About a year ago, my INTP friend (who is from the American Midwest) suggested this topic. She asked me how I could reconcile being an INTJ, with being born and raised in the Deep American South. I’ve been mulling over that question ever since.
Although I was raised by rather traditional, black, Southern parents (we’ll delve into that later), they did not train me to be, nor they want me to be a Southern Belle. Furthermore, many Southern cultural norms are diametrically opposed to the INTJ personality. Here are just a few:
Small Talk/Chit Chat
Small talk is virtually an Olympic sport in the South, especially in smaller towns and cities. INTJs infamously hate it. We’d rather take a bullet to the dome. But, as I’ve explained before on this blog, I do believe in manners. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I engage in small talk because it’s polite. Fair warning though. With an INTJ, especially when you don’t know each other well, expect for your conversation to be rather awkward. Here’s why.
First of all, chit chat is superficial. INTJs relish deep, complex discussions. Second, our thought processes are methodical and compartmentalized.
Imagine an INTJ’s brain like files on your desktop, or an old-fashioned rolodex. Our “desktop” or “rolodex,” are labeled and categorized. Each time we encounter an acquaintance, we “search” or “thumb” through our “files” for relevant information. When we find said relevant information, we pull from that storehouse of knowledge.
It sounds cold, mechanical, even weird. But, that’s all we got. Give us credit for trying to make an effort to have a conversation with you. Because trust me, we’re dying inside.
If we’re keeping score, I would have to say INTJ 1, Southern Culture 0. That’s because I politely engage in small talk, but it’s under duress.
This one is a biggie. Any good Southerner knows you will lose your “Southerner card” if you’re inhospitable. For the record, I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The scriptures encourage us to be so (Romans 12:13). As such, I would try to cultivate that quality regardless of my cultural upbringing and/or personality type. But, being an introvert makes being hospitable a bit of challenge. INTJs, and introverts in general, don’t like interacting with large crowds.
I enjoy organizing events for small groups (which coincides with INTJs having a close knit circle of friends). In fact, I even had a corporate event planning business. I’ve also spearheaded larger events, but it was more for the benefit of others – not for my pleasure.
At those large events, you’ll see me running around taking care of things. Often times, legitimately so. Sometimes, it’s just “busy work” as a coping mechanism. It’s like the grown-up version of long division.
For those of you who are a particular age, do you remember teachers making us do long division? It was under the pretense that it would be “good practice.” In reality, those poor souls needed a break. They gave us long division so we would sit down and shut up!
If I had my druthers, I would just plan the event, leave, and return for the clean-up. Of course, that would fly in the face of being the gracious, Southern hostess.
Mostly, I like event planning because it’s a creative outlet for me. Growing up, I played the flute and the violin, was in band and orchestra, and was involved in student journalism. As an adult, I worked in the broadcasting industry where I not only wrote extensively, but I also created graphics. Now, I don’t necessarily have any avenues to express my creativity. Well, besides this blog, of course.
I guess the score is even now: INTJ 1, Southern Culture 1. My reticence for Southern hospitality is trumped by my faith, and by my desire to be creative.
Being “Presentable” At All Times
This is another staple of the American South – particularly for women. I’m not quite sure where I saw or read it, but Southern women spend more time and money at the hairdresser or salon than any other group of women in the United States. I’m not sure of the origin of this penchant (although you can bet I’m going go research it). I just know that it exists.
Granted, going online and taking a gander of photographs from Walmarts in the Deep South may make you question me on this one. Fair enough. But, I think that phenomenon is generational. Society has degraded to the point that anything goes.
Believe me. I understand the need to be comfortable. I telecommute, and one of the great bonuses is that I don’t have to put on “real pants” to do my job. On the other hand, I don’t agree with wearing sleepwear in public. Just look at Merriam Webster’s definition:
Pajamas: clothing that people wear in bed or while relaxing at home
Yes! The operative phrase being “at home.” (I apologize to my NT friends for the redundancy). No one should be subjected to hair rollers, fuzzy slippers, and smiley face pants, while picking out their produce.
Here’s another aspect of being “presentable.” Southern women, mostly of a particular age, think they should be in full makeup when they’re out in public – no matter what they’re doing.
That’s just crazy to me.
For example, I’m not putting on makeup to go to the gym. It’s going to sweat it off, burn my eyes, and clogs my pores, causing break-outs. Look. My body is at war with itself – sprouting zits and gray hairs at the same time – I don’t need to add to the chaos.
Also, gym bunnies annoy me. Why are they in full makeup like they’re going to the prom? Please explain to me the purpose of wearing bubble gum colored lipstick and fake eyelashes to a Spinning® class.
I also don’t get putting on a full face to run to the store. My mother says you should do so, just in case you run into someone you know. Her logic is the same as wearing clean underwear, in case of an accident. To me, wearing clean underwear is hygienic. A full face of makeup is just impractical at times. And frankly, I really don’t care. If you roll up on me at Publix without makeup, you see what you see. Period.
I’m “presentable” during appropriate occasions. When I attend meetings at the kingdom hall (that’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses call our services and our places of worship), when I engage in the Christian ministry, and in professional settings, of course I’m well put together. That’s just being respectful, as well as hygienic. Furthermore, I like looking nice – when appropriate and practical.
It was hard to tally the points for this one. I’d say my “INTJness” won out. So it’s INTJ 2, Southern Culture 1.
My parents were/are SJs (ISTJ and ESTJ). If they’ve been taught them, SJs tend to be hardcore adherents to cultural norms. That’s not to say NJs and SJs don’t have anything in common. We do. We’re not the most spontaneous lot. SJs can be progressive. It just takes them longer to adjust to new things.
NJs, for the most part, are pretty open-minded. We believe in ideas. If you can provide us with compelling reasons or concrete proof that our thoughts and ideas are wrong, we’ll quickly adapt.
We also believe in efficiency, and that’s where we get into trouble. A lot of traditions are inefficient. Please allow me to elaborate, or rant – depending on your view.
At weddings, why do they freeze the top tier of the wedding cake for the first anniversary? Where did that tradition come from? (yet another thing for me to research!) Look, I’m a fan of baked goods – actually a little too much of a fan. But, why in the world would you go through the hassle of wrapping up the cake, freezing it, defrosting it, and then eating it a year later? What if you move in that first year? Are you supposed to keep up with the stupid cake? What if it’s freezer burned? Who knows, and who cares, if the couple really sits down and eats the cake a year later? Are the anniversary police going to bust through the door all SWAT like, and arrest them if they don’t? It’s just cake!
I’m not saying all traditions are without their merit. In some instances, it may be a good idea to follow them – just for the sake of peace and avoiding unnecessary offense. It’s the same thought process as being polite and mannerable.
Much of the time, though, people blindly follow traditions because “it’s always been done that way.”
Again, INTJ is victorious, 3 to 1.
We’re Just People
This exercise was interesting. As a black INTJ woman, who happens to have been raised in the South, there are some aspects of Southern culture I embrace. Others, not so much. It appears my INTJ personality wins out a lot of the time. But, I do try to balance the thoughts and feelings of others; with what I can reasonably do, and maintain a good conscience.
I guess I’m a cultural cherry picker.