The Real Truth About Being Alone


“I just want to be alone for a while.”

At some point or another we all tell ourselves this lie. This usually happens after a flurry of failed relationships that seem to merge into one another until your entire adult life blurs into a series of men (and some women) and you cannot remember the last time you were actually ever alone. I said this out-loud to my friend while inwardly nursing a fervent hope that it would turn out like that one episode of How I Met Your Mother where the group tells Ted that because he says he is done with relationships – the relationship that he has been waiting for will now come. After having said this I proceeded to watch only romantic comedies that led to several “epiphanies”.

  • From “He’s just not that into you” – I figured that I need to stop struggling to find love because one day I will fall in love with my best friend and live happily ever after. Comfortably forgetting that that arrangement has never worked for me because I don’t believe in falling in love after years of proximity; I cannot wish passion like that into existence. The love I feel for my friends is almost familial – I could never imagine inserting the wild card that is romance into the situation and causing awkwardness that can never be recovered from based on feelings that are decidedly temporary.
  • From “The Holiday” – I found out about the meet-cute. That movie moment where true lovers meet but probably don’t even realise that they are each other’s true love. Because of this I became convinced that it would happen on a train, it would happen on a plane, it would happen in the rain. I had made my search for love into a musical and imagined a happy ever after that was not only ridiculous and unrealistic; it was beyond impossible.
  • From *insert every Jane Austen book turned into a movie here* – I realised that I had to endure years of torture and unrequited feelings before I could be in love with someone in a meaningful way. I realized what my problem was – I was too happy! I needed to get sad to realise that love had been there all along and I just had to endure all manner of heartbreak in order for me to deserve it.

Needless to say, I needed to rein in my binge watching of Hollywood-made love and start to live my own experiences. I also realised that for an “epiphany” to have true and resounding meaning it has to be a singular event and having a new one every few minutes just meant I was more than flirting with the line between “cute crazy” and “psycho”.

I also said it because it seemed to me, at the time, to be what adults do. Setting off to find what you love and what you want for your life and finding your voice and finding your opinions and all that. I even went as far as making a mental (may have been a spreadsheet) list of all the things I couldn’t do when I was in relationships that I could/should do now.

  • Wear that bright-red lipstick that my one ex used to say looks slutty on me.
  • Wear only heels because I was done dating short men who feel insecure when their woman is taller than them like that other ex of mine.
  • Find financial freedom because by this point I had realised that I was reaching (or had already passed) my sell by date and I might never be able to do the things I thought I would do in the safety net of a marriage – like have kids, travel the world, buy a house etc…
  • Write that book I have always wanted to write in spite of that other ex of mine who hated my writing.
  • Try new things, meet new people and spend more time with girls (this is important because I am notoriously not good with girls and have mostly male friends)

The result was that I built myself up so much in my head that the realisation that I would never achieve any of the things on my mental list brought me down to size. I had needed those relationships to excuse me to myself about not going after my goals; because of this person and that person who was in the way of it; because I was too busy being this person’s girlfriend and that person’s rock. Now that there was no one to blame –  I was not at all prepared for the reality that I hadn’t done any of these things simply because I had never really wanted to try. I had never wanted to bet on myself.

The truth of the matter is, as a species, we are not meant to be alone. Ironically, we are not wired for monogamy either and this is the thing that most causes us to end up alone. So rather than saying “I’m alone because life has placed me in this situation through a series of my own failings and shortcomings”, we say, “I just want to be alone for a while, it’s time”. We behave as if we don’t miss cuddles. We pretend to be okay with living in a dark house because we don’t need someone to fix the light bulbs we can’t reach. We pretend we don’t need someone fix things around my house that we don’t know how to fix. Granted, it’s easy enough to pay someone to do these things, it’s just better if it’s “your” someone doing them.

So, we play at being feminist icons and tell everyone who will listen that a man is surplus to requirements. Saying it’s your choice let’s you get away with being dishonest. That way you get to “dismiss” potentially wonderful relationships. You get to “not be into them no matter how much they may be into you” even though the person has only ever smiled at you that one time when they met you in the line for the bathroom. You get to say no to any and all invitations to go out because “you’re busy being fabulous alone” when in fact you are terrified of getting dolled up for a night on the town where your engaged friend that you have gone out with gets hit on by every guy in the vicinity while you suck down martinis like water.

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