PRATIE PLACE

Monday, March 07, 2005

Somewhere, sometime, an introvert is watching you

Kim asked me to follow up the Jonathan Rauch introversion article.

My first thought: my thirst for lots of quiet time makes it possible to enjoy, maybe even prefer, a life spent mostly alone these days.

Secondly, I find watching and witnessing to be just about as much fun as participating.

When I was a kid, I loved listening to my parents' parties after I'd been sent to bed. Happy sounds filtering through the floor: Kingston Trio on the turntable, boozy adult voices laughing. In gleeful solitary noiseless early morning raids I gleaned the last mixed nuts out of little silver bowls. I snuck cold, heavily buttered, last-night's garlic bread off stained tablecloths. The only early riser those mornings: bliss.

At my grandparents' farm in Glen Rock I listened to my father and his brothers and brothers-in-law playing pinochle while the wives cleaned up after big Pennsylvania Dutch dinners. At school I watched kids play games on the macadam during recess; at home I monitored, from the next room, the sound of my brothers and their cronies playing "War" with little colored cubes.

In recent years I've finally discovered the joy of musical lurking: after years of playing the violin, that most extroverted of instruments, I started playing extremely bad piano in my 40s. Now I can boom-chuk in the back of the band from time to time, what a pleasure.

You wedding party people probably never think about it, but the musicians are watching you. Off by ourselves, left alone if all is well, we're free to spin stories for ourselves about the goings on.

I always make a guess as to whether the bride and groom will go the distance, based on the way they treat each other and everybody else (including the help). Sometimes I want to answer the question: "Does anybody have a reason why this wedding should not go forward?" with: "Hell yes! This is going to be a disaster!" Two examples:
  1. A wealthy groom and his family, dressed to the nines, expensive haircuts, pinched and condescending expressions all round. A country bride, open-face and generous, her farming family obviously uncomfortable in their nice clothes. I am the only musician. When the service is over, the bride says, "Honey, why don't we pay the fiddler now?" It's a hot and dusty day, an outdoor ceremony. The groom, barely looking at me, says: "No, we need to go get the pictures taken now. She can wait." Clearly within earshot, I wait. Bride: "It would only take a minute to pay her." Groom, exasperated, voice a bit louder: "She can wait in the parking lot until we are ready." Oh, honey. Where are you now?

  2. A bride of Scottish descent has coordinated a wedding in plaid, down to the extravagant plaid bow on the flower girl's tiny backside. A bagpiper is skirling. I am relieved that the weeks of nit-picking meetings and phone calls, the endless fussing over every musical detail, have ended. The bridegroom has his perennial bland, pale, out-of-this-universe expression; he has already learned the tune-out technique used by the husbands of irritating wives. At the reception, the punch is too tart. The new bride's face breaks out in a cascade of wrinkles and tension and her lips tighten whitely as she reams the caterer. The bridegroom just stands there, mouth slightly open, eyes elsewhere. Honey, where are you now?

My kids marvel that I would rather watch them play Monopoly than join in myself; would rather cheer dog-stick-throwers than throw sticks myself. It's not that I don't enjoy doing stuff (in fact after bowling once it was so much fun I went again this past Saturday!). It's just that -- it feels so magically safe and blessed to be in the PRESENCE of people having fun. Is this strange?

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6 Comments:

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I don't find it strange at all, particularly the Monopoly bit. I hate Monopoly. The last time I played (a decade ago, probably) in order to retain some sanity and self-respect I had to organize a socialist revolution and redistribute the wealth when the winner went to the toilet, the whole thing was annoying me so much.

(He won anyway.)

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

You know, you might want to replace your bow with a cattle prod.

They can be very persuasive an dhelpful in extracting timely payments.

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger AJ said...

What a delicious insight! I too am an avid peoplewatcher, but you certainly have prefected it into an artform! I think I'm probably a bit more participatory in my personality, but I really love to just observe.

Great post. :)

 
At 7:10 AM, Blogger Lizzie said...

Not strange to me at all, but then again, my mother identifies me as having exactly the same temperament from an early age: "You were the one who stood back with a big smile on her face and watched the others play..."

Sound familiar?

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Well, yes. It's what I still do. It's nice to know others feel this way too, isn't it?

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger JusticeNeedsNoReason said...

Your not introverted, your bored. You see when you were a little girl you bought tuppenny books and raced home to read them all at. You'd lay in bed reading and dreaming, you justified this by saying you only had 110 pages left and whats 110 pages to a speed reader. But you paid the price all introverts pay, the one of not being out running wild, of not walking, of not being part of the in crowd. Don't get me wrong you walked alright but it was to the library, to the river, to the local pond to watch the frogs and tadpoles and minnows swimming by. And so you grew up caring for others, with your extensive reading you drifted towards the law, towards fighting justice, towards Sholem Aleichum and Emmanuel Ringelblum Ghetto Chroncles, and no one knew you were crying for the 2 million children who died so needlessly. Your in love with the fields, the trees, the grass and the lupins and so you should be.

 

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