Introvert Boutique

Someone needs to invent a boutique for introverts.

I hate making small talk while someone’s cutting my hair. I hate piping up to ask for a change. Do you look at yourself in the mirror? Is it okay to take your arms out from under the cape thing they put you in?

And that’s just a haircut. My mother loves taking me out to get my nails done, but I outright refuse. Someone not a foot from your face, and you’re not allowed to move your hands? I feel so disgusting, making someone care to my hands while I look over their shoulder at the television, but I have no idea what to say to them so I just fall silent.

Massages are the worst—and I’ve never gone for one. I just can’t. Such an intimate thing, and what are you expected to say? Is it awkward to say that something feels good? Are you supposed to make noises, little moans and things, or stay silent? Massages have so many difficult social cues to pay attention to, and that’s not fun, that’s not relaxing. I would love to have one, but I’m too scared!

I vote on creating spas for introverts. An introvert boutique, an introvert salon.

The rooms in this imaginary spa are filled with soft music so it’s not an awkward silence. The lights are soft, the walls are peach. The chairs are comfortable. After a brief consultation to understand what you want in your haircut, manicure, massage, etc., the person who works there assures you that they expect silence, and they don’t mind it or find it awkward. They say that it is to foster a peaceful atmosphere. They say that they will not judge you if you do not smile or speak, and will take you for your word if you say you like it even if you may not seem to in the moment.

However, they say, please do interrupt the silence to notify them of any pain you are feeling or to correct them on anything they are doing wrong.

In the massage/facial area, they give you a nice little mask so you don’t have to worry about seeing them or them looking at you. They assure you that they do not mind if you make noises, or if you don’t. They say they will only say something if it sounds like you are in pain. In the manicure/haircut area, they have a television as well as the masks, so you can choose to either relax while they do their work or keep a keen eye out to correct them (especially with the haircut). They assure you that they will not be insulted either way.

At the end, they ask if you are satisfied. If you are not, feel free to say so. They will not be offended, and will do all they can to help you.

To pay, you may use any form of payment you wish. You do not have to approach the specific employee to tip them—in fact, tips are not allowed. The boutique pays them a flat rate plus commission, so you don’t have to worry about them not getting paid. You are welcome to write a short note of thanks if you wish, but there is no pressure.

After you are done, you are free to spend as long as you like in the meditation room in the back. It is silent here, too, save for a bit of peaceful music. It is warm, made of rich golden wood and peppered with canvas cushions. Once you feel relaxed and ready to face the day, you may leave without a goodbye and go about your day.

Doesn’t that sound like an idea spa day? Nothing sounds more relaxing than knowing exactly what is expected of you, and having that expectation be, “enjoy yourself in peaceful silence.” I can just imagine the zen-like set up, with plants in all the windows and a little rock fountain in the back.

I know part of being an introvert is learning how to face the world anyway. But I think that a business so focused on comfort and relaxation would do good to cater to the introverted crowd.

Dang. Now I really want to go.

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In Spanish, the word for…: Conversation starters

Odds are, you know at least part of a foreign language. Whether you’re bi- or tri-lingual, a regular polyglot, or only remember the basics from a high school French class, you most likely remember something, and more often than not that word means “poop.”

The  words people remember from languages they don’t use much are the fun words. Swear words, strange idioms, words that are plain fun to say: these are the words that we remember best.

Beyond some greetings and counting to ten, all I remember from my middle school Spanish class is how to say pencil sharpeners: Las sacapuntas. Why? Because it’s so much fun to say! Sacapuntas, sacapuntas. The fun rhythm made me smile then, and still makes me smile today.

When I moved on to American Sign Language, you can bet your bottom dollar that when showing friends what I’ve learned, I went straight to “horny,” “whore,” “bullshit.” It’s fun to know how to swear in secret—and in this case, in silence.

The first sentence I learned in German was Ich bin Blau: I am drunk. My friend taught me at a high school lunch one day.

My friend’s sister who studied abroad in Italy once told us of an Italian idiom that is equivalent “rose tinted glasses:” “Avere gli occhi foderati di prosciutto.” It’s funny because it is literally translated as “to have your eyes wrapped in ham.”

Language is not just important and brain-expanding; it can be a load of fun, too. Bringing up tongue twisters, swear words, and fun phrases in foreign languages can be a light-hearted conversation starter that leads into a linguistic parade. Bring your dictionaries!

Can you do this?: Conversation Starters

I love showing off my weird left thumb. It’s such a funny thing that people find interesting. I don’t know if it’s double jointed or what, but I can move it in ways my other thumb can’t, and make it look rather short and unnaturally bent. It’s a detail about me that serves as nothing more than a conversation point—and perhaps a slight advantage at video games.

