September 25, 2013

On Introverts: A Label Breakdown.

To be fair, I hate Extroverts equally.

They are two terms now tacked on to the list of modern buzzwords aplenty. Introvert and extrovert simply get under my skin all the more than the other words because recently many people think that hashing them out is simple, is easy a la handy infographics.

I understand the importance of labels, their necessity. Labels spread awareness and create a point of contact, build a platform for understanding other people and the diversity of our lives. Their ability to empower us is undeniable, but the party kinda stops there. I’m not simply referring to the capacity of labels to be used against us, but the ability of labels to limit ourselves and hold us in place. They inform but the should not be our everything and our all.

As this fine fellow relates, gender—not unlike introversion and extroversion and sexuality—are scales or graphs rather than fast and dirty binaries.

I am a gender fluid pansexual ambivert, who doesn’t really feel entirely human all of the time either. I am smack in the middle of everything. Yet even these terms do not entirely suit me. Every time someone posits to me questions such as what I am, what I do or who I do, I’m extremely tempted to reply: “I am me,” Because that’s all I really am. I am who I am. Rather than embracing all of this, truly embracing it, I kinda let it sit on the back burner of myself while masquerading the slightly easier to swallow bi-sexual tomboy female. I never felt shame for these facets of myself, this diversity of self, but I never truly inhabited them up until recently. Labels, admittedly, at least help me get a handle on things.

I know I’m not the only one—I’ve had homosexual friends confide in me that they wanted to have intercourse with the opposite sex once in awhile as though it was something shameful. Silliness is what I call it, conforming to a set of invisible walls.

I am frequently mistaken for an extrovert, possibly because I get the verbal shits when I’m caught with my confidence pants down, possibly because talking to people doesn’t phase me too much due to years of debate team. Yet I’m an ambivert—the term I’m probably the most at peace with from the label-based Polaroid of my person. I truly inhabit both introvert extrovert—often I’m an extroverted introvert or an introverted extrovert or rapidly flip between the two extremes during one day. What might drain me one day, recharges me the next and visa versa. I love being around people and I love meeting new people, but good-goddamn if I don’t get my alone time—and I’ll be damned if someone is going to treat me exclusively like one or the other. The contradictory nature of my being knows no bounds.

Some might find power in their labels, I find power in my limitlessness.

In the novel I wrote, there is a character who is gender neutral. I never say this outright in the text, I simply refer to them as they and their, or by their proper name. The reader comes to understand who and what they are as they experience them, which is really how everything should be done in a perfect world.

But a perfect world this is not, so sometimes we use labels that can be limiting.

In a more-perfect but slightly less-than-perfect world, we would refer to whatever designation people felt they had per their respective positions on the graphs and scales. Kinsey 2, Gender 5, Ambivert 12. Though seemingly cold and calculating, the range of expression is far greater and more accurate than these buzz-word labels we cling to like life preserves amidst these tumbling tides.

I fully acknowledge that there are plenty of individuals who are perfectly content and fully embrace the solidity of their labels, but let us not entirely disregard the fluidity of everything and the fluidity of ourselves to change and evolve—arcing ever inwards towards our truest self. Change is the only constant—embrace it. We should not allow the dried husks of our former selves hold us in when we have grown into something different.

Labels can have the capacity to prevent people from knowing themselves and from knowing each other—they have the potential to open someone to deeper connection or take an individual as granted and walk away. Labels need to evolve.

Labels are keys, that’s all they are.

They are keys to opening the doors to ourselves and to others. We can arrive into a certainty of ourselves that can be unchanging. But sometimes the doors are European—they have latches, not locks, and once you turn the key and open the door, the key is stuck in the latch. You have to let go of the key to walk through the door. Change. You’ll always know and remember that key—it is part of you—but that key does not define what lies beyond the door. What lies beyond the door defines the key.

So either everyone needs their own unique label (I am a me) or we need to tone down the rigidity and seriousness and bump up the fluidity. Labels matter just about as much as they don’t—or shouldn’t anyway.

Each individual is a particular color from a limitless spectrum. Some may debate whether there is truly a difference between two reds, but speaking as someone with perfect color vision, I can say there most definitely  is, and more importantly, I respect that. Which is what all these pesky labels are all about, right?

I, for one, relish the opportunity to get down and dirty with understanding this universe and all the wonders that inhabit it, discerning through experience the difference between two very similar shades of purple or the wonders of gold and mauve intermixed. It’s just one big messy painting I get to swim in.

As my man Tom Robbins put it:

Death is simple. Life is messy. Give me life, the more complicated the better.

—Tom Robbins

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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