“Domestic monastery” or “annoying introvert”? – it’s a fine line

October 16, 2012 | 46 comments

An old friend got in touch with us recently, and his experience was proof that trying to contact one of the Fulwilers by telephone often yields different results than you would expect it to. Below is a transcript of our friend Sandeep’s experience with this endeavor.

Before you read it, there are three things you need to know: 1) As part of his never-ending quest to thwart The Man, Joe is constantly switching to new, cheaper cell phone plans, which always involves changing his mobile number. 2) He recently switched our home service as well (see #1 re: The Man), which involved losing our longtime home number. 3) Joe sees answering phones as a completely optional activity; if a phone rings near him, he feels no particular compulsion to turn his attention to it, and usually keeps his cell phone turned off.

SANDEEP: Hey, Jen, how’s it going? Could I just get Joe’s cell number from you?
ME: I don’t know it.
SANDEEP: You don’t know it?
ME: No, but it doesn’t matter. He wouldn’t answer it anyway.
SANDEEP: Really?
ME: Yeah, he never answers it.
SANDEEP: Oh. Wow. Okay, do you know if he’s at work right now?
ME: Actually, he’s at home.
SANDEEP: Oh, great! What’s your home number?
ME: I don’t know.
SANDEEP: [Silence.]
ME: He doesn’t answer that number either though.
SANDEEP: Okay. Well, I’ll just leave him a voicemail.
ME: We don’t have voicemail. Or, maybe we do, but we’ve never figured out how to check it.
SANDEEP: [More stunned silence.] Okay, so, I guess I’ll just send him another email and wait to hear back?
ME: That would probably be best.

And I’ve told you before about this exchange, which I had again recently:

FRIEND: Did you get my text?
ME: I never check texts. You should email me.
FRIEND: I did.
ME: Oh, that’s right, I avoid email. It stresses me out.
FRIEND: Did you at least get my voicemail?
ME: I hate checking voicemail. It takes so long, you know? You have to sit there and listen to that voice say, “At…three…twenty…two…on…Friday…” [Shuddering.] I only do it about once a week.
FRIEND: So, I guess I need to come to your door if I need to get in touch with you?
ME: I guess.
FRIEND: Okay —
ME: But sometimes I hide behind the couch when I hear a knock.

Sandeep, who is evidently more of a phone-answering, cell-phone-number-knowing kind of person, finally caught Joe on the phone later in the week and asked in bewilderment if this was some kind of Catholic thing (wondering also if we were perhaps in a witness protection program).

I would like to think that it is a Catholic thing: we have cultivated a domestic monastery for our house, and a big part of creating a prayerful, focused environment is limiting sources of external distractions.

…Or maybe we’re just annoying introverts.


  1. Kathleen

    I am laughing because I also don’t know my husbands cell, our home phone number and I also don’t know to check our phones messages! Hilarious. The only ppl who attempt the house phone are asking for money or my vote, so I don’t answer it!

  2. mary

    I LOVED this! I do believe, that from now on, when people ask me why I don’t answer the phone or return phone calls, I shall say, ‘I am cultivating a domestic monastery for my home and big part is creating a prayerful, focused environment, limiting sources of external distraction!’

  3. TRS

    This is awesome.
    I find it remarkable how I have gone from having had a phone grow out of my head in my 20s – to just not even wanting to answer it.

    (in fact, I once lived in a House-of-Many-People when I moved a state away for a job – this was before cell phones were available to the common man – and the guy whose family owned the house flipped out every time the phone bill came! I asked why it mattered? I’m going to pay for it, what’s the big deal? He had to think about that, and finally replied that he could never wrap his head around spending that much on the phone)

    Last week, I was trying to coordinate with someone for work – and he asked if my cell was a good way to reach me. I said it really wasn’t because I leave my cell in my purse all day at work and only check it at lunch and when I leave to go home.
    {{dramatic pause}}
    “Wow. Good for you.”

    Now I’m starting to wonder if I’m weird.

  4. Linda

    I totally get it. I don’t like talking on the phone & I am *terrible* at memorizing numbers. I don’t have my own cell number memorized or my husband’s (we don’t have a land line). Whenever someone asks me for my phone # (or my husband’s) I have to look it up on my phone & I always say “Oh, we just changed numbers and I don’t have it memorized yet” while I am looking up the number — I just hope nobody asks how long ago we got our new numbers because it has been several years! Then there is the problem that if I am talking on the phone when someone asks for my number I can’t look my number up on my phone while I am on a call . . . 🙂

    • TRS

      No shame in being unable to memorize your own number… after all, you never call yourself!

