At the end of last week’s piece on being single, I said I’d tell you my least favorite part of being single this week. I added that in later on after I was done writing the piece. I didn’t want to sound smug, or like I was dismissing the difficulties of being single. Because while I have had many positive things come out of being single, it also brings its challenges and can be something of a roller coaster. In a society that values coupledom so highly, the benefits of being single come with a price tag.
I could talk about stability, perhaps, or partnership. I could talk about not having to think about who you’re going to invite to that wedding next month. I could talk about my feelings about dating and how much I sometimes really dislike it.
But what I’m going to talk about is intimacy. The intimacy of sharing a history together. The intimacy of trust. The intimacy of proximity and regular contact. The intimacy of being known, of folding back the layers one by one until you’ve allowed another person to see as deeply inside yourself as anyone else will ever see.
Yes, sometimes I’m a really sappy romantic.
Here’s something I wrote to a friend a few years ago, when newly single:
“And while I’m having all these ideas and thoughts and out doing things and meeting people and working on my book, there’s no longer one person who basically knows all of it, who hears all my stories and my opinions and what I’m thinking about and everything. Except me, of course.”
And this continues to be true today. It’s not that I don’t have people with whom I am close, or that I can’t find someone with whom to talk about any subject of my choosing. But the comprehensiveness is not there, and the regularity is not there. You might, for example, know all about my recent thoughts about writing but since we’ve never talked about the past, you have no idea where I’ve come from. Maybe we’ll communicate several times this week, and maybe we won’t communicate much at all. Who can tell? This is often the nature of friendship, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just…not the same.
So yes, I miss the easy intimacy of not having to fill someone in on the details of events that happened two weeks ago, or two months ago, or two years ago. I miss no longer having to navigate through so many vast expanses of unknowns when relating to another person. I miss the kind of comfort and honesty that only comes with familiarity and trust. I miss knowing someone so well, and I miss being so well known.
This also further elucidates why I think asking questions is so important. How else can you move toward this kind of understanding? A friend of mine told me she was speaking to a potential date on the phone soon after she’d read this post, and when he didn’t ask her any questions, her desire to meet him plummeted. After awhile it’s hard not to notice this kind of thing because the relationship that results from it is inherently somewhat static. Intimacy doesn’t spontaneously arise from a date every Saturday night, or even from a physical relationship. It must be built, with care and interest and over time. And not everyone is interested in building it.
There are nights when I feel lonely. It’s always nighttime, usually late. The apartment is quiet and mostly dark. Nala is sprawled out in deep sleep on her maroon pillow in the music room. Sometimes this is peaceful and relaxing, but other times, I feel a little sad. I want to talk about what happened today. I want to curl up and watch TNG with someone. I want to share a smile that means, “Look, here we are together, and isn’t that wonderful?”
But happiness, they say, comes from within. And so I remind myself, even though I don’t have everything I want (and who does?), my life is pretty damned good. And that is enough.