storm.
Holidays just amplify it, even family look at you as though you think you’re better than them. They wonder why you don’t come around or leave early. Everyone takes you so seriously that even when you joke it’s taken as sarcasm or being an asshole.
I’ll end this with a story. It was a couple years ago, my grandfather passed away that January and I took it hard. There wasn’t anyone to talk to or grieve with, everyone just sort of assumed I would be okay. A couple months later my aunt died and after the funeral I just didn’t want to be alone. I went over my cousin’s house because I knew that’s where a lot of my family would be and literally everyone there was surprised to see me. People I’d grown up with and had sleepovers with acted as though it was the weirdest thing ever. I listened to inside jokes from years of them hanging out, I watched people speak to me as though I was their neighbor that went to college and was coming by to give my condolences. How do you make a situation more awkward? You tell people, “Hey! I’m right here! I’m trying!” I wasn’t going to do that. That’s what my world is like.
That ladies and gentlemen is a rare glimpse into unfiltered Demez. It’s wanting to stop by a friend’s house on a Sunday afternoon and not, it’s looking at your phone all Thanksgiving and realizing not one person text you to say ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ It’s calling someone to say “I’m sorry for your loss” and they laugh at how uncomfortable you are. It’s knowing there’s a good chance most of your relationships will fail because your tormented by the need for affection and the curse of isolation. It’s seeing people enjoy life and wondering why you weren’t invited knowing that if you were there, they wouldn’t be having the fun they’re having.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.