Super Power

I wrote this a few years ago but most of it is still relevant:


There are things that I dread about living at a time when social media has taken over our lives and everything we do, but there are also certain things I have to be grateful for. The rise of social media, viral videos, memes and so on means that we’ve all found our tribes, our people, the ones who speak our language, the ones who make us feel like we’re not alone in this world and that there are other (so many others!) who are like us.

For me, it was finding the introverts. After all, we’ve never been very easy to find. But now it was acceptable, even celebrated, to label one’s self as an introvert. It turns out there are a lot of us out there, and we’ve been hiding in the shadows so long it seems strange to all of a sudden be united.

I follow dozens of cartoonists and feminists who are introverts. What can I say… I’ve found my people. And while I’m not a cartoonist myself, I can appreciate it as a wonderful and accessible art form.

But then I discovered I had a super power. And that super power was the ability to talk to people.

I know it seems simple. I mean, I’m already a writer, and a wordy one at that. But I can’t talk to people – the ones you see day to day, the ones who serve your coffee or check you out at the supermarket. I mean, I’m the girl who tells the server at a restaurant “you too!” when they tell me to enjoy my meal. I forgot people’s names as soon as I meet them, then struggle to remember while they speak so I neither get the name nor what they were saying, then stand and look at them, smiling in what I’m sure is a frightening way. I can’t look people in the eye in small groups. My friends used to order for me at restaurants because it took such effort for me to order my own food, even when I could pronounce everything.

And on top of that, I have a slight stutter when I get nervous, which is a real treat to deal with.

And then I made a decision. Well, I didn’t make a decision, that’s giving myself too much credit. I grew up and realized I had to speak up at some point or I would never get a cup of tea at a café, or get a different size of a sweater I loved, or get directions if I was lost … and I would never meet anybody new. So I started practicing. I ordered food for myself, even in a group. I told cab drivers what my destination was. I asked sales help where to find books and pens and bobby pins. And it became easier.

The next level was to start smiling, looking people in the eye, asking them how their day was. And… magic! It really is a super power. People responded in a way I didn’t anticipate. When I was friendly, they were friendly back. They smiled back, and wished me a nice day back. I would compliment a stranger on their bag or nail polish, and you could see them light up. I was using my power for good!

It’s strange that it took me almost 30 years what extroverts and other more outspoken people than me must have known since practically birth. As corny as it may sound, sometimes it really does just take a smile to get someone to warm up to you. Who knew?