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Sociability

  • ... I can easily do without people (there are days when I could easily do without myself), and ... in the country of books where I dwell, the dead can count entirely as much as the living.

    • Adrienne Monnier,
    • in Richard McDougall, trans., The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier ()
  • I'm fond of human beings, but only one at a time.

    • Natalie Clifford Barney,
    • "Scatterings" (1910), in Anna Livia, ed., A Perilous Advantage: The Best of Natalie Clifford Barney ()
  • I am obliged to give up the few visits which would be really attactive and fruitful in order to avoid the many visits which would be the reverse. It is only by saying, 'I never pay visits,' that I can escape being ungracious or unkind — only by renouncing all social intercourse but such as comes to our own fireside, that I can escape sacrificing the chief objects of life. I think it very good of those with whom I have much fellow-feeling, if they will let me have the pleasure of seeing them without their expecting the usual reciprocity of visits; and I hope I need hardly say that you are among the visitors who would be giving me pleasure in this way. ... I am not afraid of your misinterpreting my stay-at-home rule into churlishness.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1861), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • We exchanged wary stares: two people in search of a wavelength.

  • ... agoraphobia was my quirky armor against a gregarious America ...

  • If we define a misanthrope as 'someone who does not suffer fools and likes to see fools suffer,' we have described a person with something to look forward to.

  • ... misanthropy is a realistic attitude toward human nature that falls short of the incontinent emotional dependency expressed by Barbra Streisand's anthem to insecurity, 'Peepul who need peepul are the luckiest peepul in the world.' Considered in this context, an examination of misanthropy has value for Americans who do not necessarily hate everybody, but are tired of compulsory gregariousness, fevered friendliness, we-never-close compassion, goo-goo humanitarianism, sensitivity that never sleeps, and politicians paralyzed by a hunger to be loved.

  • If you ever meet someone who cannot understand why solitary confinement is considered punishment, you have met a misanthrope.

  • My object is to live in a place that does not call itself 'the community with a heart.' I want one of those godforsaken towns where all the young people leave and the rest sit on the porch with a rifle across their knees.

  • Visiting is a pleasure; being visited is usually a mixed or ambivalent joy. ... The visitor can always go home; the visitee is already home, trapped like a rat in a drainpipe.

  • My father was never very friendly. When I was growing up, I thought the doorbell ringing was a signal to pretend you weren't home.

  • Once more I realize that solitude is my element, and the reason is that extreme awareness of other people (all naturally solitary people must feel this) precludes awareness of one's self, so after a while the self no longer knows that it exists.

  • One day I shall write a little book of conduct myself, and I shall call it Social Problems of the Unsociable. And the root problem, beneath a hundred varying manifestions, is How to Escape. How to escape, that is, at those times, be they few or frequent, when you want to keep yourself to yourself.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • "Problems of Social Life," A Casual Commentary ()
  • I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.

    • Jane Austen,
    • letter to her sister Cassandra (1798), in R.W. Chapman, ed., Jane Austen's Letters ()
  • I cannot love people in the country, I discover, because there is always this danger that they may be acquaintances, with all the perils and choleras of acquaintance implicit in them; but in London they seem as charming as rabbits.

  • [On social climbing:] Everything that goes up must come down.

  • Our American culture made a virtue of our living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center, and so we lost our center and had to find it again.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • "The New Woman," in Ramparts Magazine ()
  • I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting. I would rather watch TV. Of course, this eventually becomes known to the other person.

  • My extroversion is a way of managing my introversion.

  • No one who likes a song lacks congeniality ...

  • A party is a slightly artificial event where one learns the rudiments of human behavior at its most admirable: speaking when spoken to, looking somebody in the eye, shaking hands and being friendly under duress.

  • It is very unreasonable of people to expect one should be at home, because one is in the house. Of all privileges, that of invisibility is the most valuable.

  • My idea of everything going smoothly on an airplane is (a) that I not die in a slow-motion fiery crash or get stabbed to death by terrorists and (b) that none of the other passengers try to talk to me. All conversation should end at the moment the wheels leave the ground.

  • Does not a misplaced optimism exist, common to all mankind, leading on to false conviction that social engagements, if dated sufficiently far ahead, will never really materialize?

  • Our age is so gregarious that there is at present a marked prejudice against anyone being alone. It is looked down on, and a need to be alone is almost considered a fault, a weakness, as though if one cannot endure — more — enjoy being with other people every minute one is aloof, unreal, and somehow to be pitied.

  • [Emily] Dickinson, our supreme poet of inwardness.

  • Mrs. Willow was absolutely determined to be affable and would not be denied.

  • ... social life is becoming more necessary to me just as my power of commanding it is lessened ...

    • Anna Jameson,
    • 1849, in Geraldine Macpherson, Memoirs of the Life of Anna Jameson ()
  • ... she usually liked everybody most when they weren't there.

  • Visitors should conform as much as possible to the habits and customs of the house. They should be moderate in their demands for personal attendance. They should not carry their moods into the drawing-room or to the table, and, whether they are bored or not, should be ready to contribute as much as in their power to an atmosphere of pleasure. If the above involves too much self-sacrifice, then an invitation to visit should by no means be accepted.

  • There never was a woman so ill-suited to public life as I am. I have had to whip myself, as it were, into society, and the loneliness of it all has been terrific.

  • Isn't it strange some people make / You feel so tired inside, / Your thoughts begin to shrivel up / Likes leaves all brown and dried? / But when you're with some other ones, / It's stranger still to find / Your thoughts as thick as fireflies / All shiny in your mind!

  • He felt as one would if assaulted physically by a benign elderly rabbit.

  • Extraverts ... cannot understand life until they have lived it. Introverts ... cannot live life until they understand it.

  • ... the present Western civilization ... is dominated by the extravert viewpoint. There are plenty of reasons for this domination: extraverts are more vocal than introverts; they are more numerous, apparently in the ratio of three to one; and they are accessible and understandable, whereas the introverts are not readily understandable, even to each other, and are likely to be thoroughly incomprehensible to the extraverts.

  • In society it is etiquette for ladies to have the best chairs and get handed things. In the home the reverse is the case. That is why ladies are more sociable than gentlemen.

  • The savage hatred I feel for crowds is getting worse, natural enemies that they are of imagination and of thought.

  • Father G. was often obliged to enter houses where people were on the point of death or had already died; indeed he preferred this type of situation to normal parish visiting, with its awkward conversation and the inevitable cups of tea and sweet biscuits.

  • Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.

  • ... at a certain moment in social proceedings, I am on FIRE to leave: I have a leaving-FIT.

    • Gwendolyn Brooks,
    • "Appendix: Collage," Report From Part One: An Autobiography ()
  • Stanley never answered a doorbell naturally and innocently as other people do. He always debated whether it was wise to answer it at all.

  • ... she was often overcome, in other people's houses, by an overpowering desire to escape, a tyrannical restlessness as inexplicable as it was embarrassing. Every nerve in her body would suddenly telegraph 'I must get out of this.'

  • No, no, no, I can't, I cannot see new people: even the thought of it makes me so nervous that I can't work. ... The only thing I can do to preserve the little energy I still have is to keep writing, which pleases and excites and keeps me going.

    • Margaret Anderson,
    • letter to Janet Flanner (c. 1960s), in Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940 ()
  • Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. It means you enjoy being alone. Not just enjoy it — you need it.

  • If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them — like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you.

  • As far as I'm concerned, the only thing sweeter than seeing a friend is that friend canceling on me.