  5. Laura

    I have friends like you guys…I’d like to offer a third option…frustrating friends 🙂 God Bless.

  6. Kentucky Packrat

    There is this little invention called number portability that lets you change cell phone providers but not lose a number….

    I switched from T-Mobile Prepaid to Cricket because work now reimburses for my cell phone and expects me to use it. Milady switched from Verizon to Cricket, dropping her cell phone bill from ~$70 to $35, but keeping her number. Last month, we changed our home phone from Windstream to T-Mobile Prepaid because Windstream forced us off DSL (5 day DSL outage in the entire neighborhood….), and I am considering switching the home line again because PlatinumTel is a lot cheaper than T-Mobile Prepaid.

    As for manners, if you don’t expect to get people immediately, then you can fairly say that people can’t be sure of getting you either. Now, people like my sister-in-law are different. She expects you to pick up the phone if she calls you, but the cell phone is off when you want her. On vacation with my family and her; she calls to the condo for me to bring something when I come back to the beach. I pick up the phone just as the call goes to voice mail. She immediately turns her phone completely off, so I can’t call back. I end up walking to the beach, finding out what they need, and making another round trip to get it for them.

    I happen to prefer Email over voice; out of band contact is easier on me. That and listening to music as I code makes it hard to yell at me in the office….

  7. Tania @ Larger Family Life

    Now, I check up on your blog not to find out how you are imparting your wisdom and knowledge but more to ‘check what Jen’s been up to lately that’s going to make me laugh’.

    Much as I believe this post would be funny to read for any normal person it made me stop and sit bolt upright as I realised that… you’re talking about us.

    We seldom answer our phones – landline or mobile – unless it’s the other one of us calling. If someone knocks at the door and we’re both home we start looking at each other in a puzzled manner, asking the other one, ‘You’re not expecting anyone, are you? Who *is* that?’ before one of us is brave enough to answer or the door-knocker leaves – whichever comes first.

    Email is by far the preferred method of contact. It’s quieter, less distracting, less intrusive and easier on the sender than a caller struggling to hear me over our kids!

    I think we need an ‘Introverts Club’ badge or emblem or something. Except we’d never be seen wearing it apart from by our immediate family within our own homes.

  8. PatJ61

    Yep. That’s me too. It’s nice to know I have found my people.

  9. Eva

    Amen. We should all form a club.
    A club that never actually talks and meets once a year. If that often…

  10. Megan @ The Ipps

    A cell phone is a must for my husband and I due to our location. It’s always snowing, extreme weather, and driving a distance to get any where is life. I’ve gotten stuck on ice/ snow with my kiddos and was thankful hubby checks his messages etc. Do you think location also plays a part in use of phones? Curious.

  11. Cynthia

    This is TOTALLY me!

  12. Gina

    Introverts unite! Individually!

    (I saw that on a T-shirt once. I WANT IT.)

  13. Thomas L. McDonald

    Oh yeah, that’s me in spades. I’m angling towards ditching house lines altogether, but my wife doesn’t want to. If the kids are all here, I don’t even look at the phone. I think that’s becoming more common with the younger generation: they prefer texting and Twitter to phone calls or even email. It’s kind of odd, since we began the age modern communication by tapping out little telegrams to each other, passed through the entire telecommunication revolution, and we’re right back to tapping out little telegrams to each other. FULL STOP!

  14. MemeGRL

    Another fan of number portability for the next time you get one you like, is easy to remember, etc. Good luck!

  15. Jennifer Fitz

    This is me. Except I cling to my local landline service and my old-fashioned answering machine, because then the kids can listen and decide how to categorize the call:

    a) skip, we are avoiding you.

    b) potentially long-winded, kid will act as secretary, handle any message relaying

    c) important – run towards mom with phone in hand, try to remember to hit green button to answer before person on machine hangs up.

    Of course, sometimes we really are outside, on the potty, or away from home. And then all the category b & c friends think they’ve been demoted. When really, nope, just away from the phone. As can happen with a landline.

  16. Dan Sealana

    My wife and I are both introverts. Our prayer routine could also be described as monastery-like. We try to keep technological boundaries and also avoid too many commitments. It works for us. Be as connected or un-connected as you see fit.

