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January 3rd, 2015

Solitude

When I was a kid, my mother used to say, “Karen, you are so anti-social!”

Not like a description. Like a flaw.

Actually, I can be pretty social. I like people. I like listening to them and talking to them. I like hanging out with people and Doing a Thing Together, or Doing A Thing Separately. I’m introverted in that spending a lot of time with a lot of people can be exhausting, but it’s still fun.

The problem was that I would rather read than do anything else in the world, especially if my other options were “entertain your siblings” or “talk to your distant relatives or your parents’ older friends.” I didn’t know how to fulfil social obligations and get what I wanted at the same time, so I would sit in the same room and read. When well-meaning adults asked me questions, my response was usually a distracted “What?”

If I was so deep into a book that a question only lightly brushed the surface of my submerged consciousness, then my response was nothing at all.

This wasn’t someone trying to bother me on public transport. This was people who deserved my respect, and who I indeed respected. Mum found my rudeness frustrating. I found her frustration baffling.

When I was a teenager, my mother used to say, “Karen, you are so anti-social!”

And I would say, “Yes, I am! So you should stop forcing me to socialise!”

Then we would shout at each other. We did that a lot.

This Christmas, there were seventeen people in my parents’ house. I poured drinks, played with the little kids, cleared the wrapping paper, patted the dogs, set the table, and chatted with almost everyone. When the noise levels got too high, or the sun too bright, or I didn’t have anything to do, I went to my room to read.

My mother didn’t say a thing.

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