Do You Really Have to Watch Out for the Quiet Ones?

Do you have a label? I must have a bazillion of them. One of the first ones was, “quiet.” And then I would hear comments like, “the quiet ones are the ones you have to watch out for,” implying (or so it seems to me) that quiet people are the ones who are more likely to turn out to be mass murderers or commit hideous crimes. So that label, even when I was very young, tended to upset me and make me mad. I remember my thoughts from around age five as something like, “Look, I’m not a psychopath, I just like to read! What is your problem!”

Shy was another one. And “shy” annoys me for different reasons — because people confuse it with “quiet.” But in fact, in different contexts, the word “shy” can mean, “I have nothing to say to you right now,” “I don’t like you,” “I like you but am afraid you might not like me,” or “I am overstimulated by my environment right now and would really like some peace and quiet.” Upon careful reflection, though, I think people use the word “shy” — whether it is a self-diagnosis or a label from a family member or friend — most often as less of a label than a social excuse. It says, “this person is not behaving in the socially accepted way, so please do not be offended.”

So now I have embraced the label “shy.” It says, I don’t have to be right in the thick of things where I don’t want to be. I can hang out on the edges where it’s quieter or even stay at home. I don’t have to pretend to be good at small talk. (Small talk is not my problem! How liberating!) It even says, “social norms do not apply to me, thank you for your concern” — which is a message that I adore.

Still, because of the labels that were applied to me as a child, I can understand why my parents to this very day do not like labels, even when I apply them to myself. For example, when I diagnosed myself with Asperger’s, my parents’ reaction was, “what do you want to label yourself for?” In that case, the answer was, so I can better understand myself and help the people around me to better understand me. You know, like when you start sneezing and then reassure the people around you by saying, “oh, I don’t have a cold, I just have allergies.”

Oh, but colds and allergies are physical labels, Bonnie. Don’t you know the difference? Nope. That’s why I have Asperger’s. Because when things are logically the same I recognize that they are logically the fucking same, damn it, and I don’t care if some labels have stupid social implications and some don’t. And, frankly, not to sound hostile — another label — but I think that those of you who are blind to certain logical parallels just because they don’t fit your social schema have your own handicap, actually.

See, now some of you are looking the other way. “Bonnie had an outburst! She’s usually so quiet!”

Hello? Everything I say is a label. WORDS ARE LABELS. Of course I love labels. I make my living as a writer!! My recreation is reading books!!

Now, here’s another stupid thing. Did you see the word “social” above and think, oh, she’s about to get political on us and talk about race and class and sex? That would be so Bonnie-like, but not this time. Let’s take just a moment and talk about things that are mental versus things that are physical. See, labels apply to both. And you can have mental disorders just like you can have physical ones, and they are just as common. I don’t have a statistic to back that up — how un-Bonnielike of me — but you know it’s true. Why? Because you’ve experienced emotional phenomena just like you’ve experienced physical phenomena, you morons (and I mean morons totally affectionately, I assure you–I am not angry, just exasperated, and not about to turn into one of the “quiet ones” who goes postal on you, so everyone just calm down, please, thank you). So, we don’t need to get all embarrassed and afraid to put labels on mental disorders, whether they are mild or moderate or severe. They are not signs that we are turning into one of the “quiet ones” (unless we already are). They are just a normal part of life, like catching a cold or breaking a leg or getting cancer. Like other normal parts of life, some can be prevented, some can’t.

And some would be actually not a big problem if extroverts would stop expecting the whole world to act like them.  (Oh, sorry, hope I didn’t step on your toes with the whole extrovert-label thing.)

Some are blessings in disguise (a lot, actually, are blessings in disguise).

Others would be a big problem no matter what kind of world you live in.

But that’s life.

