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Your Permission Slip For A Moment of Aloneness
In her thoughtful essay "The Lonely Ones," Emily Cooke writes about three female writers who recorded their battles with aloneness -- having it, enjoying it, using it, escaping it. As Cooke puts it, "A man who chooses to be alone assumes the glamour of his forebears. A woman’s aloneness makes us suspicious: Even today it carries connotations of reluctance and abandonment, on the one hand, and selfishness and disobedience, on the other." Reading this I had a flashback to banging on the door of my mother's art studio in the back of our house, saying, "But I just can't leave her alone for a minute, I just CAN'T!" Artists deserve time to themselves, of course. But mothers? No way!
Still, as Cooke points out, it's important for a creative person, for any person, to have some time alone. "Being alone lets you develop, become strange, be mad. If to be with people is to be socialized, to submit your rough edges to the whetstone of others’ desires, to be asocial is to be ragged and, thus, original." Maybe this is why our culture at large is so suspicious of women who want to be alone for a few hours or days or years at a time. We need women around, society seems to say, so it scares us when you say you need time alone. And I have to say, I get it, from society's point of view. Have you ever seen a little boy and a little girl playing together? It's basically a pantomime of the battle between wildness and civilization, personified. We need the females of the species to hang around and civilize everyone.
Still, to be a creative person, or perhaps more importantly, to be a self-realized version of yourself at all, it is often good medicine to have some time to yourself. Cooke's essay seems to focus on large-scale aloneness, that modern luxury of not being married at all: "Is romantic love the enemy of a necessary aloneness?" But this question seems to be, as most swords are, double-edged. "Or is it only through learning to be truly alone that we become capable of romantic love?" One has to have some time alone in order to know oneself in order to be able to truly love a person who we can marry and then not have to be alone but then miss the time alone...it's a conundrum twisty enough to make a lady want to slam the door, Garboesquely.
In the end, this essay seems like a kind of permission slip for an aloneness field trip. One doesn't need to convert to a monk's life in order to have a few hours to oneself now and then (good thing, since I really do like these people I live with). The hardest part is inevitably explaining the desire, distinguishing, as our extroverted culture often fails to, the difference between selfishness and knowing oneself, between loneliness and aloneness.
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Why Living Alone Doesn't Equal Loneliness
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