Being Shellfish

Dear Introvert Sage
People keep telling me to come out of my shell. It’s very annoying, because I feel they just want me to be more conventionally social so they feel more comfortable. How do I get them to back off?

Dear Shelly,

Is that your real name? Because I make the jokes here, just so you know.

Your solution is simple. Instead of getting them to back off, take your own back off.

Invest in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume and wear it everywhere. Work, shopping, society weddings. When people tell you to come out of your shell, simply remove the costume. Voilà!

PRO TIP: Remember to wear underwear.

Sigh High Club

Dear Introvert Sage,
I travel for work and always have earbuds, iPad, books, and magazines to entertain myself on flights. Yet the person next to me invariably ignores my multiple ‘please don’t talk to me’ signals and pesters me with small talk throughout the flight. It makes me want to slam my tray table into the upright position. Am I responsible for entertaining them?
Sigh High Club Member

Dear Sigh High Club Member,

Ah yes, the person who expects a seat-mate to provide their inflight entertainment. The solution is to have a selection of entertainments on your person that you can brandish as soon as an attempt is made to penetrate your cone of silence.

Great choices are Where’s Wally, join-the-dots or colouring books (remember the crayons!), and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Simply place the selection on their tray table, wish them a good flight, and turn back to your own reading material.

If they persist in prattling at you, simply use two fingers of each hand to to point helpfully at the materials.

Won’t Take A Hint

Dear Introvert Sage,
A colleague at work keeps stopping by my desk and chattering non-stop. I try looking at my watch and yawning, but she just won’t take hints. My jaw is starting to hurt. Help!
All Yawned Out

Dear All Yawned Out,

I had the exact same problem. My workmate would trap me at my desk and yabber tirelessly, apparently having mastered circular breathing, as there was never a pause where I could say I needed to get back to work. Like you, I tried the watch, the yawn, the glazed expression – but nothing got through.

Finally I happened upon a solution. I simply reached for my desk phone, started dialling a number (it was the local pizzeria) and put the call on speaker so the ringing phone could be heard. Of course I maintained eye contact with her as I did this – I didn’t want to appear rude. She kept talking throughout. When my call was answered, I gently lifted the handset and turned away to start the call.

There was a lot of discussion about toppings and cheese options and potential stuffed crusts and eventually she left, otherwise I fear she would be standing at that desk and talking still.

PS I did ask if she liked anchovies – I’m not an animal.

Cancelled Plans

Dear Introvert Sage,
I get a real frisson of joy when plans get cancelled. Is there something wrong with me?

Dear Daphlette,

Your parents have made up a ridiculous name so yes, very likely there is something congenitally wrong with you. But that is beyond the purview of my column.

However I can help with the cancelled plans. Find a coterie of likeminded introverts and form a ‘social club’. Stop laughing Daphlette – I didn’t laugh at your name. Well I did but who’s the sage here? ANYWAY form this social club and organize a series of events – parties, dinners, weekends away, abseiling classes.

Then, just as each event approaches, cancel it. Everyone will be thrilled and delighted and you, the architect of the constant frissons, will be considered a hero.

Pity Party

Dear Introvert Sage,
Sometimes my colleagues ask if I have plans for the weekend, and when I say I plan to stay in and watch Netflix and practice my cursive writing, they make sad faces and invite me out with them. I’m confused. Are they jealous? What is happening?
Netflix & Quill

Dear Netflix & Quill,

Given the near-indecipherability of your penmanship I commend your well chosen weekend agenda. As for your confusion, what is happening is that your colleagues believe your delightful plans to be tragic non-plans. What is happening is PITY.

The solution is to translate your description of your plans into their language. A fair rendering might be: 

I shall participate in a boisterous group sport and later attend a raucous party precluding meaningful conversation. The following day I shall join a large assortment of gentlefolk as they assemble for a poorly organized picnic in an overcrowded area and partake of a great surfeit of potato salad.

(I believe I have the lingo down but you may care to make your own edits.)

They will understand this to mean you have plans and will not feel compelled to include you in theirs. Do write again once you have the ink spills and smudges under control.

Got a query of your own for the Introvert Sage?
Pop it in the comments and I’ll be sure to pass it on!

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