Glamorous, sophisticated, one classy lady, that was what I was aiming for. I would sweep into a room with an air of mystery and ‘togetherness’ rarely seen. People would marvel at my ability to make polite conversation and nibble gently on food. I would have made the Victorians proud. There were just a couple of hitches… I didn’t seem to be growing
(posh ladies are always tall) and well it seemed to me that often my voice would enter the room before me. People say that it is great to be an extrovert! I am not convinced of this. I have been described as being at the extreme end of extrovert…an extra-extrovert. It is through no fault of my own that I am prone to constant talking, the need to make every tiny passing thought public and a desire to advertise my mistakes. I am told by a friend who classes himself as an Introvert, that socially he will find himself unable to speak, whilst actively seeking out the corners of the room to hide in. He said that whilst this is happening he will be thinking ‘talk! Offer an opinion, stand with someone’. In social situations I also have a monologue running through my head, it goes like this: ‘Shut up… please stop, stop talking… look at them Jenny… stop…no, no, no don’t say that…too late, too late… leave the room now, back away from the people’.
As a child you are blissfully unaware of what categories you fall into. You plunge head first into your mistakes and are left puzzled by the outcomes… or at least being an extrovert that is exactly what I did. People said things like Jenny is ‘enthusiastic, lively and very sociable’ not exactly what your teacher parents hope to read on your school report. It’s just teacher talk, it means ‘disruptive’. Once on a youth group trip to Alton towers I was so excited that I think I must have talked the whole way there. This meant that when we arrived I came out of the loo’s to find that everyone had gone. Being unaware of what mistake I had made, I wandered about the theme park on my own until fortunately finding my brother and his friends who let me hang out with them. Now I look back I can see that I must have been exhausting!
My brother also suffered at the hands of his extroverted older sister. I seemed to be constantly embarrassing him. I can honestly say I wasn’t trying to! Having three kids of my own now, I get to observe the dynamics. Two are seriously verbal and one more reflective. My wonderful Archie recently started refusing to get out of the car to go into school. I could not understand what was going on, until my mum suggested that maybe he needed to walk in independently of us. She phrased it very carefully, but was thinking back to a time when my brother had decided he would rather not walk into school with me. It’s not easy (when you are cool) walking into school with a mum, brother and little sister who seem unable to do anything quietly. He goes in ahead of us now, very happily and I am on strict instructions to only kiss him goodbye at the car.
There are good things that happen when you are extrovert too. I can help get conversations going, when we move to a new area I can talk to people easily. I have been told that I am ‘bold’ and when my kids do embarrassing things publicly, I just join in.
I think when you see an apparently confident child and you think they are showing off or attention seeking, I would encourage you to consider that maybe it is just the way they are wired. I have been hurt and embarrassed and because of being so extrovert it’s often happened in front of others. It’s never fun to have bad stuff happen, but it has shaped me, in a good way I hope!
I am learning to think before I speak… sometimes! In fact, you would be proud of me. Recently on holiday in Devon the 5 of us had ice creams on the beach. I sat down to enjoy mine when my Dog (aiming carefully) decided to pee all up my back! My immediate thought was to; stand up, shout in a loud voice (to the rather large group of people close by) ‘UUURGH! My dog has Pee’d all over me… will you look at that!’, but I fought the urge… Instead I said in a quiet and restrained voice to my husband “The Dog has just Pee’d all over my back, it is bad. We must leave the beach quickly and quietly” and we did just that. Stealthily we gathered our belongings and made it back up the beach like it was all under control. I think the people behind us probably witnessed the whole episode. Probably, they assumed that it happens all the time as I dealt with it so well. Probably, in Beer Harbour I am now known as the Dog Pee Lady…but, it doesn’t matter I handled it with a certain class, and of that I am proud.