Flimsy Sanity: I Fail the Interview

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, November 02, 2007

I Fail the Interview

I found this picture at a resale shop in an expensive curved glass frame that was way beyond my means and I wanted it. I left a note asking if the owner would just sell me the picture without the frame and he agreed to if it hadn't sold in a year. I waited and a year passed and he sold it for $20.

I just thought it was funny that even for this formal portrait from the olden times when pictures were rare, expensive and rather an event, the one on the right couldn't "neaten up". Her glasses are askew, hair amess, jewelry crooked and by the expression on her face, I would say she is perturbed by the whole procedure. I don't know the story of these worn-out peasant women, but I assume they might be spinster sisters.

I AM the one on the right. All my life, I have tried to be neat but my clothes are usually food stained (probably from eating at the computer or on the couch), my hair has always been a mess, and even when I worked in jobs that required a professional appearance (teaching and librarian), I just couldn't look put together even when I spent a lot of money on clothes. I grew up wearing my cousin's cast offs and my aunt told me that she didn't give me some of the nicer ones because I wrecked them so fast and it bothered her that the fancier ones would be destroyed. Now I wear only comfortable clothes to cover myself, not to make a statement (though carelessness is a BIG statement). I only buy from rummage sales and thrift stores as they will be in the rag bag in short order, either from food or because I work fast, not slow and careful. I swear I have tried to be neat and I actually think it may be a gene I am missing. I won't go into all the hair-do failures except to say that beauticians make it look worse than I do myself. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a slob, my house is clean even though sometimes the trim work painting is a little wavy.

I also detest having my picture taken and in general don't like looking at pictures unless they make me laugh. Lining relatives up and taking their pictures is BOORRING - boring to do and boring to look at. If I had to evacuate for a fire, I would probably grab my library card and of course the dog.

Besides being messy and perturbed by pictures, I also am an introvert and love to be by myself. I like learning new things and the chances of that happening while making chit chat are damn near nil. Give me a book or a computer screen. I am friendly to strangers because I can give them attributes they may or may not have, but I am very slow to form friendships. I am very quiet and let people talk until I find out if we have anything in common. I don't like confrontation and I think that arguing is nearly always useless because even if you make more sense, the opponent has to defend his ego. If they think Bush is great, I will be polite and not voice my opinion, but I will avoid them and will choose my words carefully to try and conceal my disgust and I work hard to not let my body language betray me. I agree with Jonathan Rauch who wrote this in Atlantic Monthly:
Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality.

So what does the manual tell a psychiatrist to look for when he/she/it checks out your mental health?
When asked a question, does patient pause for long periods before answering?
Does patient's face remain blank or expressionless?
Does patient seem withdrawn or unsociable?
Does patient dress sloppily, or come to your office with poorly groomed hair? ("Do not rate grooming as poor if it is simply done in what one might consider poor taste," the manual advises.)

Maybe the lady on the right is flat out insane, or maybe she is disppointed in her disloyal sister and angry that she has to be polite to her.


  • At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did i write this when i wasn't looking?

    - anan

  • At 7:10 PM, Anonymous RJ Adams said…

    Thank God the subjects were female. For a moment I thought it was me!


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