My biggest fear when I drink, where others might go home with the wrong person or get into a fight, is saying something that I will regret. I always wake up after a night out and immediately rack my brain as to what I could have said that I will have to spend the day, if not week, cringing at. It’s just in my nature in general — and more so when I have a few in me — to want to talk, to start conversation, to relate to people, and to storytell. My already-pronounced extroversion becomes nothing short of machine-gun chattiness when things go into Party Mode. And it can often have unfortunate consequences.
When you are the kind of loud, purely extroverted person who wants always to be in the middle of a passionate conversation, you are bound to put your foot in your mouth. You’re going to overshare, to make it seem like it’s all about you in an attempt to relate, to make a joke that falls so flat you can hear people’s stomachs turning. It’s just a hazard of the territory, but it doesn’t make it any less unpleasant to look back on the next day. There was the moment when you said something stupid and then, in an attempt to get back the territory you’ve lost, you proceeded to dig yourself into an ever-more-extreme conversational hole until the other person was visibly looking for a way to get out. Re-living scenes like that the next day are one of the worst parts about being an extrovert.
But when you’re on, you’re on. You can charm a room, make everyone laugh, put almost anyone at ease in most any situation. You’re not afraid of confrontation, you shine in interviews, and you have a knack at getting along with new people. When you are in control of the careening steam engine that is your loudness, there is nothing better.
I was always told that I was a loud girl. I should stop talking so much, stop putting myself where I wasn’t wanted, stop offering my two cents. As you age, being the talkative type tends to prove beneficial in competitive business environments, but most of being a little girl is about being docile, passive, a supplicant. It’s about being seen and not heard. It’s about retaining that perfectly soft, approachable sweetness that only comes with choosing your words with absolute and graceful accuracy. It’s about being the cute little thing that other people want to play with, not the eight-year-old Hillary Clinton who dictates where people are going to play in kickball and tells everyone the dirty joke she learned from her older cousins over the weekend.
“Loud girls are annoying,” classmates would tell me, “It’s like you’re a boy.” I didn’t understand — I wore pink, I was very small, I had long, wavy hair. What about me wasn’t in the most perfectly narrow definition of girldom? Was having a voice, even one that tended to escape me when I would get just a little too excited, really so mutually exclusive with femininity? Was being the leader, the talker, the connecter, really the domain of boys? Particularly at the age where boys seemed more terrified if anything by a female presence, it felt ridiculous to write my girliness off simply because I liked to have my voice heard.
For so long, I believed that, in order to find love, I would have to quiet down. When I would go on dates, especially in those breathless beginnings when everyone is trying to put their best foot forward, I would sweat bullets attempting to clip my speech and only speak when necessary. I would never raise my voice, never tell a bawdy joke, rarely even curse. I wanted to be seen as ladylike, as poised, as the kind of woman that you could be proud of without her ever edging near the territory of your masculinity. It was important to me that I be in control of how “myself” I was, even if it meant I barely enjoyed the date. When I would bring him around my friends for the first few times, they would remark afterwards at how unnatural I’d been.
“You’re just trying to impress him,” they’d say, “You know you’re a lot louder than that.”
I was just trying to impress him. And I realized that the boys who I had tricked into wanting me with a false, edited version of my personality eventually grew weary of me when I became my full, loud self. They would wonder where the charming, airbrushed version of my personality from the first few weeks had gone, and why I was suddenly the one telling the embarrassing story to the whole table at the bar. And I would look over, and see his discomfort, and be overwhelmed with shame. I was that loud girl in school again, the one that no boy would ever like. I shut up.
The first time I went out with my boyfriend, I told myself that I would just be me. I would be loud, I would be strange, I would not tailor myself to be likable — no matter how much I wanted him to approve of me. And we were, the both of us. We laughed, and sang in the street, and told dirty jokes. We talked and talked and talked, tripping over one another to continue the conversation. And it became clear to me, for the first time in my life, that being loud wasn’t ever going to be something I could hide. It wasn’t something that I could suppress under a dozen layers of reserve and propriety and not speaking until spoken to. And it didn’t make me a boy. It didn’t make me a girl, either. It just made a person with stories and energy and a desire to get to know everyone in the world — even if you might tell the occasional bad joke while drinking. And it is worth it to wait for the people who aren’t afraid of a loud girl.