And we can cope with it. And we can call it what it is, and if we want to be picky enough to find the exact right word for it, that’s okay, because that’s why we are writers. Or readers. Or tarot readers. 🙂


  1. Love it in to-fucking-TALITY!

    I especially full-on love it coming from a self-proclaimed introvert affect-influencing my extreme-extrovert. I could just GO ON like the titanic movie song, though she DID let go of his ass and let him slip into the depths. Great metaphor… except for how it was applied. Though, your blog! Here, have this. But wait, no, that’s an adjective. So, have this. Kidding. That’s an adjective, too. SO, oh this SO rocks, so have THIS. WHOA WAIT. That’s an adjective, too.

    I feel like I just read and experienced one of THE best pieces of writing addressing identity that’s been written. Yeah yeah you come at it a bit personally and as well obliquely… though, isn’t that what makes resonance in lyrics? Yes! GO YOU with the long-form lyrics across your blog!

    Oh, and this particular extrovert hates the labels of overbearing and flippant and cavalier and dismissive and topical and talks-too-much-without-listening and playfully ignorant and egomania when I am simply playing life as … “someone’s gotta toot their own horn to start the DAYum band. Introverts and extroverts are here, and WE ALL wanna have good time. Go!” and .. as… since there is expert skill in play like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers when people dance their comms together… I find both introverts and extroverts ROCK dancing comms together… assuming neither is either I or E because they are still locked in parental (full-on limiting predeterminstic fatal-to-relationships) bullshit.

    SO (insert Header 2 here)

    Screw what’s wrong.

    Dismiss the adjectives and descriptions and reasons. Reasons are unreasonable.

    When I re-read your blog.

    I find Nature. And, I full-on DIG Nature.

    Thanks more than you know.

    And, like I say… NEVER trust truth or love to philosophers. At the same time Oscar Wilde indicated truth to be THE most impure thing as it is born of experience…

    And, better yet… Mark Twain has TWO wonderful doosies:
    ~ of COURSE truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.
    ~ Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

    Hail the the Introverts goes-to-11-Powerful Silence tandem-ing with… ok… I’ll be honest… iI go to 11.

    I would ask you the same question, though that is personal, huh?


    1. Wow, Jordan, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m thrilled that you liked the post so much! And very much appreciate your point about extroverts getting labeled too–you’re quite right, though that’s not a problem I would be likely to ever face myself…also, I LOVE your Mark Twain quotes and am a big fan of his generally…but, which question do you mean at the end of your comment? I don’t see a question?


      1. Oh, THAT question! Yes, you do. As a matter of fact! 🙂

        Partly because when quiet people get riled up, it catches everyone off guard. When extroverts speak up, it barely makes a blip on the radar because people are used to that from anyone who talks a lot. But when a very quiet person so much as speaks (much less speaks fiercely!), people get scared. They react like: It. Is. Alive!

        Plus, there’s an energetic component. Quiet people wear cloaks of invisibility. Then when we speak up, there’s this sudden intense energy seeming to come out of nowhere…it actually does scare people; I’ve had people get alarmed by my words even when I didn’t raise my voice and spoke very civilly. I was once escorted from a public courthouse because when I tried to pay a fee with cash, and was turned away because that particular office does not accept cash, I sarcastically but calmly commented, “oh, has the county seceded from the United States?” They called security! And told the security officers that it was my very calmness that was so frightening. Though the officers who came did not seem to think I looked very threatening (I don’t!).


      2. Now you’ve got me really thinking through the energy of this. I may have to do a follow-up post: Part 2: Why You Should Be Afraid of the Quiet Ones: because we tend to be well-armed, with words — and those things will slip right through a metal detector! Watch out, because the extremists among us might read to you…


      3. 😀 Amen to that. The sudden contrast coming out of the hiding in plain sight cloak of invisibility is full-on intense. As a triple-extrovert I really got more of a handle on communication from my introvert friends way back. I realized that when I had a big point to play in a meeting, that switching to the stealth mode until it got someone to be disturbed by my silence was a better way to have good timing than to manhandle the point into the mix. Like a drop of olive oil into pepper floating on water… it made a space for the point to not only be heard but be contrasted and also having the breathing room it needed to be fully appreciated.

        So, yes definitely I watch out for the quiet ones, and watch them, too, as they usually have more signal than noise when they speak… even more signal than noise in their non-verbals, too.


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