Saturday, August 11, 2012

The lone giraffe

I left yesterday afternoon from "home" and got home (the home where I live) today. It's too far to travel to see family; I wish they lived closer or I did. I find myself a little lonely; I have TCM on in the other room just for the sound of another "living" being)

(But not TOO much closer, not like on the same block...I don't know if I could take all of us being all up in each other's business all the time. I find I get overwhelmed too easily by too much stuff going on. And at big family gatherings, I find I wind up just clamming up and not voicing my desires in re: what restaurant to go to or what to do, because not being part of a couple's united front, I usually get voted down, and it just adds to the time it takes to plan anything. My family is not so good at making decisions...)

I will say as one of the few of the "younger" generation who is not's a little different. A little strange. I realize now that I don't count for as much, in a way. I guess that's OK. Still, it's aggravating when I'm hungry and tired and just want LUNCH and it's 1:30 pm and people are still discussing what to do - and it's not my house so I can't just stalk into the kitchen and make a peanut butter sandwich or something.

I don't know. It's been a while since being single hit me this hard. ("The lone giraffe" is how I used to describe it - meaning, that spare giraffe left behind after the Ark departs, because it didn't have a mate). Part of it is, I really don't feel like I have a template to base my life on. All my childhood, I grew up seeing television shows and movies and reading books about families...mostly a mom and a dad and a couple (or more, if you're talking the Waltons) of kids. It was kind of understood that grown-ups were married and had kids. I don't know what one is supposed to do as a single, especially a single without prospects. (The sitcoms now will feed you plenty stories of singles who have friends-with-benefits and such). I admit it, not having been more social, not having tried harder, is one of my bigger regrets. Part of it was that I was awkward and uncomfortable and I always thought I was unattractive and weird and that guys wouldn't like me...

But I got busy in college, planning ahead for my eventual career. And where I was at the time, and what I was involved in....the social opportunities were not appealing to me - go to the bars, or join a sorority (not that I would have been likely to get in one), or be part of the casual "hook up" culture that repulsed me so much. In retrospect I probably should have worked harder to seek out the Christian groups on campus, but the one I tried going to a meeting of...well, they were very theologically conservative, and as a biologist, I didn't feel like having to explain again and again how it really was possible to accept evolution and still believe in God.

By the time I was in grad school, most of my colleagues were married. And of course now, the guys in my age group are mostly multiply-divorced guys. Not that that's such a huge red flag (though a guy who has been through three divorces in twelve years, yeah, that's kind of a red flag), but one guy I started out hanging around with, I soon realized he wanted a woman in his life mostly to be a stepmom to his kids and a housekeeper for him. And while I would have nothing against being a stepmom, and I have nothing against pitching in on housework...I don't want that to be the primary reason someone's interested in me.

So, I don't know. What do people who are in their 40s and 50s do on holidays? I don't think I'm going to be able to travel home for Thanksgiving this year because of how my schedule goes. I don't like the chirpy "brave" suggestions that some magazines make, about rounding up a group of similarly-situationed friends and having Thanksgiving together....I really only know one other person who is unattached without close-by family, and I'm not sure I'd be up for cooking a big dinner with him. Or spending an entire afternoon with him.

For that matter, I'm not wild about the suggestion of going and working in a soup kitchen or somewhere on the holiday. For one thing, I know lots of local families that do would just remind me more of my aloneness to be one of the few singles there. And also, the local place has turned away volunteers on holidays before - because there are too many. That's a good thing, but I think it would kind of hurt to show up with that as your only plan for the day and to be told, "Sorry, we don't need you."

The question is how to find a way to "do" the day without risking falling into self-pity. I know one year when I thought my travel plans were going to fall through that I figured I'd just make a big thermos of soup and stay in bed reading most of the day. (But that borders on self-pity).

The bigger fear that all of this is a stalking horse for, is what do single people do after their parents are gone, if their siblings live too far away/are too involved with their own lives? Do they just get used to making a turkey sandwich for Thanksgiving or going and working at the soup kitchen on Christmas? How long does it take a person to get used to having no presents to open on Christmas morning? (Yes, I realize, it's childish, but - I like having at least one present to open that is NOT something I bought for myself).

I don't know. I do great during working hours, during busy times - in fact, I often find I wish I was around people LESS than I am some days - but during the quiet times, the long weekends or the holiday times, if I don't travel to visit family, I can get kind of lonely and stir-crazy. Yes, I have friends - but most of my friends are part of a larger family and I don't like intruding on family time (I'm sure some of them would say it wasn't intruding....but then again, sometimes even in my extended families I feel at times like an intrusion). Or I have other friends who are kind of flaky about planning and schedules and who do stuff like say "We should get together!" but then can never settle on a time, or who back out at the last moment. And there's only so many times I can be thrown on my own devices before I stop asking those friends. (Am I the only person with flaky friends? It seems there are a lot of people in my life who just can't be on time/keep appointments/not change plans at the last minute).

I know this is one of the ways in which I am selfish: I want my time alone when I want it, and yet, I also want people to interact with. I'm just not very good at going about it.

1 comment:

Kate P said...

Yes, I understand a lot of what you are talking about, completely. Being single and introverted seems like a double-whammy sometimes. (And then add in having an actual brain in your head. . .)

Have you read QUIET by Susan Cain? It really spoke to me. I haven't read it yet but I also borrowed THE FRIENDSHIP CRISIS by Marla Paul--should be interesting. But I almost don't want to hope it has answers and be disappointed!