  17. Gaby

    Haven’t you heard of porting numbers?

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Yes. In our house we call it “LETTING THE MAN WIN.”

  18. Serena Rainey

    So we should just come here and post a comment?

  19. elizabethe

    I hate the phone. My preference would be to never answer it and conduct all communication through typing. But my husband insists that I answer the phone instantly when he calls. He is personally offended if he calls someone (like me, or his parents, or his sister) and they don’t answer the phone.

    I hate cell phones. I wish they had never been invented. I wish we could have jumped straight to texting.

  20. Mary Creger

    I remember when, years and years ago, I worked for the Dept. of Social Services in the lakes area of Oakland County, Michigan. I loved being on home call duty because it meant that I could drive around a beautiful area, filled with lakes and trees and everthing that comes with a rural area and NOT have to listen to a phone ringing all day long!

  21. LR @ Magnificent or Egregious

    LOL your post describes me too, oddly enough I’m on the phone all day at work, so the last thing I want to do is answer the phone in the evening (or any other time, for that matter). Whenever I phone people through work, I always pray for voicemail!

  22. Carrie

    LOL I always totally get your introvert posts! I hate phones… Just the sound of one ringing makes me nervous. haha

  23. Leila

    I’ve been in your actual presence so I know you are not me, but sometimes I think you are me. Or I am you. Or something.

    But I do know my home phone number, and it’s okay for an introvert to know that, right?

  24. Grace

    hysterical. and why I won’t be fixing my phone that has a cracked screen and conveniently can’t take calls … ANYTIME soon. oops.

  25. Lisa V.

    After a couple of years (?) of reading your blog this entry 1) made me LOL like I’d never done with your blog before 2) confirmed we would probably be good friends if we ever met (or does this just reflect Joe’s thoughts on human contact???) My husband and I avoid the phone like the plague and I couldn’t tell you our home phone number either, nor rarely pick up my voicemail. Do you think though it’s an introvert thing or control freak thing?…. personally I don’t like that this ringing machine dictates I get off my comfortable bottom to attend to what you want now. I’d also say with all your little darlings you have plenty good excuse to avoid that ringing phone.

  26. Smoochagator

    Stop me if I’ve told you this one before. Years ago an introvert friend used to say to me, “A ringing phone does NOT have to be answered.” I was all, “GIRL YOU BE CRAZY.” I was the kind of person who would answer YOUR phone if you weren’t getting to it fast enough. Then years went by, I got really popular with crazy-stalker-type “friends” and credit card collection agents, and now I’m at the point where my approach to answering the phone can be summed up in three points: A) if it’s important, they’ll leave a message, 2) if I don’t care to call them back, they will live, and D) if they don’t agree with the first two points we are clearly not meant to be friends. Annoying introvert? Perverse antisocial? Stalwart protector of my sanity and family time? POE-TAY-TOE, POE-TAH-TOE.

  27. Sandra

    Hysterical – my husband and I are the exact same way. I love living where I am now because I know that the only other person that would call me is my husband…it’s the only time I’ve ever not minded answering the phone. We have a landline – I have no idea what the number is. Love the terms “domestic monastery”. I’ve discovered that I don’t mind Skype texts so much (not so intrusive) – texts on a phone, however, I don’t know how to check or send. I also now find email annoying because people expect a response right away. Great post!

  28. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I need to be an annoying introvert. It sounds glorious and peaceful.

  29. Deanna

    Miss Manners (Judith Martin) says answering machines are the modern day equivalent of the butler, who was never to be taken literally when he said “Madam is not at home presently.”

  30. Andrea

    I don’t answer my phone unless it’s my husband or my mom. If someone leaves a message, Great! But I don’t usually call back. I carefully avoided saying, “Hey, this is Andrea, leave a message and I’ll call you back!” on my voice mail. Because I won’t.

    I like texts and email though. But even then it takes me a while.

    For the longest time, I thought I was the only one with a phone phobia, but as it turns out, I’m not!

  31. Elisa

    LOL! Glad I’m not the only one who wants to hide when the doorbell rings. “Unless you’re bringing me a hot baked sweet dessert food, don’t bother me.” I am so tired of internet. But I have to be online b/c hubby is deployed. When he’s home, I’m taking a nice, long, break, and unplugging things. =)

  32. Ashley

    I hate checking my voicemail and I hate answering the phone. Phone conversations aren’t one of my gifts.

