Maybe I went a little crazy. But last weekend I had an idea that took hold of my imagination and would not let go.
I thought that if I could pull it off it would validate my entire existence and vindicate me after years of past wrongs. The more I thought about it, the more appealing it was, and the more anxious I was to think that it would never happen. It was just too awesome not to.
Are you ready? (Drumroll) Here it is: A shy pride parade.
Before you laugh at me, hear me out. When I was growing up I was constantly being told that I should talk more and in the same breath that I should like myself more. This was insane. I had liked myself before people started essentially saying, “You are shy. Shy is bad, so you are bad. Why do you not like yourself?”
Before this, it had never occurred to me to not to like myself. I was congenitally shy, meaning that at four years old, I was hiding behind doors and in closets from other kids so I could have my alone time.
It was also true that I was not a big talker and I was told by teachers and other kids that this was unacceptable. Some of the adults, in the guise of helping, would say things like, “Speak up, missy. Your thoughts are worth hearing.” A patronizing pat on the head would sometimes follow. The idea that I did not talk because I thought my ideas were not worth hearing was inaccurate, at least at the beginning. I simply did not enjoy talking unless I had something I really wanted to say.
But many years of hearing people say “Be more confident” eventually made the under-confidence charge true. In grammar school and as an adolescent, I was terribly ashamed of being shy, especially since it seemed to mean to others that I did not like myself. There seemed nothing more shameful in the world than having a “low self-esteem.”
But when at four years old I was hiding from kids to get peace from all the gabbling chaos, I had no concept of a self-esteem, good or bad. At four I barely saw myself as being apart from my environment. I was obsessed with Cookie Monster, puppies, and becoming a cow girl.
What I finally realized many years later is that one reason introverts are so often accused of being under-confident is that so many have been so badgered, chastised, and bullied all of their lives for being different that over time, the accusation becomes true.
That may be why the words “shy” and “introverted” are sometimes conflated. They are not the same thing. Shyness implies anxiety around people, whereas un-shy introverts may simply prefer their own company to that of others.
But I have been both, and I am using the word “shy pride parade” here because I find the sound of it catchier than “introvert pride parade,” and there is nothing wrong with being shy anyway. However, if anyone has a more apt name for my parade that also satisfies the ear, let me know.
Like many minorities, shy people and introverts have been scolded for being different and ordered by society to become more like others, or else. Many minorities that have been subjected to unfair treatment have found a wonderful tool of correcting the ignorant: the pride parade.
Fellow introverts, I ask you, where is our parade? Well, there is not one yet, but there could be.
I have a dream of a silent procession of bookmobile floats with every introvert proudly gazing at his Android phone and ignoring the crowd as the float goes by. I have a dream of marching bands full of shushing librarians.
I envision magnificent banners that enumerate all the wonderful virtues of introverts: We think before we speak; say things worth saying; are not terrified to face ourselves alone. We know ourselves. And do not cause restaurants to quake with bellowing raucous laughter.
A thought came to me, a float that says, “We militantly refuse to demand our rights. For now.”
The words “for now” matter. Of course we will demand our rights. In writing, alone, when we get the time and a quiet moment to ourselves.
In our parade, we would not look at the crowd or wave, not because we are afraid of them, but because they are discussing trivial topics that bore us terribly. And we would certainly not throw them any candy. They are probably extroverts. They can buy their own candy.
Okay, I admit: there are some logistical problems here. How am I going to round up enough introverts willing to endure a parade full of noisy gawking spectators? By nature, introverts avoid that kind of thing. But I believe it can be done. I believe this dream will happen. Why? Because you cannot say no to awesome.
A shy pride parade would be about self-validation and vindication. It is about lifting our heads and saying, “Hell no. I do not want to go to a party or an interminable group dinner. I do not want to go be with a bunch of smelly people at a hot music festival. I am going to read a book. A real one. With pages. And words in it.
This parade can happen. Has to happen. In the entire history of the world, as far as I know, there has never been a shy pride parade. We cannot let another eon pass without one occurring. We cannot let the sun exhaust its hydrogen, and expand, and scorch the earth into a useless cinder billions of years from now without the exquisite moment of glory that a shy pride parade would bring to all introverts everywhere.
Besides, we have every right to demand our rights. And I myself am going to demand every last one of them. As soon as I get away to a people-free room in order to write them all down, quietly, in a thoughtful note.
And as soon as I figure out what they are.