Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lonely People Are Screwed

Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms

Lonely people are screwed. We desperately need other people, but studies show our brains can make us unpleasant company. 


Friends and relatives might be surprised that I think of myself as lonely. I’m married to a man I not only love but like, and we spend a lot of time together. If I feel like socializing I can usually find someone to meet for coffee or a drink. Our two adult daughters, my nephew, my brother, and my mother all live in the same city as I do, and I see them frequently; I also have a small handful of local friends I meet up with now and then. As a couple, my husband and I know two other couples we feel close to, though each one lives a half day’s drive away.

But here’s the thing: those two couples, and each of my few friends, and my daughters and my brother and my nephew — all of them have dozens of friends they’re closer to than they are to me. I’m not really central to anyone’s social circle. If my husband and I go to a movie or a restaurant, it’s usually just the two of us. And as much as I love and like my husband, he’s not much of a talker, and his company is just not quite enough.

I regret not working harder to create true friendships with other couples, not seeking out people with whom to go do things and go places — people with whom to have a few crazy, memorable bonding adventures. I even, sometimes, regret moving to New York City from the lovely town where our girls grew up, a town where friends lived right across the street and where I could expect, were I to become sick or bereaved, a constant flow of casseroles. There are no casserole brigades in Manhattan.

Then there’s the problem of my job. I’m a freelance writer, and I work alone at a big desk in the living room of my apartment. There are many days when I don’t utter a single word to anyone but my husband. On these days I think of Leo Gursky, the solitary old man from Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, who goes out for a glass of juice when he’s not thirsty or shops for shoes he has no intention of buying, just for the human interaction. “All I want,” he says, “is not to die on a day when I went unseen.”

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