Weird body part talents are a strangely common subject of conversation, probably because everyone has at least one. We all know someone with a hyper-extended knee or double jointed arms or eyes that can cross to the center one at a time. Maybe you can crack every joint in your body, or curl your tongue like an accordion, or lick your elbow. Maybe you can hook your foot behind your head or bend your fingers back to touch your wrist or wiggle your ears and nose. Or do whatever this is:

human-pretzel.jpg

Bringing these talents up in the right context can lead to tons of fun. One person mentions that they can raise their eyebrows independently and then the whole group is full of unsuccessful, hilarious attempts to replicate it. It can lead to tons of other fun body topics, like spot on Kermit the Frog impressions and weird freckle formations.

The best part about weird body talents is that it has nothing to do with skill. One cannot teach their shoulders to be double jointed; you can either do it or you can’t. It doesn’t make anyone feel bad.

More of a talent show than a competition, this conversation starter hinges on the importance of independence. It celebrates weirdness and encourages individuality! Do keep in mind, however, that this is best suited for an informal gathering of family or friends. Probably don’t whip this out at a business cocktail party.

The best way I’ve found to start this conversation is asking a kid to replicate your funny. Whether they can do it or not, it gets everyone laughing and allows you to participate without being the center of attention for too long.

Best of luck, and feel free to share your weird talents below. I know you have them!

Where you from?: Conversation Starters

It’s the first day in a new class, or at a new job. You don’t know anybody, and have two choices: either hide in the back-left corner, take out your laptop, and pretend you can’t see or hear anyone, or strike up a conversation with someone nearby.

You know the class/job will likely be easier if you have someone to talk to. And look! There’s someone who doesn’t seem so loud or annoying. You start talking a bit, and it’s going well, but you realize you’re running out of things to say. You can only discuss classes and majors and previous jobs for so long, and you don’t know anything else about this person. Where’s the best place to go from here?

Place…that’s it!

It may sound lame, but asking where someone’s from is one of the oldest and best tricks in the book. No matter where they’re from, it can inform and further the conversation.

Are they from your hometown? What a coincidence! Ask about their high school experience, if they ever went to that great Indian restaurant, if they know so-and-so.

Are they from your home state? Great! You can talk about how you have/have not been to their town. You can talk about your ventures to the capital city, or the other big attractions. You can talk about how you’ve always wanted to go there.

Are they from a well-known place, like New York City? Now you can ask if it’s really like how it is in the movies. Is it as crowded/expensive? What stereotypes are true? You can ask this about really any place you don’t know well. They’re from England/Morocco/Alabama/Kuwait? What’s it like there? I’ve heard this, is that true? What’s the best part about it? This is a great way to learn about them and a new place at the same time.

Are they from a place you’ve never heard of? Like a strange farming town or a country you couldn’t point to on a map? Even better. Admit that you’ve never heard of it—they probably won’t be surprised that you haven’t—and ask questions.

The best thing about this question is that it’s easy and harmless. Plus, it gets turned back to you with no pressure. Someone will almost always ask the question back to you, but you have the answer prepared. You know where you’re from, and you know plenty about it.

Much like the “weather” conversation starter, this may seem obvious and maybe even cliché. But it’s a tool you can keep in your tool belt when conversation begins to run dry. You can always find another question to ask after you know where someone’s from.

However! This only really works with people you just met. Don’t ask it if you already know the answer! That would just be awkward. Good luck!

So…crazy weather we’re having, huh?: Conversation Starters

The weather. The epitome of an awkward conversation. It’s a trope in comedies that whenever our main character is left alone in a room with an attractive person or a stern father in law or an ex wife or an estranged son, the conversation falls to silence and then turns to…”Been chilly, lately.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Chilly, chilly, chilly…”

However, weather can actually be a great conversation starter. You can turn a short phrase into a conversation pretty quickly, especially if you live in an area with some extreme weather. 

For example, I was lucky enough to be in Florida when hurricane Irene caused NYC to evacuate. Unfortunately, our flight was cancelled, and my sister just had to get home for the first day of school.

We decided to drive from Orlando, Florida to Massachusetts.

It was terrible. We sped the whole way, down the longest empty road ever. We hit DC and then NYC  in about an hour. 

The worst part? We get on the highway, and the gps says, “Turn left in 678 miles.”

We all accepted it at first, then did a double take. 

“SIX HUNDRED WHAT?!”
Everyone has a crazy hurricane or earthquake or blizzard story. Tell yours when the conversation dies down, and have the pressure taken off rather quickly when the focus changes to someone else’s wacky weather adventure.
So much of a successful conversation is just finding a way to make your personal experiences relate. With a little practice, even the weather won’t be awkward. Try it out!