I grew up on a block with killers, crack dealers, dope fiends, stick-up kids, at least two arsonists, arbitrarily unchained pit bulls that “don’t all bite like that, really,” niggas with cases, girls with bids, aunties with bounties, snitches and cops from the actual show Cops (they used to film in my neighborhood).
When I was younger (16-ish) and dumber and trying to fit in with the Altima-whipping niggas in the suburb my parents eventually moved to, my roots were a point of shame for me, so I did my best to pretend I was middle class, too. And then I got older and even dumber and used it as an authenticity assessment barometer—a metric proving I was realer and blacker than any black person who wasn’t from the hood.
I think—I hope—I’m less dumb now.
Anyway, I’m sharing this because, despite those obvious dangers surrounding me then, I was never scared to leave my own house. And not because I was so tough or whatever, but those risks were just...familiar, and the familiar eventually normalizes even the most abnormal circumstances.
But COVID-19 has me stutter-stepping on my own stoop now, questioning whether it’s safe to walk to the park or just drive to Giant Eagle. It feels like I’m getting bullied by a cloud, and this feeling is so damn unfamiliar.
The silver lining here is that I’m an introvert, which makes me specifically equipped for social distancing, shutdowns, shut-ins and quarantines. While the rest of y’all are struggling, we’re skipping around in our comfortable slippers and plush-as-fuck robes; elated to be surrounded by all of our books and shows and stuff and so much damn inside.
Basically, we’re Bane and the rest of y’all are Batman.
Oh, you think isolation is your ally. But you merely adopted the quiet; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t come outside until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but ENERGY DRAINING!
It’s funny sometimes when people write and say things about introverts as if we’re Mogwais. (“Just give it a book and a task and a taco and it should be fine. But if you shine a light on it after midnight, it’s going to turn into Michael Rapaport.”) And this global pandemic has allowed some of those misconceptions to fester and breed. But believing that we’re uniquely built for this requires a misunderstanding of what matters most to most introverts. It’s not quiet or space. It’s control. We just wish to be able to engage people on our own terms. If we want to talk, we want to be able to talk. If we need space, we want to be able to find it. Yes, social interactions can be energy-draining, but we want the power to dictate ourselves when to be present and active, and when to be alone. It’s the difference between deciding a thing and having that thing decided for you.
Also, if you have kids or roommates or a partner, everyone in the house all day means everyone in the house all day. Household isolation cannibalizes personal space; which is why, if you live with an introvert, you’ve probably noticed that they’re taking hourlong shits now. They’re not constipated, they’re just recharging on the toilet. (And getting hemorrhoids, too.)
And although working from home—if you have the privilege to do so—is optimal, you’re probably spending even more time on Slack and Zoom now than usual. Before, I could be an ashy, naked, psychopath all day long if I wanted to be. Now I gotta brush my teeth and iron a shirt for video conferences just because my extrovert colleagues get antsy. FUCK THIS!
In summary, this sucks for everyone. Except one-year-olds. One-year-olds are very happy now.