A Catalogue of My Neuroses

Turtles All the Way Down

So we’ve all heard about introverts now. Introverts, as the internet now knows well, are people who crave solitude and minimal, low-intensity human interaction. They had their moment, a few long weeks ago, starting with the appearance of several lists with names like “Seventeen Ways to Care for an Introvert” and “Thirty-three Ways to Coddle an Introvert” and “Forty-nine Ways to Rock an Introvert Gently to Sleep.” If Facebook shares are to be believed, then approximately eighty-five percent of all my friends are introverts or at least introvert-sympathizers.

Of course, within a day or two, this was followed by the inevitable backlash, part of the internet’s ever-accelerating cycle of outrage and counter-outrage, as mesmerizing and majestic as the tides.

Today I’d like to say a few words about a group of people even more maligned and misunderstood than introverts: those who are “Not Fun.” I am Not Fun, and like all of the Not Fun, I have experienced my fair share of prejudice.

First, to clarify an often misunderstood point—being Not Fun is not the same as being introverted, though the two may overlap. Personally, I am extremely extroverted. I love talking to new people about all my Not Fun hobbies, from using “whom” correctly to folding fitted sheets. I will gladly exchange small talk with anyone I meet, assuming I meet them in a quiet coffee shop with ample seating and not on, say, a party bus. A Not Fun person is simply someone who is not given to unruly behavior or unfettered passion. Dependable, quiet, and sane, a Not Fun is the kind of person you might not want at your bachelor party but would probably appreciate at your grandmother’s wake….

Many of our nation’s greatest heroes have been Not Fun, from Woodrow Wilson to Susan B. Anthony to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Yet the media treats Not Fun not as an identity to be embraced, but only a problem to be solved. In movies and commercials, sitcoms and cartoons, the Not Fun is just a Fun person who must discover his true identity. In movies from Back to the Future to She’s All That and Teen Wolf, the Not Fun is just one makeover away from unlocking their inner party animal. A Not Fun is supposedly someone only waiting to be brought to his knees by circumstance or moved to his feet by a thumping bass, who through adversity or love or a good old-fashioned food fight uncovers the animal impulses that lie beneath his rigid exterior. The implication is that everyone would be dancing on tables and mugging on the kiss-cam and volunteering to assist the magician if only they hadn’t repressed their true, carefree selves. Even common sartorial idioms like “stuffed shirt” and “buttoned-down” hint at the naked ardor, both figurative and literal, that is supposed to hide beneath our sensibly clad exteriors.

Well, allow me to speak on behalf of the Not Fun. I’m not hiding, stuffing, repressing, or buttoning anything. This is the real me. There’s no one underneath. It’s turtles, as they say, all the way down. Whether happy or sad, drunk or sober, crammed into coach or stranded on a desert isle, I’m never going to go all Lord of the Flies on anyone, ever.

I’ve even had well-meaning friends suggest medical solutions to my supposed condition, as though not enjoying novelty dance fads was a DSM-classified disease. But I like who I am. I have Not Fun pride. Sure, I have sometimes fantasized about being someone who could get so mad they would smash a glass, so filled with passion they would swipe everything off a desk top, so overcome with sorrow they would run outside without their coat on in the rain. But whenever I do something like that it feels as stagey and false as putting on a fake British accent (which is something else I can assure you I will never do). Always at the core of me is a small, rational voice that’s saying, “Sure, you’re mad now, but remember, plates aren’t free.” And that voice is me, and even John Belushi himself couldn’t change that.

So I ask the media, where is our Not Fun hero? The uptight prig who converts the fun-loving, easy-going scamp to his side? Who tags along on the road trip with three wild and crazy frat guys and in the end convinces them all that cribbage is more fun than beer pong? The kid who shows up at summer camp with three suitcases full of textbooks and an asthma inhaler and by the end, has convinced all the other kids that camp isn’t that great and everyone really would be happier at home?

All I ask is that we all live and let live. I don’t judge Fun people who want to take trapeze lessons or stage novelty engagement photos (of course, I do). So I ask you not to judge us, as we sit out the conga line or try to change our bras in the locker room without taking our shirts off like girls do in junior high.

For we are everywhere, in every city and town, in every family. You may even have a Not Fun friend without knowing it. Every time someone steps away from the bouquet—that’s one of us. Every time someone gives three straight answers to Two Truths and a Lie—that’s one of us. Every photo where someone is smiling stiffly after the photographer says “Now let’s do a fun one!”—that’s one of us. We would have mentioned it, but that just would have made a bigger scene.

Summer Block has published essays, short fiction, and poetry in McSweeneys, The Rumpus, Identity Theory, DIAGRAM, PANK, The Nervous Breakdown, and many other publications.