I grew up painfully shy; I have distinct, preschool-era memories of recoiling from my parents’ guests — dodging the hugs that they extended, it seemed to me, in a presumptuous show of baseless affection (you don’t even know me! Why do you want to embrace me, you six-foot-tall behemoth?? YOU SMELL WEIRD). I was baffled by adults’ well-meaning yet rote, flatly incurious questions (why do all of you towering freaks invariably ask me how old I am? AGE IS JUST A NUMBER, YOU PLEBEIAN FOOLS. Leave me in peace with my true ally: the ratty, naked Hello Kitty doll who stays the course through all my abrupt naps and reckless snack times and passing fits).
I thought that my father (an ebullient chatterbox who will weave through a crowd and talk to everyone twice before he even begins to contemplate leaving the party) was deliberately keeping us at social gatherings for punishment (“Go off and play with the other kids,” eh? HAVE YOU MET KEVIN? His sole interests in life are Cheetos and Pogs, the poor man. CURSE YOU.) I would spend hours alone in my room, reading picture books (and 100-page-long books that had no pictures…the first-grade equivalent of smugly hanging a framed PhD diploma on the office wall).
There is, still, a portion of my inner life that thrives most when I’m alone, sprawled on the couch with a book. But my enduring need for contemplative solo-time often goes neglected, because (PLOT TWIST) I now test as 98% extroverted. I don’t why it happened, but starting in eighth grade, all of my social tendencies flipped to extroversion.
I certainly wasn’t a “party girl,” but (in keeping with the formal definition of introversion-extroversion) I found that my energy was bolstered, instead of depleted, by long periods of conversation and interaction with groups of people (some well-known to me, others brand-new acquaintances). I actively sought out contact with people, initiated conversations; this trend of extroversion has only increased with age (I have, in so many words, become my father at parties).
I love rallying a group of friends and setting the course for an adventure in the larger world. The only catch, of course, is that engaging with the larger world (when you’re living in a city, at least) often comes with a price tag: tickets, food, drinks, transportation. At this point, you’ve probably read about how broke I’ve been; during all the cash-strapped phases of my adult life, I still hungered for the special rush that only human contact — big, loud, chatty, messy, fascinating crowds of friends — can provide. I had to exercise discipline and creativity to craft a more affordable means of providing myself with this life-giving contact and interaction.
How did I do that? I grafted some of my introverted friends’ social (and therefore, financial) habits onto my own, extroverted tendencies. Here are five of the big takeaways.
1. Flo Rida’s “Welcome To My House” is the perfect weekend anthem.
The tune is damn catchy. Granted, the music video features flame-swallowers and people eating sushi off a naked woman’s body (why is no one looking at her? Why is no one talking to her? WOMEN ARE NOT TABLES), so the visuals of Flo Rida’s money-saving philosophy are misleading (unless you’re a millionaire. In which case, please hire some flame-throwers and RETHINK USING WOMEN AS FURNITURE). The lyrics, however, express a constructive, dollar-savvy idea:
Sometimes you gotta stay in,
And you know where I live…
Welcome to my house,
We don’t have to do go out!
My little brother (a hardcore introvert who happens to possess misleadingly easy, charming people skills) taught me how financially-advantageous and socially-satisfying the “Welcome To My House” approach to social activity can be. Buy some hotdogs and buns and chips in bulk (and ask guests to bring the beer, wine, mixers, etc.), choose a sweet Spotify channel, and you’re set. No bar tabs, no “shots on me,” no cab rides between clubs and back home. Just a warm, convivial party, right at your doorstep.
2. Two’s company, three’s a crowd.
Admittedly, as an extrovert, I wholeheartedly disagree with this aphorism. That said, I appreciate the implicit financial wisdom of the motto: the price of hosting and entertaining increases exponentially with the number of people you invite. The same is true for away-from-home social events; in most cities, big groups of people generally need to roost in specific venues that are designed to seat larger parties (and damn, those seemingly-convenient “table entrées” are predatorily priced).
During the humbler financial periods of my life, I got back in touch with my Inner Introvert to appreciate the often-unsung benefits of one-on-one social time with close friends. I luxuriated in the new depth of conversation and introspective contemplation that came with focusing all my attention on a single person in a quiet situation. Whether it’s splitting the cost of a $12 bottle of Merlot and watching Orange Is The New Black in a friend’s apartment, or meeting up with a friend for a $3 coffee (instead of a lavish, pricey brunch) on the weekend, one-on-one social time can help balance your social needs with your financial constraints.
3. Netflix & Chill isn’t creepy.
It’s cozy AF. And you can do it with friends. And it costs just $8 a month to enjoy an unlimited number of comfy nights in, picking over the cinematic camera angles of a tragically-artsy foreign film and cackling at the irresistably-cheesy tropes of an action flick. Plus, microwave popcorn for all.
4. The kitchen can be the center of the party.
Cooking can be a pastime & group activity; you can cook dinner for friends, with friends. My older brother (yup, I’ve got two of ’em, and yup, it was tough growing up as the only girl in my house; GIVE ME BACK MY PRINCESS CROWN, YOU JERK) taught me about this, first-hand. He’s an outdoorsy, beard-inclined Mountain Man who is elated, rather than petrified, by the prospect of striking out into the forest alone, to experience total silence and solitude. (Oh, the number of “super-fun day hikes” he’s taken me on that ended with me clinging to a sheer rock face and insisting that “We are definitely going to die out here.”)
When my older brother does opt to socialize with groups of his fellow rock-climbers, skiers, snowboarders, hikers, and other willfully-carefree people who have no regard for their own mortality, they treat the dinner preparation as the main event of the night. It might sound chore-heavy, but in practice, it’s a relaxed evening of camaraderie: people sip beer and soda while they wander around the kitchen, teaming up to chop vegetables, stir sauces, and boil pasta. This sort of hangout comes at the price of a bag of groceries (and usually, guests bring half the ingredients to lighten the financial load). Bonus points for actual introverts: having a shared activity to focus on while meeting and talking to new people eases the pressure that you might otherwise feel in a group setting.
5. Storytime isn’t just for kids, and bookclubs aren’t just for divorcées.
Group reading is sexy. HEAR ME OUT. As a day-to-day extrovert, I feel like I’m peeling back a layer of my super-ego and revealing a more intimate, vulnerable side of myself when I dedicate all my energy and attention to my crush (or current partner) and invite them into my home space. Sure, my crush has seen me in action at a party, flitting between groups to make jokes and rustling up late-night mischief on the dance floor. But welcoming my SO back to home base (to share a blanket on the couch and each read our books, stopping to read a good line aloud) introduces a different level of intimacy. And — as someone who finds daily intellectual activity crucial to mental health and romantic partnership — I cherish the feeling of parallel contemplation that side-by-side reading provides. Plus…it comes a the price of a “used, good condition” book order from Amazon.
Another thought, for those pining for reading with friend groups: book clubs are dope. Yes, there will be weeks when you’re somewhat-resentfully rushing to finish your copy of The Book I Didn’t Vote For, but when you walk in the door and find a ring of your friends sprawled on cushions, wine or coffee in hand, debating over the narrative structure of Chapter 3 or the portrayal of the villainous protagonist, it’s SO WORTH IT. (And again, it’s cheap; BYOB — bring your own book!)
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