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Personality: Invalid?

The other day, my son called up and said with a laugh, “Mom, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I have an invalid personality.”

“What do you mean?”

“I took this personality test, and it says I’m ‘invalid.’”

Sure, I’d always known my younger son was well… unique, but then he fits right in with all the other characters in the family. “How can a test possibly say you’re invalid?” I demanded.

“I think because I really enjoy things that seem like the opposites.” He went on to explain that when they asked if he loved socializing and being the life of a party, he checked the “Oh yeah” box.

He wasn’t kidding. He loves to go out dancing and partying, and he’s the guy cracking jokes and telling stories. Of course, now that he has three children, unless we’re talking about kids’ birthday celebrations, his partying days are vastly diminished.

He went on to tell me that when another question came up as to whether he’d be happy being alone in the woods for days, he checked the “Love it” box as well.

I can attest to that. A mountain climber and nature enthusiast, my son savors time by himself on a hiking trip. He always returns feeling renewed and re-energized.

So, he clearly doesn’t fit into the neat categories of extrovert or introvert. Nor do I. Whenever I’ve taken the Meyers-Briggs tests, I invariably come out nearly evenly divided between extrovert and introvert. Apparently, my son comes by his “invalid” personality honestly.

Maybe we’re just a mixed-up family—or maybe we’re just human.  My husband recalls taking a test as a young man that indicated he was nearly evenly divided between feminine and masculine qualities. “The results bothered me,” he says. ‘I’d never felt like I wasn’t a guy.”

Since I teach in a comprehensive sexuality education program, I was pretty sure that whatever test he’d taken hadn’t differentiated between gender identity, gender roles, and sexual orientation. My husband was a professional dancer who loved to cook and used to haul out the sewing machine to make my clothes. His pursuits said a lot about his willingness to defy traditional gender role expectations. They said squat about his gender identity or sexual orientation.

We all feel the need to make sense of our world, and one of the ways we do that is to categorize and classify things, historical events and movements, and people. But shoving things and people—especially people in all of our variations and complexities—can be a tricky business. Because we don’t always easily fit into conventional molds doesn’t make us “invalid.”

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