I read a post this morning online about women alone, as compared to men, in our society. It was interesting, and while some of it I’m not sure I agree with, the majority of it I found quite relatable.
I should probably include a link to the post, in case you want to see what I’m talking about. You can read it here, if you like.
So, there’s some discussion about how men are essentially allowed to be alone – we call them bachelors and they have their bachelor pads and man-caves and the like. There isn’t really a word for women who are alone – at least none that have positive connotations. Spinster, witch, crazy cat lady – it’s treated as an unnatural state for women to be in. Normal women are in relationships and surrounded by family and friends most of the time. It’s what we all aspire to, whether that’s because we were raised to, or society impresses that upon us, or whatever. Women can only lead happy, complete and fulfilled lives if there are other people around, whereas men can either let themselves get “tied down”, or hang out by themselves and enjoy their bachelorhood. They can choose, and both options are seen as perfectly acceptable. Women…not nearly so much.
Which I can kind of see, I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it – perhaps because I never really felt like I fell very squarely into either category, as far as general society is concerned. I think, to me, it’s more been the impression that preferring to spend time alone is often viewed as selfish, or antisocial, or the result of some sort of psychosis. Or some/all of the above. It feels, to me, as though it’s perceived with disdain in some regards. As a child, getting sent to one’s room is meant as a punishment, but I liked being in my room. I’d read, nap, write, play alone with Star Wars action figures, colour, listen to music – tons of things. I had a good imagination, and was very good at entertaining myself. Punishment for me would be to be forced to go outside and play. But technically I enjoyed that, too, so I guess it’d be more like, “go outside and find some friends to play with!”
I think I’ve mentionned before that I would be an excellent shut-in type personality, if I could work from home. I would probably only leave to walk the dog. And now that I live with a dog again, I don’t really want to spend much time NOT living with a dog, so hopefully I will always be surrounded by animals and unconditional love. And we would go for walks together, because that requires very little effort on my part to be enjoyable for him. I pretty much just have to show up, and Brody is happy. He doesn’t even care what mood I am in – he’s just glad I’m there and that we’re outside together. I never have to, as the article thingy says, “arrange my face in a way that someone else would understand”. That goes for time spent in the company of animals, and time spent in the company of no one. Both are rather liberating, and I enjoy lots of either when I come across it.
But is that selfish? It’s antisocial, I guess, though I would also argue that it’s an excellent way to recharge my batteries so that I have the capacity to be more social as occasion warrants. Being “on” all the time takes a toll, after all. It certainly feels selfish, the idea of telling someone I’d rather be alone than hang out with them. So I try not to do that very often, because I don’t like feeling as though I’m not taking another’s needs into account in favour of catering to my own. Which I’m told would be a totally healthy thing to do, but it doesn’t feel good, so I don’t do it if I can help it!
The flip side, of course, is that I am also painfully aware of my inability to be a good friend or partner to anyone. So much time spent alone means that spending time with anyone else, or a group of anyone elses, is a huge thing for me. It’s stressful, and exhausting and taxing and frightening and overwhelming – along with all the good things it can also be, like fun, hilarious, emotionally-uplifting, creative…time with people you care about is priceless, really. It can take a load off, carry you forward, pick you up, and also recharge your batteries, just in a different way.
For me, so much time alone means that I get all that in theory, but have had very little practice, and am constantly noticing when I screw up, but haven’t quite figured out how to fix it when I do. Sometimes it’s a little like navigating a mine field, in a way. Like, do people actually want to hear what another person thinks? Or would they rather be listened to without judgement? It may seem like that depends on the person, but it also depends on the mood the person is in at that moment. And I’m terrible at picking up cues. Terrible.
I used to joke that I never knew if someone was flirting with me, which is true, but it’s also true for, like, everything. Realizing too late when I’ve pissed someone off, or hurt someone, or just misunderstood something and made another person feel un-heard or under-valued or un-loved. It’s like what’s happening in my mind is either way slow or way off whatever’s happening for the other person, and by the time I figure out what was going on for them, the damage is already done.
I feel like I’m behind and playing catch-up almost all the time. Like everyone else made the jump and I’m still back near the start, only just now realizing that everyone but me has already moved on.
That makes me not easy to be with. I don’t know if I am easy to talk to as a friend – I assume that also depends on the person and the mood and the situation. But I know it’s not as fulfilling as it could be, were I better at it. I’m definitely not an easy person to be in a romantic relationship with. Sometimes I feel like I should apologize to everyone who’s ever dated me, though logically I know that’s ridiculous and that no one is perfect. I do wonder if knowing how much I struggled, and that I did so because I wanted to be with them, would make any difference, though. Sometimes.
I guess the fact that I find it hard to communicate with others, while often preferring my own company to that of other people, makes me at least lazy – if not completely selfish – when I opt to be alone. It’s just easier. But also enjoyable, and rejuvenating in its own way. So there’s that.
And when I do choose to inhabit space and time with other people, it’s because I really want to. Not because I am desperate for companionship, or that I need to be in a relationship in order to feel fulfilled, or that I’m afraid to be alone, or any of the other assumptions that can be made. It’s because I want to be with that person or those people at that time. I love my alone time, I love not having roommates, I love not having to arrange my face. Being around other people means I have to give those things up, and even though I do my best, I know it’s not always what is needed or even wanted by said others.
When I choose to sacrifice those things I love and hang out with other people instead, there are various reasons for doing so. Some aren’t even that flattering or well-intentioned to mention.
Sometimes, though, I forego those things I love simply because I love you more.