Sunday, 2 June 2019


When I realise I’ve been incredibly stupid I become excited; all of a quiver. 

Neither a potato with legs nor a member of Mensa, I like to think I’m smart enough, and then -  bam - I hear something I should know, or say something crass and I’m instant Homer Simpson.

As long as my ignorance has been benign, with no blood spilt, no dreams trodden on or hearts broken, I will revel in my own folly.

A few days ago I was sitting in my front garden with a good friend of mine, debating the difference between extrovert and introvert.

“I’m an introvert,” he said, “but I also need time with others. Of course, it’s all a spectrum anyway.”

That was my moment. My jaw still feels like dropping when I think of how fast and wide runs my River of Dumbness.

Shock and disgust came on heavy and strong, because they were built on two separate ares of my own ignorance.

The first was simply that I couldn’t believe I’d never thought about it in those terms, given that this whole introvert/extrovert malarkey fascinates me.

In no small way it has defined my major relationships and the way I live.

The second reason I was shocked was that all my adult life I’ve lived frustrated by the way others dwell in the land of absolutes, when it’s starkly clear to me that just about every aspect of the human condition exists within a spectrum.

Goodness knows why I’d chosen to perceive introvert/extrovert in absolute terms. I suspect that ego was involved, in that I am an extreme case of introvert, and by making the huge misjudgment of creating a false normal, the idea of moderation never occurred to me.

Of course, in my own case (and yours, because you’re human too!) there are contradictions.

One might expect someone who sees themselves as extreme introvert to be shy and nervous about social interaction, but happily I can shuffle a full deck of social skills, and appear to be a gregarious type.

I’d forgive you if you thought I was an out-and-out extrovert, but even though I’m genuinely having fun with y’all out there, behind the flesh, with every chat, every moment in the company of others, my energy levels are depleting, my equilibrium wobbling.

Where an extrovert might feed off such social energy, becoming stronger from the company of others, I gradually fade if I have no time to be alone; to process; to rebuild.

That’s just me. You and everyone else will have as many differing parameters of introvert/extrovert as we differ in every other way.

Of course it’s a spectrum: just about everything is.

The blokes sitting on the barstools to my left have been in heated and heartfelt debate about whether yer man was lying to himself, when he was in bed with his wife, if he only ever wanted sex with the fella from the Statoil.

The man further from me reasons that you wouldn’t go for the fella from the Statoil if you didn’t have to, or, like, y’know, unless you really wanted to.

All my life I’ve had to decide whether I’m going to hold my breath and stay silent. If I’m going to intervene and offer an alternative perspective, it’d probably be on race, because I can’t fight ‘em all.

Sadly, most of the time there’s little point.

These lads seem decent enough though, genuinely concerned about their mate. I sit beside them and think of spectrums. 

Theirs is private business, so I’ve not the slightest intention of tapping himself on the shoulder and going off on one, in an English accent, about the tiny subtleties of life and sexuality.

Not going to happen.

Instead I simply wonder. 

Maybe their mate was faking it when he made love to his wife.
Maybe he wasn’t. 
Maybe he loved sex with her as well as the fella from Statoil.

These young men have smartphones. They’re connected and they watch Netflix. The idea of bisexuality and talk of gender fluidity must have crossed their paths. However it’s absolutely not on their agenda, when they’re considering their own lives.

Only identical twins and clones are born exactly the same, and then even they are socialised differently, and evolve differing personalities, sexualities, minds and behaviours.

All the rest of us are utterly different, so why oh why do bigots and ignorant people (they can be different) insist and often evangelise that gay is gay, schizo is schizo, autistic is autistic?

A psychotherapist recently told me that he has four clients on his list who each identify themselves as bipolar. As an experienced doctor of the mind, he accepted that’s how they saw themselves, despite the fact that they all presented utterly different symptoms.

Attaching labels to ourselves and other humans is like trying to plant a flag on top of the ocean. It might float in the desired place for a moment, but every person is uniquely individual and permanently in flux.

All human traits, characteristics and behaviours are fluid, washing into each other as they wander around our various spectrums.

It is crass to talk of humans in absolutes. To aspire to become absolute in some way, completely one or t’other, would be utterly pointless.

I’d be really surprised if you were 100% straight. I’m not saying you fancy the bloke from the Statoil, or the woman in the Post Office. That’s not the dividing wall.

We’re all a blissful one-off blend of race, gender, sexuality and mental health.

©Charlie  Adley

No comments: