Etiquette by Introverts: The Newborn Weeks

Etiquette by Introverts: The Newborn Weeks

They say that the world is run by C students. I’d like to postulate that it’s also run by extrovertsafter all, they’re so much louder. Much of culture revolves around social traditions that require people to, say, leave their homes. And talk to other people. You know, go to parties and such. Symphonies rarely provide performances, for example, to an audience of one.

This all seems rude to me. I enjoy activities marked by solitude: reading, writing, drinking. I think it’s time for introverts to claim their piece of the cultural terrain. Susan Cain has gotten the ball rolling, and I applaud that. She’s even talking about tailoring education more for introverts, which would be great for my son, whose favorite part of social events is leaving them (he’s two. I applaud his early-developed excellence). As a heavily pregnant raging introvert writer from the South, I considered where my talents might intersect in promoting the nearly-antisocial agenda and I’ve decided to plunge intocomposing a tome on etiquette from the perspective of an introvert, focusing this post on What an Introvert Needs from You When She Has Recently Given Birth. You’re welcome.


Texting is the single greatest introvert-friendly breakthrough in communication since the telegram. Think I’m exaggerrating? If you ever want to get blacklisted by an introvert, return his text with a phone call. Seriously--I dare you. So when you’re attempting to contact an introvert with a newborn, do it with a text. And by all means, do not forge ahead with any of your help-laden plans until you hear back: no hospital or home visits until after the ding! of her reply has sounded, giving you the all-clear. Unless, that is, you’re a fan of half-frontal nudity (and I mean the National Geographic kind, not the Victoria’s Secret kind) and barely-concealed hormonal rage.

Moments of weakness are tough for introverts: they need to accept help but are so averse to outside intrusions that doing so feels painful. Yes, we know we have to learn to “let go” of some of what you call our “quirks” (but, to be fair, are deeply ingrained, psychologically-founded personality traits that you are not going to heroically “save us from” by “taking us to hear that new band”). We don’t need to be delivered from our comfort zoneswe need to learn to leave them on our own.

So consider, when you are offering to “help,” what this word actually means to you. Because all too often, it looks like this: you doing what comes naturally to you/what you are most comfortable doing/what you would want someone to do for you. And guess what? That may be exactly the opposite of what we want/need. And guess what again? The person who wins this inter-relational chicken fight is the one who just had a child pulled from her innards! So what’s the solution? It’s simple, really: ASK. Ask her what would be helpful. And trust that she will, hesitantly but surely, be honest about telling you what that is.

Some hints up front: the easiest thing is usually not the answer. So when it comes down to a choice between holding the eight-pound bundle of love while New Mom makes you coffee, or pulling out the Swiffer to mop up her floor, guess what’s most helpful? SWIFFER TIME! And she will try, with all her might, to not tell you you’re doing it wrong. Because in addition to being an introvert, she may also be a control freak! (Yes, I have seen a counselor.)

Notice none of these faces are yours


One must understand that unless you’re a part of an introvert’s inner circlewhich is usually somewhere closer to Trinity- than disciple-sized (that’s between 3 and 12 for you human secularists), your presence is similar to pressing a button on a valve that that releases her energy constantly until you go away. I’m not trying to be meanit’s just the truth. YOU WEAR US OUT. So understand that if you are just stopping by, then the shorter your visit, the more you endear yourself to our cold, cold hearts.

Dont even bother coming without food. And don’t even think about coming with a child, because the last thing I want to look at while I’m trying to keep my own baby alive is your toddler rubbing his dirty hands all over my pristine, hand-sanitizer-soaked home (I have a toddler so I can say this with authority: they’re disgusting). And for God’s sake, don’t show up and think this is a time for you to receive a free counseling sesh and talk about your problems in some misguided attempt to bond with us. That happened to me one time and I almost threw my baby at the offender. The only thing that stopped me was knowing that if I did, I’d have to entertain yet another visitor in the form of Child Services.

If you’re going to be spending nights with the new mom/family, earn your keep. If you expect to have meals provided for you, then prepare for disappointment and hunger. If you make a mess, clean it up (locate the cleaning supplies prior to even unpacking your bags) before the Mrs. Rochester from the attic comes downstairs and sees what you have done to the only part of her life she has any present control over.

Yes, I realize that these guidelines sound harsh. And that you extroverts may be thinking to yourselves, “What is wrong with these people? If they keep acting this way they’re just going to end up all alone!”

HOORAY! You’re getting it! It’s not that we want to be totally alone, it’s just that we don’t want the world to tell us what “normal interaction” is when sanity, to us, looks like regular periods of recharging solosomething you don’t get much of with a newborn around. And hey, we’re working on it. We’re trying to live at peace with you, the extroverts, though you keep showing up in our camp unannounced with advice and bagels and towels folded the opposite of how we like them.

So don’t give up on us, just give us time. You can’t force your way into our comfort zone any more than we can force ourselves to enjoy the icebreaker games you make us play at bachelorette parties and baby showers, or the “meet and greet” component of any organized event. Maybe you’ll end up in our inner circle one day and maybe notbut honestly, why waste any of your emotional capital worrying about it? We’re kinda assholes. So leave that homemade meal at the front door, ring the bell, and don’t be surprised if we wait until you’ve left before we furtively crack the door and grab it. That’s just what we do. We’re not ungratefuljust introverted.

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