Introverts: Denizens of a Social Ghetto

When we say the word ghetto, we generally think of rap, thugs, and crime.  What we usually think of  is a modern economic ghetto, a neighborhood where all the poorest people live  and can’t afford to leave.

I would be bold enough to suggest however, that true introverts live in a social ghetto.   We don’t fit in and are forced to live as misfits and outsiders on the margins.  Most extroverts barely even seem to realize that we exist.  We are pushed aside into a separate ‘neighborhood’ where we live out an isolated existence.  Our state of existence is one of social poverty.

Growing up and even into college, I had to fight off resentment whenever extroverts complained about relationships and other forms of social connection I hadn’t even the luxury of aspiring to.   I understood that these people lived in another universe and that there was no way I could hope to make them understand that I had truly lived most of my life at the bare subsistence level.  Even if I could explain my situation to the other person, the response might be bewildered pity or possibly even contempt, but never understanding.  Part of the torture is that I couldn’t even really talk to anyone about my situation.

Over years, a lot of my energy had been focused on merely surviving.  It makes long term planning very difficult for me to this day.  Not long ago, I was bewildered whenever someone asked me questions about marriage, or having children.  That was all so distant as to be completely off my map.  The asker, usually a girl, would see my deer in the headlights look and conclude I was weird or just stupid.  To me, stable social relationships and settling down was a thing that the Accepted liked to talk about.  It had no relevance at all to my life.

Every encounter I had with normal people became akin to a clash of understanding and values sooner or later.  Usually sooner.  Our expectations of life were on different planets.  They were counting on a comfortable life and a family.  I was hoping for survival.  I could very well be in the same economic bracket as the person to whom I was talking yet clearly I was in some way impoverished.  Truly I lived in another place altogether from these normal people, a social ghetto of sorts.

On the internet, I’ve been discovering more and more people who grew up in the same neighborhood that I did and I’m enjoying it very much.

As a final note:

The first ghetto, Il Ghetto, was not an economic ghetto.  It was a holding area in the city of Venice where all the Jews in town were forced to live.  These Jews were often quite economically wealthy, but their social unbelonging led them to experience another, equally oppressive form of poverty.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

Introverts: Denizens of a Social Ghetto appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

related:  Subsistence of the Soul

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on 09/12/11 in featured, Politics | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Pat says:

    Just wanted to say yeah, I get it, I’m in the same situation, that is neighborhood. I don’t want to be out in the other places because, I have learned, it is painful. Whether people are hurtful or pitying it hurts and I’m tired of it. So, I stay away.

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