Some time ago I read a great article by Salon’s advice columnist Cary Tennis called The two-introvert problem (you may need to click through an ad to get to it). In the article Cary responds to a letter from a woman who is frustrated because she wants to invite a fellow introvert on a date, but is concerned that their interactions will be painfully awkward. She doesn’t want to be forced into meaningless small talk, but can’t come up with an alternative scenario for the potential date.
Cary begins his response to her letter by describing a situation he recently observed:
The other day I watched an attractive young couple come into a cafe. The young man went to the counter and got some coffee drinks. The woman sat at the table. The young man came back and they sat drinking their coffee drinks. They looked at each other. They looked at the table. They looked around the room. They drank their drinks. They were quiet. They seemed comfortable with each other, and yet there was also a kind of intensity in the air. They didn’t say a word the whole time they were there.
I find Cary’s observation of this scenario interesting for two reasons: the first is that I like to imagine he was observing Joe and me during one of our many coffee house outings (Cary lives in San Francisco too), although I can’t vouch for the “young” and “attractive” description; the second reason is that I think he makes an important point about how there are different ways of spending time with someone in a public place.
While the popular idea about what a “date” looks like usually involves intense conversation and interaction, Cary goes on to advocate for a different type of dating encounter for introverts, one in which sitting in silence is acceptable if not preferable. He even puts forward a lengthy manifesto for introverts considering a new way of approaching their love lives, which basically boils down to rejecting dating stereotypes that don’t fit the people involved, and affirming more introvert-friendly ways of being together.
I think this column really resonated with me because it fit my own experience of dating a fellow introvert; Joe and I quickly bonded over our shared distaste for small talk and found ways of interacting that suited our dispositions. I’m sure it’s a different story for introvert-extrovert couples, although it may be easier on them since there is at least one person who is comfortable sustaining a conversation through those inevitable awkward moments during a first date.
I’d be interested to know what the dating experience has been like for other introverts; if you’ve got a story to share, I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.