Last night when I texted Jacob to tell him I wasn't going to make it, the text initially ended, "If for some reason people ask why I'm not there, feel free to lie and tell them I'm not feeling good." When I reread the text before I sent it, I decided I should probably erase that section. I don't want anybody else to start telling introvert lies for me.
Introvert lies are the things that introverts tell people when they don't have the time or the inclination to tell the story fully enough to be understood. My most common introvert lies:
"I think I'm going to go home. I'm feeling a little sick."
"I have a ton of work to do, so I think I'm just going to eat in my room."
"Actually, my arthritis is acting up and I'm really sore, so please don't touch me today."
These are the polite ways of getting out of things and situations that are overwhelming me at the moment. These are excuses people understand. Compare them with what those statements really mean:
"I think I'm going to head home now. I'm feeling fine. I just need to be alone. Nothing's wrong. I just need to be by myself for awhile. The party was great, and I had a great time, and I love hanging out with you guys, but now I'm done. Of course I'm not mad at you. I came, I had fun, I'm starting to be too socially exhausted to have fun, and now it's time for me to go."
"I know I made dinner plans to eat with you guys, but when I got up to go, I suddenly realized that the last thing in the world I wanted right now was to go out and interact with people. It was such a strong reaction, I got a little light-headed. I'm pretty drained from school today. So I'm just going to stay here and soak up some me-time. I still like you guys and would love to have dinner with you some other time, but just not tonight."
"You are not a close enough friend to have not earned the right to touch me. Even if you *were*, I really need for you to ask me first. It really, really bothers me when you run up and hug me without any warning, and it makes me distrust you. So don't. Touch. Me. Not just 'today,' but pretty much 'ever.' At least without asking. Thanks."
Not only are those long explanations, they're ones most people don't understand. They sound rude. People assume I don't like them, or that I'm angry with them, or that I have a terrible time hanging out with them. I don't even dislike people who unexpectedly hug - I just want them to stop doing it, and I can't find a good way of asking without going into much longer, more detailed stories than I want. Even then, it doesn't stop them from feeling a little hurt.
This doesn't apply to everyone. Not everyone reacts to it badly. Sometimes I'll start explaining to someone why I don't want to go to a certain event everyone's going to, and they'll instantly nod and say, "Oh, yeah. I get that. You go do your own thing." And I am extremely grateful. But a lot of the time, I don't know if people will get it, and it's time-consuming to figure it out.
That's when the lies come out.
Everyone understands leaving a party because they have a lot of work waiting for them at home. Far fewer people understand leaving a party because although it's been fun, they've hit their social peak and they're just ready to go.
Skipping out on church is acceptable and understandable if you're sick. It's less so if it's just because you need to spend time on your own.
You save a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings if you just offer them a reason you don't have to explain.
I'd rather not tell introvert lies. Growing up in church, I was taught a lot about how white lies are still lies - if you lie to save somebody's feelings, it's still wrong. It's a little harder to figure out what to do, though, when the lies are told not because the truth is unpleasant, but because the truth is complicated. Am I really obligated to go into the entire spiel every time, especially with people I barely know?
These days I try to find phrases that are at least a little closer to the truth. "I'm tired" is a good one, because when I say that I usually mean I'm socially tired, but they'll assume I mean I'm physically tired (an understandable reason). But it's still a difficult process, and there are still a lot of times when a lie will slip out because I can't think of a polite or easy-to-understand way to say what I really mean.
It's exhausting being an introvert in an extroverted culture. I often worry that by covering up my real reasons for bowing out of things, I'm enabling that culture to continue. But it takes so much work and so much energy to reassure people that my introverted nature really doesn't mean I dislike them.
(This isn't meant to be handy tips for introverts about lying or anything. That's a terrible blog idea. It's just an observation on something I've noticed about myself and about how I deal with the world around me.)