“In our increasingly isolated society, I am a friendly person. I smile at strangers on the street with the hope that I might give them a moment of connection. I look people in the eyes when I’m speaking with them. I take advantage of opportunities to joke or be self-deprecating because I like people to feel comfortable around me. I ask questions–real questions–because I’m genuinely interested, and I actually listen to the answers because I actually care. I’ve dedicated my entire life to understanding the human condition, and offering support and connection, because I want to reduce people’s suffering.”
My friend, this. is. me. all. over! I’m getting my MA in International Relations with a double minor in Philosophy and Psychology because I, too, am dedicated to understanding the human condition.
Thank you for sharing this! I understand the humiliation of others assuming your charisma (extroversion and genuine interest in the life of each person you know and meet) as equated to seductive intentions or as stemming from sexual desire. Such projection. I deal with the same issue and it is deeply frustrating. Being myself is almost a threat to my self.
I used to be a quiet, fearful, introverted person. I was “socialized to be agreeable”. Then 6 years of living in New York city happened and voilé — extrovert! Who’d’ve known? Now I receive similar comments from men and women that you seem to have received, in response to my extroverted personality as perceived to be only motivated by sexual desire. These were all said directly to my face:
“You must get any guy you want.”
“So how many guys are you seeing right now?”
“I bet you sleep with a lot of people.” ←?????! No!
“You must have many men pursuing you.”
No. No. No. No. This last one happened most recently. I struggled through my response to the guy because I liked him — a lot — and didn’t want to say something that sounded confident or factual, that sounded like the truth in my mind, for fear of turning away (again) someone I really like and genuinely find interesting. I didn’t want to be intimidating. Yes, it is easy for me to meet people and make friends. Admittedly, I see that people are attracted to me. Men AND women. I go salsa dancing a lot and I rarely sit down unless I politely refuse a steady stream of people asking for a dance. I keep a smile on while I’m dancing because I’m happiest when I’m dancing, and am often offered a drink after, most often after they compliment that I smile so much. I have accepted once.
Smiling is my default face. Rather than having “resting bitch face syndrome” (a phrase that I have a bone to pick with) I have “resting happy face syndrome”. I’m approachable and curious about people. I also smile at strangers for the betterment of the world. Smiling is an invitation to exchange positively on a simple, meaningful level.
Even so…smiling may just be the death of my extroversion, of the personality I’ve developed over the years after immense efforts to overcome general fearful tendencies, deep social anxiety, and negative self-imaging. Smiles are often interpreted as more than a smile. They are interpreted as an invitation to exchange numbers and share a bed. I despise my genuine curiosity being interpreted as seductive intention. It tempts me to be more muted, to dampen my strong, attractive, positive personality, to dampen who I am.
But do I smile less? Am I kind less? Nope! I used to be. It was my habit to self-deconstruct for the sake of self-protection. It was a habit to revert to my extremely introverted ways when I realized I was being interpreted incorrectly. But I refuse to be less than my extroverted, charismatic self. I refuse to be “selective in kindness” because experiencing genuine kindness is rare in today’s increasingly isolated, insecure, anxiety-ridden society*. I hope so badly that everyone can understand the last few lines of your post:
I am interested in you.
That does not mean I’m trying to have sex with you.
Let’s entertain that idea.
*Of course, these traits are not apt to each and every person. In my experience with social interaction and dating over the past 6 years in New York, insecurity and anxiety seem to outweigh social confidence and self-assurance. I have a very positive worldview and hands-down give everyone the benefit of the doubt.