By Shamus Posted Wednesday Aug 9, 2006

Filed under: Nerd Culture 9 comments

There are lots of little memes floating around (is it okay to call them mini-memes?) that are collections of various short-answer personal questions. Inqueries into such erudite subjects such as, “what flavor of ice cream is the sexiest?” or “which Beatles song would you choose to have played at your funeral?”. Such queries are usually posed because of the fun in coming up with an answer, not (I’m assuming) because of any genuine curiosity on the part of the asker. MySpace is a hotbed of such things, where users fire numbered salvos of questions at one another as a cheap approximation of conversing. Not that this thing is a rarity outside of MySpace: You can find these question lists all over Blogistan, as it were.

But this one caught my eye: Dinner party-10 guests (living or dead, but real) you most want to invite? This is clearly propaganda from the extrovert lobby, who want to push their extremist extroverted way of life onto Decent Americans. The question itself is clearly extronormitive. If that sounds hyperbolic to you, then perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are an extremist!

I kid. I know that introverts are, in fact, the minority. For those of you who are more normal I can explain it this way: A vampire might bite down on my neck and suck until all he got was marrow, and I would still find the experience less draining than a dinner party for ten. Ten people at my house – even if my house were a good bit larger than it is now – would feel like being smothered by a very charming and conversational pillow for the evening. It would deplete whatever energies I use for interacting with others and it would take me days to fully recuperate. Days of sitting in my office, alone, avoiding the telephone and answering (verbal) questions with grunts and nods.

Thankfully, most people are not wired this way. Some people actually get antsy if they are left alone too long. If circumstances deprive them of the chance to make conversation, they become restless. The reservoir builds up pressure until someone comes along to release it by talking about the weather, American Idol, their health, or whatever else springs to mind in that moment of opportunity. My mother-in-law is this way. (Contrary to tradition, I actually get along well with my mother in law. She’s a very loveable woman and I’m quite fond of her.) Her reservoir is always full. I’ve never known her to shy from a conversation with anyone, at any time. If someone found themselves thrown from an airplane without a parachute and they were to encounter her during the descent, I have no doubt that the rushing air and imminent doom would not at all discourage her from striking up a conversation to pass the time on the way down.

On the other hand: I could be sequestered in the mountains, never speaking to another living soul for months and not feel at all deprived. If, after weeks of seclusion the phone were to suddenly ring, I would still react with a heavy sigh. Oh geeze. What now? Can’t a man get a little privacy?

If I could invite any ten people living or dead to come to a dinner party, I’d make a list of people. I’d write a few of the invitations, and then I’d put it off. I’d stuff them in a drawer and feel guilty whenever I thought about them. Finally I’d mail one of them out, the guest would come, and I would have a fine time with that one guest.

I suppose I’d invite C. S. Lewis. Tolkien might be another good choice, but from reading his collected letters I’m guessing he was a bit abrasive, and most likely as introverted as I am. He probably wouldn’t come, and if he did he might be annoyed if I made him talk about Lord of The Rings all night. Yeah, I’m sure that never got old.

If my guest could not be summoned from the annals of the dead, then I suppose I’d pick Neal Stephenson.


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9 thoughts on “Extroskeleton

  1. MOM says:

    You should invite Dave. No pressure for conversation and if the phone rings the two of you can groan in unison, which shiould fulfill any your comraderie needs for quite a while.

  2. Wonderduck says:

    “which Beatles song would you choose to have played at your funeral?”

    Fool On The Hill.

  3. Alsee says:

    Dinner party-10 guests (living or dead, but real) you most want to invite?

    My first thought was to ask if I was allowed to serve poison soup. Chuckle. You know, to invite Hitler and… well I’ll skip mentioning any other names avoid any distracting controversy.

    Yep, I’m introverted. And a cynic.

  4. Somebody Else says:

    Hmmm… well, after I invited my family, who are *the* people I most want to spend a dinner party with, I’d have two slots left, so… Noam Chomsky and Terry Pratchett?

  5. noahpocalypse says:

    Sydney Carton. Any more and I’d ignore the other guests.

    He is my best choice; I’d rather have no one or a wife.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    I’m as introverted as you, if not more, so I’d most likely invite no one. Besides introverted I’m insecure, so I’d be all the time thinking that no one would come anyway.

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