Do you walk around wearing labels? Oh just be honest! I walk around wearing the “minority” label quite proudly. Not only am I a minority, I’m a “multi-hyphenate minority:” Black, Woman, Introvert, Awkward… etc. I love making people feel bad about the fact that I’m in the minority, especially when the other person is in the majority. Take my introversion for example, I love throwing it in extroverts’ faces that I’m an introvert. You can read an example of that here. It’s just too easy. My husband and my best friend get it the worst. They are both extroverts, and for some reason they both really love me and like hanging out with me. But below are two stories illustrating how I make them feel bad for merely wearing a different label than I do.
So about six months ago Maurice and I are coming back from somewhere that I felt he forced me to go, and I start whining about how no one understands how draining it is for introverts to socialize.
“But I thought you had a good time Babe,” he says.
“I did have a good time, but I’m exhausted!” I respond mildly dramatically.
“That’s cool,” he says. And we proceed to go home and watch TV.
Later that month, my best friend Tiffany and I are on the phone and I start going on and on about how religious people use the word “fellowship” as an excuse to socialize, “Why can’t young Christians just admit that the reason they want to have Bible study and snacks at their apartments every Tuesday is because they’re lonely and need social interaction?” She listens intently and does not judge or criticize, so I proceed to believe that what I said was not insulting.
How could anything I say about extroverts be insulting anyway? I mean they’re the majority. They are the ones who are celebrated in entertainment, social settings, and business, while we are the ones who are consistently ridiculed and misunderstood. They get all of the privileges in life because they’re outgoing and charming; but we get penalized and called shy and weird. They have absolutely nothing to complain about!
So a few weeks after the party, I’m sitting at home with Maurice and he asks what my work schedule is for the following week.
“Oh I’m opening on Monday and Tuesday, off on Wednesday…”
“Why’s that good?”
“Well since you’re opening I’ll be able to get some things done in the morning, and I like my alone time.”
“Alone time?” I questioned. Why do extroverts need alone time? I seriously didn’t understand that. I was even mildly insulted. How dare he need alone time as an extrovert?! He was supposed to like being around people ( i.e. me) all of the time! I was so confused.
Later that day, I was on the phone with Tiff. We were talking about our lives and the challenges we’ve been facing and she says, “I feel bad because I’m an extrovert and I need quality time with people.” Wait. What did she say? She felt bad that she’s an extrovert? I don’t get it. That’s like saying you feel bad for being famous; nobody wants to hear that especially when they’re not famous! Well would you look at that: privileged people complaining about being privileged!
Then I started thinking. Did I assume that my husband didn’t need alone and that my friend never got lonely simply because of one label that they have. Yeah, Maurice is the life of the party everywhere he goes, but he’s also an extremely deep thinker, and you need alone time to do that. Yeah Tiffany always had friends around her in college, but now she lives in a small town with nothing but introverts around her. You’re bound to get lonely eventually when your coworkers and your roommate never want to do anything spontaneous. Then I thought about the flippant things I’ve said about extroverts all in the name of helping them see the “introvert struggle.” Instead of explaining my nature to them in a casual and loving way, I was passive-aggressive and condescending. No wonder Tiff felt bad and no wonder Maurice needed time to think.
Those of us in the minority can be very mean to those who are in what we consider the majority. We think we have a right to be mean because we need to “make them understand what we go through.” We don’t realize that individuals are not the groups that they are a part of. They are sovereign, divine beings who are profoundly multi-faceted, and just because they identify as one thing, that doesn’t mean they should be treated as if that’s the only thing that they are.