I’m sitting at my desk in the second grade, working on a paper person garland. Snip. My scissors are cutting across the dotted lines I have so, so carefully outlined to make the perfect hand-holding figure that was demonstrated to us minutes ago.
Mrs. Brown comes to my desk and opens it up. We have those old school type desks where they’re essentially cubbies with tops on hinges. Asides from our gloves, hats, boots and scarves (necessities for a North Dakota winter) everything goes inside of the desk. Mrs. Brown looks down at mine and disapprovingly clicks her tongue.
“Well aren’t we a little pack rat?”
I know she’s asking a question but my second grade mind also somehow knows it’s rhetorical, even though I won’t know what “rhetorical” means for nine more years.
I look up and try to protest and Mrs. Brown puts a finger to her lips, offering up the solution that I couldn’t come across on my own.
“You need to speak when spoken to, Kendra.”
It’s fourth grade, the spring of 1999 and we are rehearsing the Easter musical. Some of the girls are fidgeting with their new found bra straps and we’re all a little too hot under the Christian school’s mandatory “no tank top” rule.
Enna, the choir director’s daughter, and I are supposed to sing a duet.
I love being next to the microphone and even though Enna has several inches on me I’m belting over her like there is no tomorrow. I may not understand why we’re singing so joyously about something as horrendous as a crucifixion but I’m nothing if not determined to absolutely steal the spotlight.
“Kendra,” Enna’s mom has stopped the run through.
“You really need to make sure that you aren’t over singing Enna. It’s not fair to her.”
I pause, not totally sure of what my mistake actually was.
“The attention doesn’t always need to be on you, Kendra.”
It’s 7th grade and I’m working on a mock up in Journalism about the Janet Jackson incident that happened at the Super Bowl. My partner, a quieter girl named Kia, is incredibly uncomfortable talking about a woman having jewelry on her nipple. I don’t understand what the big deal is.
I have no problem saying the word nipple.
The assignment was talk about current events. This was the biggest thing to happen in the spring of 2014 so it seemed like the natural thing to gravitate towards for a journalism assignment.
I’m talking about it with other students. I’m excited about having a real story to present, not some topic where we would be grasping at straws to pretend something was newsworthy. Our teacher walks up with a stern look on his face, obviously not thrilled with the subject we’ve chosen to discuss regardless of the fact that it was the news story of the month.
“You really need to filter yourself, Kendra.”
“You need to act and talk more appropriately, Kendra.”
: a friendly person who likes being with and talking to other people : an outgoing person
: one whose personality is characterized by extroversion; broadly : a gregarious and unreserved person
I don’t know when to stop.
I don’t know when I’m too much.
I don’t know when I seem to cross the line from being the life of the party to being annoying.
And most of the time I don’t care.
But sometimes all I can hear is Mrs. Brown in the back of my mind saying:
“Kendra, you really should be using your inside voice right now.”
I’m 25 and reading over comments on my blog and articles that are published online. Words jump out left and right. They’re accusatory and stabbing. Angry and meant to cut me exactly where it hurts. They succeed to a certain extent.
“You’re an attention whore.”
“Wow, somebody’s desperate.”
“Hey crazy eyes, you’re insane.”
Are they right? Am I actually just desperate for attention and that’s why I’m looking for validation from strangers on the internet instead of forming face-to-face connections with people in this new city? Being an extrovert—someone who gains satisfaction from being around groups of people—would make that totally possible and extremely likely.
But is satisfaction from strangers going to be enough?
I’m afraid for the day I don’t speak out loud for a full 24 hours. Will I be the living embodiment of Ariel circa 1989 and my voice will be gone, sucked into an imaginary seashell? How will I identify if I’m not the loud, uninhibited extrovert?
Introverts get to communicate at their fingertips and feel instant gratification from forming the slightest human contact. They have clubs, support systems, an army of Tumblrs ready to fight for their right to not speak out loud.
But then there’s me, the extrovert, hoping and praying someone will ask my opinion so I can stretch my argumentative muscles and involve myself in someone else’s psyche.
I feel like I’m the taboo. The un-talked about person behind a screen. The person that needs people, even if they are just words.
I’m in the second grade, holding my paper person garland before unwrapping it while Mrs. Brown stares accusatorially into my messy desk with a finger next to her lips, telling me how I’m expected to behave.
“No. I’m not a pack rat.”
Mrs. Brown looks pretty taken aback.
“You need to speak when spoken to, Kendra.”
I unfold my paper people. Their arms are off-kilter.
I like their off-kilter arms.
“You asked me a question so I’m answering.”