A Treatise on Being Alone
For Valentine’s here at Argot we’re doing something special.
A week of stories, personal essays and art about being alone.
We hope you enjoy it.
I keep trying to write this piece about aloneness because that’s such a facet of my writing, of myself. Aloneness - maybe loneliness - is a bulwark of my personality. These bursts of bombastic extroversion versus the constant inner retreat. It’s easy to get weird when you forget how to go between.
You break up and you’re on Tinder the next day, profile completed by Facebook, the work already done. There’s no need to be alone anymore, no need to be single when there’s hundreds of people at your fingertips also looking for a chance. I’m not even sure we millennials know how to breathe in empty rooms any more. But I’m not writing a criticism of dating.
This is not about that.
It’s not playing the dating game. Not even trying.
It feels oddly radical, given the infamous lesbian ‘uhaul’ culture, my friend circle that seems to spiral larger and more incestuous as time goes on. For fun, folx draw charts inspired by Alice on The L Word, mapping the scope of relationships and how far reaching the community can be as we hook up and date and date.
I see a psychiatrist once a week; I have PTSD and trauma and have dealt with severe depression in the past. I’m gay and independent and sometimes like to joke that that’s enough to send me to therapy. It’s all enough to keep me at the bar past reasonable hours and enough to keep that pack of cigarettes in my back pocket, but I don’t mind. I’ll step into that life when I’m ready. That’s my comfort[, my mantra].
I can’t speak for anyone but myself in this context and I’m not trying to. I want to paint a picture of someone who does not define themselves as aromantic or asexual. Just simply contented to be alone at this stage in life. I don’t consider it wasteful, and I’m not too busy. I’m just not looking and I just don’t care. I don’t want to consult anyone else in my decisions, and I don’t want to share my space.
Being single or celibate is often equated as being lazy or god-forbid, undesirable.
There seems to be something suspicious about it. I am a dish you stand over snapping your fingers with your tongue just out, unfinished. I once stood with my back pressed against the hard edge of a bar as my friend’s partner railed that I couldn’t understand, shouldn’t give advice, and how could I empathize when I didn’t even try to make a connection? The great narrative of our time is the successful swipe-to-the-right. All it takes is a download Soph, your level of not-trying is ridiculous.
You’d think we’d be better than this; the old TV shows and films, find a husband and you’ve made it, breathe with your Mr Big, you’ve got one thing sorted. Singleness is the forgotten gap in your life while you were waiting for your next partner. It is so easy to be defined by the relationships in our lives.
But the lesson is: it’s okay. We’ll be Thoreau in the city.
My father once gave me the advice that one should never enter a relationship or a career looking for an endgame. Life comes in phases and we are never the same; there is no shame in adventuring and changing with someone only to eventually part. You had your time, and that will always be yours. You can be different now, you can be different without them.
I, in my mid twenties, am still growing up. And I don’t know how to grow up entwined with someone else. I don’t want to grow into someone.
Sometimes I feel rabid about it. I don’t want anyone close - and the near approach, the feeling of an attempt can be stifling. I want both sides of my bed at night. I want to show up at the bar alone, and I want to leave on my own. I want to be untethered, and I don’t want to worry about the intricacies of anyone else’s feelings as I flounder around in my own. I don’t want anyone to rely on me.
About a year ago I met a woman and I thought, I could try this. It was humid summer nights and the knowledge of an ending at the start. There was nothing to worry about, no commitment, and when the season changed we drifted naturally; never having shared anything personal, our intimacy never having graduated beyond more than a mutual understanding across the bar as we left happy hour.
At the end of the day I start and end with myself. All I have ever really needed is me. I don’t think another person could complete me or fill the gaps where I lack. I do not covet another half. The defense of the perpetually single sits as perhaps an unwillingness to give or to compromise. Although it might be better if I questioned myself more, and I would probably be kinder for it.
I don’t know if I’ll feel like this forever, maybe I’ll come into a time when I seek a long term sexual partner or more permanent companionship.
I don’t need more, and I am not lacking because I’m not trying. There is nothing sad in being alone if you want it, just like there is nothing sad in being childless if that is your choice. Even with my closest friends, in the meager relationships I’ve had, I feel the most whole when I’m alone.
Addendum: I wrote the bulk of this more than a year ago, and in the meantime I fell into an infatuation I never could have anticipated. I am not someone who can do things half-heartedly, and I let myself be consumed by something I didn’t know I wanted and for which I was not prepared. I cannot and will not regret it. I learned I can move around someone else, that I can feel like an adult in a relationship “making it work”, and I learned that there is something so personally and socially fulfilling in being part of what others see as a whole.
In the aftermath of ravaging love, the confusion of where I ended and she began, I found this piece. I’m a bit of a loner - let’s not pretend I’m not. I often want to retreat, to breathe in my own thoughts. Start every sentence with "I" and not care about what that means. I’m happy; relieved. Let’s wait a few more years, cut across a few bars with my own shoulders, not looking back for anyone else.
Soph Bonde is President and Publisher at Argot Magazine. She is a professional photographer in Washington DC and awkward about it. She has been described as an 'administrative machine.'