Fact: Over the past few weeks I’ve been feeling lonely. Now, I’m not sharing that information to elicit some uncomfortable form of sympathy or, even worse, pity. Instead, I’m acknowledging it to show how easy it is to admit.
Let me explain.
As a single guy having moved to a new city, it’s definitely been a transition. Los Angeles is not for the faint of heart—and I use the term “heart” loosely. There have been a lot of adjustments I’ve had to make over the past year, such as accruing new friends (an act that involves being social, which is new for me), being in my car all the time (I’ve since learned every word to every pop song released since the turn of the millennium), and seeing women with alarmingly large breasts and inconceivably small dogs take themselves seriously.
Take that sense of dislocation and sprinkle it with a dose of bachelordom and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a few lonely nights. No biggie.
What I hadn’t expected or noticed up until now—and what has been highlighted for me as a result—is just how stigmatized being alone still is. From a cultural standpoint, we live in a world where being on your own is either glamorized into some liberated sexual fantasy (thank you Sex and the City) or looked down upon and thought of as sad or scary. When was the last time we saw a Disney villain hanging out in their castle with their spouse and a few close friends? Are we to assume that their solitary life led them down the rabbit hole to extreme, murderous vanity and rage? And that, like Beauty’s Beast, the only chance we have for a normal, unmarred life is if we find love in another person? I feel like I should take a stab at rewriting those fairy tales. Make the Wicked Witch of the West happily single with a little black book of names she calls on when Dorothy stresses her out too much.
If you think about it, the last major pop cultural icon for singlehood was Carrie Bradshaw. Now, don’t get me wrong, the internet quiz I took said I’m a Carrie (OK, I’m lying, I’m a Charlotte), but the woman was a man-crazed narcissist who spent her life savings on statement crop tops and designer footwear. And she ended up getting married!
We hear it in music as well: If you listen closely, most love songs aren’t just about celebrating love, they’re also usually laced with some back- handed message about how finding The One will fix you in some way. “It Takes Two,” “Lost Without You,” and, I love Harry Nilsson, but, “One is the Loneliest Number”—honestly? No wonder people are scared to admit when they’re feeling lonely.
Now, all of this is not to imply that I think being single is a cause. In fact, I’d say it’s more an effect…on other people. I have a friend who often says to me, “I just don’t know how you do it!” Do what, exactly? Buy groceries for one? Drive myself to the airport? Date? I genuinely frighten that friend. She happens to be a serial monogamist so it’s clear where that fear comes from.
At the end of the day however, I am love’s greatest fan and would be thrilled to settle down, but until that happens I shouldn’t be made to feel that being single is anything less than a perfectly respectable reality. Or that the occasional bout of loneliness is something to be ashamed of. After all, it’s a basic human response that’s only made worse when we refuse to come to terms with it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rework a few songs, television shows and films.
More from Dan Levy