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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

 
Chameleon
Last night, we had dinner with Mark's aunt Inch. Well, his uncle Bruce was there, too, but we've had dinner with him before, so it really was more of a dinner with Inch that happened to be at Bruce's house. Inch is apparently given to asking broad, open-ended questions just to see what kind of answers she'll get. One of the ones from last night was:

"How are you the most sensitive?"

That was it, no added bits to tell whether she meant physically, emotionally, or what have you. What would you choose?

Mark chose the bottoms of his feet as the most ticklish parts of his body. He did explain that he is ticklish on every single external bit of of his body, including his teeth. He can tickle himself by simply rubbing the tips of his fingers together, which he demonstrated. I don't think I could deal with being that constantly ticklish myself, but watching him squirm is great entertainment.

I chose linguistically. All my life, I've been good at verbal imitation. My mom says that when I was a baby, I could sound exactly like the baby goats that our neighbors had, but when someone told me how people were supposed to imitate the sound of goats, I lost the ability. My dad always thought it was freaky that every Christmas after my cousin Adam got there, I'd walk around sounding like I was from New Jersey for a few days. If there is anyone around me with a distinctive speech pattern, I'll pick it up for the next few hours, at least. I turn into a verbal chameleon.

This extended to my social interactions, especially in high school. There were so many people around, and I had so many different classes with different people, little introverted me didn't want to bother with truly interacting with them, because that was stressful and tiring. Instead, I'd become invisible. Becoming invisible doesn't mean becoming silent, though; it means blending in. The best way, I found, to avoid a confrontation or at all probing conversation is to tell the person exactly what they want to hear. People generally have some answer or response they anticipate hearing, and they'll only really stop to take notice of you if they hear something unexpected. I turned out to be pretty good at anticipating those expectations. Outside of the very small group of people I actually liked in high school, I think I got through the vast majority of all 4 years there without ever expressing an opinion that was truly mine.

There are probably a lot of people who think that this kind of chameleoning into my social surroundings sounds insincere or dishonest. I don't know, maybe it is. I don't do it nearly as much anymore. But for a long time, it was my coping method for dealing with having to be social when I really didn't care to be. Introverts are not people without social skills, they are simply people who find exercising said social skills too often to be tiring. One of the best definitions of introverts and extroverts I've heard is that introverts are people who draw energy from being alone, and extroverts are people who draw energy from being around others.

So I suppose, in a way, I consider my chameleon powers to be a necessary power saving feature on the Dana Interactive Introvert model.

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