Cracked ate my brain again today.

Periodically someone tells me I should get more friends. Usually a therapist, or an amateur who's trying to be one. Bollocks. I have plenty of friends. Squillions of them, ranging from the casual acquaintance level to people who should be my siblings, but technically aren't because of some gigantic cock-up in the cosmic paperwork. I don't stand in a corner all the time thinking, "Goodness! I am alone and unloved. I need to meet more people whose names will slip my mind, stranding my brain with the sole internal referent 'that one girl I met at the thing last month, with the shoes'." If I want to talk to someone, I just fucking talk to them. Most people are actually quite nice, or try to be.

Mostly what they actually mean by this comment is that they think I need know more people who will kidnap me and drag me out of the house. Bollocks to that as well. I get out of the house as often as I want to. Probably more. Ask anyone who's ever sent me forty-two unanswered instant messages in one afternoon because I've left GTalk running while I went off to walk from Tufts to Harvard for no adequately explained reason. I volunteered at the dance studio fully aware that I'd be working a reception desk, which meant I have to go outside dressed like a grown-up a couple times a week, and interact pleasantly with strangers.

It's another one of those catch-22 things: People want me to want to do more loudly interactive social things, and I don't. Sorry. I want a million dollars, a trip to Paris, and parents who behave like reasonable adults. We can't all get what we want. How you think my mind ought to work has absolutely no bearing on how it already does. Telling me that some unalterable aspect of my personality is bad and wrong is mostly just going to upset me and make me stop talking to you, in that order.

It takes a lot energy for me to be social. It's a performance thing. I'm not making up a character for the benefit of other people; I just live in my own brain most of the time, and it's a significant effort to remember to pantomime the stuff going on in my head for the benefit of an audience. Learning how to do it was well worth my while, but just because I know how to communicate doesn't mean I'm obliged to do it 24/7. Getting cornered into spending time in a crowd past the point where I run out of steam affects me the same way it would an extrovert thrown into solitary confinement: The walls close in, I start getting itchy and jumpy and cranky, my back tenses up until I'm wearing my shoulders for earrings, and the running mental chant of must get out, must get out, must get out slowly starts to swallow up everything else until I get to leave, stab someone, or break down crying.

"I'll be quiet, you won't even know I'm here!" does not fix this. You are still there, and I can tell, because you're breathing all my air. You may think you're sitting over there in the corner, doggedly ignoring me like you think I want you to, but you're still in social interaction distance, and that means I still have to be paying enough attention to respond to pings. The network monitor for that is evidently still running Windows 98, as about three days of having to do that without any chance to be alone and reboot makes me BSoD hard, like sobbing breakdown in the bathroom hard. Depending on who I'm with and how well I know them already, I often don't last even that long.

In light of that, it's probably not surprising that I used to fucking hate things like sleepovers and weekend field trips when I was a kid -- the main function of the adult chaperons in that situation is literally to make sure no one ever leaves the group, to the point where they try to send you to the goddamn bathroom in twos and threes, and it drove me insane. The urge to crawl out of my own skin to escape gets so strong I'm surprised I never developed some kind of mild self-injurious tic like compulsive nail-biting or trichotillomania.

On the other hand, this does mean that if I've ever specifically hunted you down to talk to you, it means I'm trying to be your friend completely on purpose. Consider it an honor, assuming you think my opinion of you is at all valuable. It's not reciprocal, though -- not chasing people down is much more likely to be a function of me not having the free resources to handle conversation than of me not liking them.

Most of the time, I also need some warning if you want me to turn up somewhere prepared to talk to people. It's rare when I take someone up on a spontaneous invitation to go do something right now or even in a couple of hours. I have to like you a hell of a lot and be in the right mood to just randomly follow you off somewhere right after class/work/a chance meeting in the supermarket. (Again, non-reciprocal -- not going with you doesn't mean I dislike you.) I expect this drives people a bit bats, because I've been known to pester them over IM or SMS about going to do something on short notice. But, of course, if I'm the one issuing the invitation, I know I'm in a state where I can handle being social.

I also fully accept that finding people who both gets this and doesn't mind it is another one of those things I want and am not going to get, especially in combination with my tendency to become an excited puppy when my social-functioning mode collides with my favorite people showing up. Most of the folks I'm particularly good friends with are willing to interact with me mainly via computer or text message, which only require me to pour forth words, and hence where I look less like I'm running hot and cold all the time.