Culture

The Antisocial Extrovert: I’m Not Depressed—I Just Don’t Want to Hang Out Right Now

I was supposed to casually meet some friends with all of our kids at the park the other day. We decided on late morning, before lunch and naps for the littles. We were going to get outside, enjoy the weather, and catch up. But when I woke up that morning, going about my daily tasks, I just wasn’t feeling it. One friend called an hour before we were supposed to meet and I mentioned I probably wasn’t going to make it. Another friend texted about thirty minutes after the meetup time, “Are you coming? Is everything okay?” I responded with a, “Meh. I’ll be there next time.”

Most people answering the way I did would get a response like, “Okay! Miss Ya!” Yet my half-hearted reply started a general inquiry as to the state of my mental health. “What happened? Are you okay? You seem depressed. Are you safe? I can come over if you need me to.” Why the line of questioning? Because I’m an extrovert. All-in, life of the party, will be friends with anyone and everyone, can turn any situation into a good time, is energized by social interactions, textbook extrovert. But since hitting 30, I’ve started to really settle into my own rhythm and have discovered that rhythm doesn’t always involve the bass thumping from a speaker at a block party. Sometimes that rhythm is just the quiet ticking of the hall clock while I sit in my overstuffed chair, in my comfiest of sweatpants, reading a biography of someone way more interesting than me. But wait…isn’t that what introverts do? Avoid draining social interactions? Prefer to be alone? Become anxiety-ridden at the thought of having to entertain people?

No, I’m definitely still an extrovert. It turns out there are just diverse kinds of extroverts. A popular article was making its way around the web describing “Extroverted Introverts,” or maybe it was “Introverted Extroverts.” Both would make sense. There are also the Ambiverts. But I think I’ve found my people among a different category: The Antisocial Extroverts.

Bear with me here as I try and explain the innerworkings of an Antisocial Extrovert. On the surface, we are as described above—textbook extroverts. We love people. We love meeting them, talking to them, hearing their life story, sharing our own with them. We like getting attention. We are willing to open up to anyone and are definitely not reserved. We are the people you want at your weddings, planning meetings, social gatherings, and weekend parties. Oh, and you most definitely want to be invited to our parties and events because they are A-MAZ-ING. Just like your typical extrovert. And your typical extrovert, after having a thrilling weekend, can’t wait to do it all again.

That last part, though? That’s where we Antisocial Extroverts differ. We will happily come to your party. We will make it fun and memorable and literally every person there will love us. We will enjoy ourselves and have the time of our lives. But the second that party is over? “K, thanks, bye. See you in a year or two. Or never. We’re done here.” This is where people who know us as extroverts get thrown off, offended, or worry about our mental health. They expect us to constantly be that happy, bubbly, vivacious, chatty person. We just aren’t. We become depleted of social energy and it can take quite a long time to restore.

When a relatively low-mass star (like our sun) nears the end of its main life sequence, it burns brighter and hotter. After burning up a portion of its core hydrogen, the star enters the Red Giant phase and becomes larger and even more luminous, but begins cooling. And eventually dies. When learning this star life-cycle in college, I found it to be a great metaphor for myself and, consequently, my fellow Antisocial Extroverts. Invitation to a well-planned out social event in the future? Absolutely. We will be there. (Please note the “well-planned out” and “future” parts. Just because we can be spontaneously fun, doesn’t mean we like to be. Nor can we promise to shine our brightest without advanced notice.)  We will happily show up and live our star life-cycle duties—we hit our prime right there in the beginning when everyone else is still kind of awkward and uncomfortable and feeding off our energy. As the event goes on, so do we. We burn on and on, hitting that Red Giant phase. All our new BFFs are socializing with us and with each other. We bounce around, lighting the room up wherever it seems to need it. But inside, we are cooling. We’ve shared our energy and loved every second of it. Now, please let us go die in peace.

It’s called many things: The French Exit. The Irish Goodbye. Ghosting. It’s that thing people do when leaving a massive social gathering where they just sort of slip out and disappear without saying goodbye. But when Antisocial Extroverts actually pull this off? We end up with a barrage of texts the next day. “Where did you go last night?” “Are you okay?” “You didn’t say bye!” “Did something happen?” You see, once again, we’ve been misunderstood. Yes, your typical extrovert will bid adieu to all her new friends. And each of the new friends usually wants to say goodbye in return. But do you know how long that takes? Sometimes, hours. And quite frankly, our life-cycle is about ready to collapse into a black hole* of exhaustion. So if we sneak out without a proper goodbye, don’t worry. We were just too tired to care.

The last thing many people don’t fully understand about your typical Antisocial Extrovert? Canceling plans. When a friend we’re supposed to meet up with has a puking toddler and she calls, apologizing profusely for canceling? IT’S LIKE ANTISOCIAL EXTROVERT CHRISTMAS. God bless your vomiting child. We get to stay in pajamas, alone, with no plans, and it’s a miracle. Honestly, don’t feel bad for canceling on us. We love you for it.

We know we are an enigma to fellow extroverts everywhere. One minute we are with them, living it up, making friends with everybody. And the next minute, we are home in our Snuggies eating ice cream straight out of the tub and praying no one comes to the door, calls, or texts us for the next 24 hours. Don’t worry. We’re not mad at you, we’re not dealing with unspeakable pain, and we likely aren’t depressed. We just don’t want to hang out right now. Text us next week.

 

*The author is fully aware that for a star to go supernova and collapse in on itself to form a black hole would take a star of massive proportions that would first enter into a Red Supergiant Phase. But it sounded good with the metaphor.