An Introvert’s Illustrated Guide to Comic Con Avoidance
My mom was into any and every “science” that could help her understand people: graphology, birth order, body language. She was an enthusiastic student of every such science she could find, and honed her skills on her children.
My mom’s desire to quantify personality traits meant I knew from a tender age that I was an “introvert.” The word was meaningless to me. “Introvert” might as well have meant the same thing as “subatomic particle.” I knew each was a real thing, just as well as I knew neither had any impact whatsoever on my daily life. Silly mom! I just took her tests so she’d stop pestering me to take them, a strategy that worked until she found a new book with new tests.
I was helping my sister move back from England many years after learning I was an introvert when I realized introversion might actually impact my life.
I’d spent a few hours with my sister’s lovely roommates. As ten minutes of conversation turned into thirty and then a hundred, I became increasingly tired and jittery. Finally, getting the sense that the conversation might last for another few hours, I excused myself to read for a while. Later, my sister asked with great concern, “Do you have Social Affective Disorder? Do you need to see a therapist? I’m kinda worried about you.”
Worried about me? For being me? The one who used to fall asleep in the corner at parties, wanting to be close to people without having to actually interact with them? “This isn’t a disorder, Rache. I just need a lot of time to myself when I have to spend a lot of time with people. I’m not shy. I’m not anxious about people. I like them. I just like spending time with ’em in short doses.”
She was dubious. And why not? I knew I was an introvert, but I had no idea what that actually meant. I couldn’t articulate this newly spotlighted characteristic, or that I found her endless energy while conversing just as unnerving as she found my sudden retreats from social situations. It would be years before I’d read an article on introversion and go, “Oh! So that’s what it is! That’s who I am!
the directing of interest inwards towards one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than towards the external world or making social contacts
Why am I thinking about this now, exactly? Because of Comic Con, July’s annual gathering of tens of thousands of comic and like-minded nerds in San Diego.
Let’s rewind again to my middle school years. When I wasn’t calling my math teacher a liar, I’d spend countless hours playing Mario Bros. with my best friend, Topaz. I wanted to win like mad, but I pretty much sucked. The game didn’t have a life bar like future games I played would, but I imagined a pictured ticking down whenever the music started speeding up. The imagining–combined with lots of caffeine and little skill–helped create the inevitability, so my imagined “life bar” looked like this more often than it didn’t:
Now I think of social engagements like challenges from Super Mario, nothing against my dear understanding friends!
Now I don’t think of the bar in terms of life but energy. The lower my energy bar gets, the harder it is to get back to maximum energy. (Translation: I have to do a lot more walking and reading, not at the same time, to fill up my tank again.)
You want to know what takes an introvert’s full energy bar and thrashes it, leaving it not only at zero but broken into itty bitty bits scattered so far and wide it takes weeks to gather them back?
San Diego Comic Con.
My first year, I loved it. My second year, I also loved it. Ditto the third year. My fourth year, though, I had just enough energy to pick up my attendee badge–smashing my way through thousands of fans just for the privilege of being able to enter the even more crowded convention area–before skipping out. I spent the day on the train with my son instead.
I’d always been a nerd but somehow, unnervingly, it was as if the balance was shifting: my desire to spend hours among my fellow nerdfolk, admiring their artwork, listening to their speeches and celebrating our common nerddom (long live Buffy!) was, it almost seemed, lesser than my desire to not have to be around people at all. I toyed with the notion of skipping out this year, but dismissed it. Never! It was part of my nerd identity. I’d taken pictures for the Buffy magazine. Joss Whedon once told me he liked my shirt (which Rache, whom you might remember from above, gave away despite my explicit instructions to preserve, but no hard feelings). I sat on Sheldon’s sofa seat. I was an extra on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I not only played Warcraft, but advertised it by wearing my horde-loving shirts. I even wanted to make one of my own.
For the last few months, I’ve wavered almost by the day. “I don’t want to go.” “No, I do want to go.” Eventually I landed on: “I don’t have to go to the Con. I can just hang out with our friends the M family.” But then it came to me that’s like a chocoholic telling herself she can just look at the tasty Sees chocolates without buying one. Or ten, and then eating them all no matter how crummy she might feel afterwards. I saw myself “just going for a few minutes, really” and, kablammo! There’s my energy bar, obliterated all over again from just imagining it.
Frankly, my energy bar is still low from an eventful past few months. I need many more magic elixirs to change that: the potion of (couch) potatoing, the elixir of empty calendar, the libation of literacy.
I’m voting for these and passing on Comic Con this year.Just thinking about it, I can feel my energy bar amping for a raise. I’ll miss the Con, but I’ll only miss it a little. I already shook hands with Robert Kirkman and enjoyed Max Brooks in panel. I’ve bought more art than I can find time or money to frame. Comic books find me easily outside the crushing, crowded Con. The M family? Turns out they live near San Diego the whole year ’round, not just for Comic Con!
So I’m passing on Comic Con this time. Nothing against Comic Con, you see. I’d just rather sit here and nerd in the solitude of my own home.