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Jeanine Fritz

Last Saturday, I spent a whisper of the early afternoon in my pajamas, mouth-breathing, blissfully silent, napping and eating french fries. Why no one's approached me about writing a book on healthy living habits, I can't say.

What I can say is that hour-and-a-half was the easiest part of the day — I spent the rest of it at a super-cool, super-nerdy lecture series and a house party.

"What's this lady's problem?" you're probably wondering. "The second half of that day sounds significantly better than the first. There was homemade ziti and a kegerator for cryin' out loud."

Jeanine Fritz
Jeanine Fritz

Well, it seems as though this lady's problem is that she's introverted. And I suspect this to be true based on a decade of therapy, a limited amount of research, and a recent onslaught of Facebook posts featuring cartoons of introverted people doing everything from hiding behind a book to hissing from inside a large hamster ball.

This isn't about being shy; being shy is a whole other sack of muffins.

The pop psychology explanation is that it all boils down to how socializing affects a person's brain chemistry. In a nutshell: extroverts get energy from socializing; introverts get theirs from being alone.


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And this blows because even when I'm thrilled to run into an old friend, or looking forward to bursting into a house party where there are nine kinds of dessert, I sometimes spend the first 15 minutes looking as if I'd rather be alone in the coat closet. Worse: every once in a great while, I really would rather be alone in the coat closet.

I've spent years beating myself up for seeming unfriendly, rude, quiet, awkward, or downright anti-social.

But that's not a complete picture — I also often walk into a bar and high-five everyone I know and a few I don't. I love to host parties, I can count on one hand the number of times I've gone straight home from work in the past month, instead of immediately heading out to do something with other people. I literally have a side business where the success of an event is measured in the number of people I can gather. Not being able to gauge if I'm Fun & Flirty Fritz or Dour Jeanine is a problem, not just for friends, family and coworkers, but for me as well.

Knowing it may simply boil down to not spending enough quality time mouth-breathing and staring off into space is a bit of a relief, but now comes the tricky bit, where I get to experiment with different ways of wedging that time into a normal routine, without looking like a weirdo. Hiding in the storage room at work on and off throughout the day isn't exactly a viable option. I mean, I don't think it is. I'll have to run that past H.R.

It's exciting to think that as more information is gathered and shared about introversion, those of us who have trouble navigating a mostly extroverted world might have it a little easier down the road. And even if that road is long, we'll be okay — rolling along in our little hamster balls.