Image by Gabriella Fabbri
“Wow. I never thought I’d actually hear you say that.”
I chuckled at Jessica’s Monday morning reaction to the news that I endured a lonely spell over the weekend. Instead of sucking on the lemon, I slipped on a new dress, a pair of "get 'em" stilettos, and stepped out to a grown and sexy event, by myself, looking hot to def, and had a ball.
Jessica has known me for nearly eight years, and like many of my constituents, balks in the rare event that I mention the “L” word.
Even for me, it took a cathartic conversation a couple years ago to comprehend the word's applicability to myself. I had called my boy Redd in Philadelphia because I was in dire need of some bass in my ear, i.e., male attention. And I told him so.
“Aww, you just a little lonely, that’s all,” he said.
The record screeched. The music froze a la Smooth Criminal (the extended version). A hush descended over the crowd.
He might as well have called me fat. “Aww, you just a little fat, that’s all.” Or, “Aww, you just a little stupid, that’s all.”
At the time, I equated the word “lonely” with desperation. Like a stray mutt, a lonely man or woman was a bitter derelict that nobody wanted or had any interest in. They wore melancholy frowns and cried themselves to sleep at night after bruising their knees in prayer for a mate. None of which, applied to me; I get my carpe diem on whether or not there's a fella in the wings.
Therefore, I viewed Redd’s stinging diagnosis as an insult to my self-esteem, like saying I didn’t have any. But after marinating on the concept, I not only accepted but embraced the idea that “lonely” happens. And it's okay.
Even still, loneliness is a very specific feeling for me. Being “alone” and being “lonely” are not synonymous. I spend an enormous amount of time alone, but I am rarely lonely in the conventional sense of the word:
“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.”There’s loneliness and then there’s solitude. Solitude is a chosen state of loneliness, one that I crave and require. Henry Miller said, “An artist is always alone - if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.” As an artist/writer/student of life, I spend quite a bit of time in thought, which demands some level of seclusion daily.
***However, the loneliness that prompted the conversation with Jessica and Redd was not of the aforementioned abstract artsy fartsy persuasion. No, it was the good old-fashioned, wish- somebody-was-around sort. The empty, gazin’-at-the-wall, cognac sippin’, listenin’ to Billie Holiday or Lenny Williams kind that’s natural for everyone…but still shocking to several of my friends when it comes to me.
"It would do the world good if every man would compel himself occasionally to be absolutely alone. Most of the world's progress has come out of such loneliness."
- Bruce Barton
I asked Jess what it is about some people that makes them (or at least appear to be) immune to loneliness?
“INDEPENDENCE is the one and only thing that makes a person less susceptible to being lonely. Like, they are DANDY being solo,” she wrote via email. “Whereas a more emotional and sensitive person like me can’t have that.”
Jessica’s reference to “dandy being solo” alludes to people that can be comfortable going to the movies, lunch, dinner, lounge, festival…on the solo tip. I suppose there is a level of independence in the sense that I don’t depend on a ride-out partner in order to go somewhere. But for the record, I’m not a cyborg. I’ve strut into locales only to find that folks are clumped tightly into impenetrable pods incondusive to even the most savvy solo adventurer.
When it comes to the single life, another friend said I handle it better than anyone she knows. Well, I handle it like I handle most things—I don’t sweat it (or try not to). Again, it’s a matter of perspective. Just like I didn't perceive myself as lonely, I don’t perceive the single life as something to deal with like halitosis. It flows, it ebbs. Sometimes the block is hot, other times it's not.
Like the law of attraction, if you don’t worry about it then it’s not a problem...except for the occasional Waiting to Exhale moments.
When asked if men get lonely, Sylus, 29, said, "Yeah, all the time. Humans are made to be in relationships." The solution? "You find someone to fill that slot, fill that void. And if she's cool being in the slot, then that's what you do."
John, 41, agreed that men have their spells and they don't necessarily equate to horniness. Sometimes men just want company too. "And dammit, cuddling is cool!" he added.
And so, loneliness is yet another emotional wave that rises and falls. Some folks panic and drown. The rest of us are known to recruit a dolphin or borrow a surfboard and ride it out with a splash of finesse.