Who Am I, Energetically Speaking?

An Introvert’s Perspective…

Wendy Cohan

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Photo of the author, taken by a friend.

The other day I was in my local animal-humane-sponsored thrift shop on a sunny afternoon, when I spied an energetic older woman with snow-white hair. She was busily helping people find things, giving out compliments, and engaging in lively conversations. Since I assumed she worked there, I asked her a question about a specific item I was looking for. “Oh, honey, I don’t work here. I don’t even live here. I’m just visiting my son.”

I was so surprised! She seemed so at home, so grounded, and most of all, so friendly. After our brief exchange, I left the room feeling deflated, and in the background, I heard her strike up yet another interesting conversation with a complete stranger, with total confidence.

This is something I cannot do — and although it’s never come naturally, I’ve tried. Said strangers will look at me askance and wander away, or nod politely and avoid eye contact. I don’t have the gift of gab, or the energetic “pull” of a true extrovert. I’m an introvert. When I try to push my personal envelope, apparently, my words or tone apparently do not come out the way that I want them to — but in lieu of carrying around a running tape recorder, I guess I’ll never know.

Last night I was watching a rerun of “Seinfeld,” the one where Elaine dances at her office party. Later, George visits the apartment, and when Jerry asks if anything “interesting” happened at the office party, George says, “have you ever seen Elaine dance?” And Jerry responds, “Oh, no, Elaine danced? Did she do the thing with the thumbs and the kicks?”

The thing is, Elaine, a woman presumably in her thirties, has no idea that she’s an awful dancer. She says to Jerry, her best friend, “I’m a good dancer, right?” She’s clueless — and it’s a painful realization that she “stinks” as a dancer, to the point of being the butt of all office jokes for eternity.

Sometimes, I think that I am Elaine, except that no one has told me I’m a terrible dancer — or the energetic equivalent: Am I too brusque? Is my voice pitched too low, or too high, or does it carry a sarcastic undertone? Is my eye contact off-putting, or is my lack of eye contact off-putting? Do I move my body too quickly and forcefully? Or do I move like I’m carrying the

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Wendy Cohan

Author of character-driven women's fiction, short stories, and essays. Her contemporary romance, The Renaissance Sisters, debuted May 23, 2023.