Shy folks, unite! And, don’t feel so woebegone

by Garrison Keillor

Sometimes I feel that maybe we shy persons have borne our terrible burden for far too long now. Labeled by society as “wimps,” “dorks,” “creeps,” and “sissies,” stereotyped as Milquetoasts and Walter Mittys, and tagged as potential psychopaths (“He kept pretty much to himself,” every psychopath’s landlady is quoted as saying after the arrest, and for weeks thereafter every shy person is treated like a leper), we shys are desperately misunderstood on every hand. Because we don’t “talk out” our feelings, it is assumed that we haven’t any. It is assumed that we never exclaim, retort or cry out, though naturally we do on occasions when it seems called for.

Would anyone dare to say to a woman or a Third World person, “Oh, don’t be a woman! Oh, don’t be so Third!” And yet people make bold with us whenever they please and put an arm around us and tell us not to be shy.

Hundreds of thousands of our shy brothers and sisters (and “cousins twice-removed,” as militant shys refer to each other) are victimized every year by self-help programs that promise to “cure” shyness through hand-buzzer treatments, shout training, spicy diets, silence-aversion therapy and every other gimmick in the book. Many of them claim to have “overcome” their shyness, but the sad fact is they are afraid to say otherwise.

To us in the shy movement, however, shyness is not a disability or disease to be “overcome.” It is simply the way we are. And in our own quiet way, we are secretly proud of it.

It isn’t something we shout about at public rallies and marches. It is Shy Pride. And while we don’t have a Shy Pride Week, we do have many private moments when we keep our thoughts to ourselves, such as “Shy is nice,” “Walk short,” “Be proud–shut up,” and “Shy is beautiful, for the most part.” These are some that I thought up myself. Perhaps other shy persons have some of their own, I don’t know.´

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Contributed by a community member who indicated that this story was published by Garrison Keillor around 1989 in either The Tennessean or The Lexington Herald Leader.