  33. Gregory

    My wife and I are currently closing down one family business and starting another. We are considering dumping our business land line and not publishing the business cell phone on our new website. It’s been our experience that we’re much more productive, during the work day, if we don’t answer our phone. So we’re going to ask our new clients to contact us either by email or to book their appointment using automatic booking software linked to our site. Perhaps we need a second group for the introverted business folks…Lol.

  34. Becky

    Wait, this is how you treat your friends!? As a great saint said of someone else “then this is why you have so few of them!”

    And I guarantee you that at least one, maybe more, of your kids will be social butterflies who totally don’t get your limiting of social contacts. Ask me how I know.

  35. EML

    Haha…that sounds like our house!

  36. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    I think caller id is perhaps the greatest invention of all time. I never answer the phone unless I am certain I know (and want to talk to) the person on the other end. Also, we have an old school answering machine. Voice mail (setting it up, remembering the password, retrieving messages) is way too complicated.

  37. Charity

    This sounds like our household. I only answer the home phone if I’m near it, not busy and recognize the caller. I sometimes check our voicemail, but usually just return calls from what shows up on caller ID. I don’t even know my cell number and only have it on if I’m out during school hours in case Finn gets sick at school. Dh refuses to carry his cell phone at all. The only reason we even have cell phones is because we were worried about breaking down in the middle of nowhere when driving to visit family.

  38. raddicted

    I had fun reading your post XD! Thank god e-mails exist, otherwise I couldn’t turn off my cell phone without the feeling of missing out.

  39. Vicki

    I like Joe. I Like you too. 🙂

    I stopped worrying about ringing phones before I was in Jr High. I grew up in a house with an introvert Dad, extravert Mom and extravert sister. A ringing phone was for Mom or Sis, never Dad or me, so there was no need to hurry to answer.

    At this point, neither Spouse or I answers the house phone (and we have this lovely gadget now that largely prevents the phone from ringing at all: http://www.amazon.com/Call-Block-Computer-Caller-Regulator/dp/B003CVMW82/ref=sr_1_2). Hubby does answer his business phone when it rings… if he’s in his office. Otherwise, he turns the ringer off.

    I know hubby’s cell number (well, actually, no, I don’t, but it’s written on the whiteboard in the kitchen). He carries it and sometimes turns it on when he goes out to a meeting. More often he uses it to call and tell me he’s on his way home.

    I never give anyone my cellphone number because I usually keep it turned off; I consider my “smart phone” to be a pocket computer with an out-calling app. No one needs to call in.

    I’m currently job-hunting (sigh) so I do need to accept calls from recruiters. I ask them to make an appointment because my professional phone # is a Skype # and I need to turn that on first.

    Neither of us uses Text but we’re both in IM and we check email often. Voicemail may sit for hours before one of us notices.

    In other words: I do love “meeting” people like me online 🙂

  40. Denise

    So let me get this right: you don’t answer your phone, you don’t check your email, you don’t answer the doorbell. You don’t know how to check voicemail, or if you even have voicemail.

    I am clearly in the minority, I see, when I say that being this difficult to reach is just plain rude to your friends and family. Clearly, you have never had a call from a hospital trying to reach you because your child has been in an accident, or from a family member stating that if you want to see your mother alive one last time, you better get over there NOW. I hope you never receive such a call, because you will forever regret not answering that phone, listening to that voicemail or checking your email.

    It is possible to limit media distractions in your home without sacrificing relationships or creating an safety issues. Choose a time each day and check your email or voice messages. Have one phone number that is given only to your nearest and dearest. Years ago, when I had a great long distance phone plan and my mother didn’t, we had a code: she would call, let it ring three times and hang up. That’s how I knew to call her back. Have a signal like that for important calls so that you can screen calls easily.

    Yes, it is true that most calls and emails can wait until YOU are ready to deal with them, but you still should deal with them at some point, to maintain relationships and receive information when it is still current.

    Go ahead, let the flames begin.

  41. Melody

    I am extremely difficult to get ahold of, too. The way I know if it is “really” important and I need to check back is if multiple family members try calling/texting about the same time. Even organizations that I work or volunteer for…when I see I have missed a call from them (which may be hours or a day later), I usually respond back via email. I just hate talking on the phone, and really, communicating in general. This method works for me, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only annoying introvert of this kind out there!

  42. echarpe burberry

    It fit pretty nicely right few transferring boxes, so most people loaded it in the truck not to mention left.

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