In mid-June, I wrote about having become my father, Morris. Yet we all have two genetic parents. As it happens, my mother, Blanche Finkle Perlstein, died thirteen years ago on August 1, 1999. I’ll say Kaddish for her tonight. And I’ll carry some of her with me—only not as much as I’d like.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m glad to resemble my father. Yet I’m also different, which I attribute to my mother. She was a woman of incredible emotional intelligence with an uncanny ability to charm even strangers—and even under challenging circumstances. Yet she never dominated a conversation. She asked questions and let others speak while sharing her own experiences and feelings with uncommon tact and diplomacy.
What fascinates me is that my mother was as much an extrovert as my father was an introvert. Yet they not only had a forty-seven-year marriage but also a good one. Which adds to the lore that opposites attract—unless we’re talking about genes with opposite traits that tend to do battle on the field of your personality. As they do on mine.
Take cocktail parties. My mother would have a great time. My father? I imagine he felt as I do in such settings—uncomfortable, often miserable. Like my father, I am not a chit-chatter. My mother’s genes try to ease my way. I cheer them on. More often than not, they fail. I remain an introvert.
But here’s the thing: Introverts aren’t necessarily anti-social. In the March 2003 Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch—himself an introvert—wrote an article that offered me great comfort. Rauch pointed out that introverts value and require time alone. Lots of it. But they also can be very social—in small groups (say a dinner party for six) or one-on-one (or -two or -three). Introverts, in fact, can be great conversationalists—when a conversation is focused and specific.
Moreover, introverts can enjoy large events if that same focus exists. Public speaking? I love it. The larger the audience, the more the fun. But remember, I’m focused. I enjoy hosting a big celebration, too. Not simply because I know the guests but because the event focuses (there’s that word again) on the reason for the celebration. When I hosted my launch party for Slick! last November, a crowd filled the house. It was easy to speak with people because the subject was writing in general and my book in particular.
Admittedly, I suffer at most big occasions even when surrounded by people I know. To be honest, I avoid them when possible. I don’t mean to offend. I’m not snubbing anyone. I’m just freeing myself from terrible discomfort.
So at the end of this analysis, I can say that I am like my mother—kind of. She gave me enough of her extroversion to manage—even shine—during certain occasions. Which is why, among many other reasons, I saw the bright flame of her personality in the yarzheit (memorial) candle I lit Wednesday night. And why I will carry my mother with me through the rest of my days not only with love but also with enduring gratitude.
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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.