Friday, March 23, 2018

Is One Always the Loneliest Number?

So I was listening to NPR's Hidden Brain podcast on how American ideas of masculinity make men lonely, and one of the lonely men in question made an interesting point.

Host Shankar Vedantam sets up the point with this observation:

Paul's childhood offered a model of a close-knit community. His life in his 40s was nothing like that model. Looking back, Paul says he ignored the warning signs that his social world was shrinking.
Guest Paul Kugelman then finishes the point thus:
I really don't think I dealt with it, candidly. I think I viewed it as sort of a circumstance rather than a problem. It was kind of like gravity. But there was also a part of me that realized I was alone.
It was thought-provoking in the realization that I tend to look at life the same way. Being a grown man, and a single one at that, intimate friendships are off-limits. But, as Mr. Kugelman did, I view it as a circumstance, rather than a problem. It's simply something that one deals with and adapts to. Of course the thing about adaptation is that people do so with varying degrees of willingness and success.

Being an ineligible bachelor, and a Black person whose world is overwhelmingly White, I adapted to being alone with a certain level of enthusiasm. While Mr. Kugelman was somewhat unsatisfied with the fact that at the end of the day, it was just him, I've come to find that liberating. Not that I consider myself an introvert - I tend to prefer a certain level of social interaction, and take steps to maintain the same. But I relish having time when it's just me, and I don't have to wear the roles that I'm expected to around other people.

The point of the podcast, though, is that I should it new the world this way, because it's bad to be alone. Because being alone comes with: Worse health outcomes. Heart disease. Greater stress. Accelerated age-related problems. And, occasionally, hugging inanimate objects. And, in the service of not being completely flippant about this, I suppose that I have to include suicide on the list, as well. And so it's something to be avoided. Something best thought of as a problem, rather than a sort of circumstance.

But what if the issue isn't being alone, but how well one adapts to it? Of course, I realize that I have a dog in this fight. After all, I come home to an empty apartment day after day. And while in my younger days, people telling me that it was more difficult to live a healthy life as a singleton would have been greeted with "Watch me," I'm now a lot less oppositional about these things. I still think that I'll manage just fine, thank you very much, but part of that has to be the idea that I'm okay with being alone, and because I like being single, I've more willingly adapted to that situation.

And so I'm curious about that. I'd done a quick Google search, to see if the topic was being studied, and I was somewhat surprised to see that most of the results dealt with how to recover from losing a spouse. There was one that dealt with the topic as a life choice, but it was more about being an introvert, rather than active adaptation to a life spent by oneself. I'm not a big internet researcher, so I'm unlikely to spend a lot of time trying to track this down, but it will be interesting to learn. Perhaps I'll get around to asking Mr. Vedantam.

No comments: