August 23, 2008

I hope if you're a loner, you're a true loner and not a pseudo-loner.

A few weeks ago, I did a diavlog with Bella DePaulo in which I brought up the Jonathan Rauch essay "Caring for Your Introvert." She read and liked it and has this post:
The same year that Rauch's essay appeared, the witty and wonderful Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto was also published. Loners, notes author Anneli Rufus, are people who prefer to be alone. They are not sad, lonely, or deranged.

Contrary to stereotypes and TV-punditry, loners are not serial murderers and they are not school shooters, either. True, there are criminals who look like loners, in that they spend lots of time alone. Typically, though, they are just pseudo-loners, who never craved all that time to themselves. They wanted to be included but were instead rejected.

True loners do not withdraw in order to stew in misery or plot violent revenge. Instead, Rufus reminds us, loners "know better than anyone how to entertain themselves...They have a knack for imagination, concentration, inner discipline, and invention."
If you spend a lot of time alone, don't you also spend a lot of time thinking about why you are spending time alone? Rauch and Rufus and DePaulo are doing PR for solitariness, and I wonder if it's working. Rauch wrote:
How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.
If you have the introvert orientation, do you feel free to be out about it? Don't you have to worry that people will think you're one of the pseudo-loners?

44 comments:

rhhardin said...

If you spend a lot of time alone, don't you also spend a lot of time thinking about why you are spending time alone?

No.

Take any (male) mathematician or physicist; or for that matter a good sociologist.

Figuring out how something works is completely satisfying.

Nancy said...

If you have the introvert orientation, do you feel free to be out about it? Don't you have to worry that people will think you're one of the pseudo-loners?

I think it's a big problem for the introverted child, or at least, it was for me. I didn't realize until I was an adult, and surrounded by people, that I really preferred to be alone.

As an introverted child, I wondered why I was alone and not bouncy, happy, giggly like a bunch of the other girls. I didn't realize at them time that that simply wasn't me. I just noted that I wasn't with them and part of the group, which made me feel like an outsider.

George said...

I'm not sure why there is conversation about this. Are we becoming worried about those who don't socialize?
I could be alone for hours and hours reading. Now it's hours and hours working on my photography.
I don't mind people. I like people. I just don't have time for people.

Ann Althouse said...

I think there is a lot of pressure to socialize or to explain why you aren't socializing. I was just reading Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life," and he had a whole thing in there about how Satan would target you if you didn't congregate with others.

chickenlittle said...

Sometimes when I smoke too much blog I get all paranoid.

George said...

In my time alone, I do not think of why I am
spending my time alone; although, I might think sometimes of how nice it would be to have more time alone.

I do not mind people knowing that I'm a loner, as long as I don't have to take too much away from my free time to explain why I am a loner.

George said...

re Rick Warren: 'The devil finds work for idle hands.'

well, my hands are never idle.

And there are some congregations where you are much better served staying on the lonely road.

rhhardin said...

I think there is a lot of pressure to socialize or to explain why you aren't socializing.

That's the hang-up of the socializers, not the mathematicians.

Paddy O. said...

I like what Batmanuel from the Tick series said, "Not alone. Lone. Alone is an unfortunate predicament - lone is an aesthetic choice."

Trooper York said...

No man is alone who has his chickens.

Joe said...

Being an introvert doesn't mean you always want to be alone, it may mean you want to be left alone (especially by extroverts.)

More specifically, many of us introverts want to choose our company and activities, not be forced to have it chosen for us (especially by extroverts.)

ricpic said...

There are loners and then there are isolates. Which are YOU!

Jake said...

Recently I asked a bunch of friends, co-workers and family members if they thought I should worry about how others perceived my lifestyle which includes mostly alone time (I live alone, am a globally traveling salesman - lots alone time there - and my main sport is single-handed, offshore sailing). Most of the folks reacted similarly - by saying I shouldn't worry about it and by offering an anecdote about a friend or family member who liked their "alone time". My little poll convinced me that people don't think it's much of an issue that that I prefer to entertain myself. But I'm sure there are some (like my mother) who think it's kind of selfish. (But then she values grandchildren highly. Thank God for my three highly fertile sisters!)

Trooper York said...

Your personality is like your belly button. You can be an innie or an outie. Both are fine. Just when you are an innie the lint starts to build up and the next thing you know you have a bunch of dead chickens.

chickenlittle said...

Trooper york said:"No man is alone who has his chickens"

What would Ernie Borgnine say about "alone time"?

Trooper York said...

Ernie is lucky. He only needs one chicken and no matter how times he chokes it, it always comes back for more.

William said...

It's good to see people gathering together to discuss the joys of being alone....Companionship is like vitamin C. You need a certain amount to maintain the immune system. More than that you just piss away.

Chip Ahoy said...

I've given this issue much thought as I've recently Xed out so many annoyances and shrunken my circle drastically. I justified my decision by a self-imposed rule to not allow hatred of others to work on me. This caused me to become something of a project to these people.

The other day I woke up worrying if this was wise. Shouldn't I socialize and tolerate just for the sake of socializing? I answered myself, "No."

Then I got on the phone and invited a few friends over for dinner. It was short notice but three showed up, so there were four of us. We had a blast. The trick is to keep gatherings small. Another trick, one that works splendidly, is to involve guests in the preparation of dinner. They're always asking, "Anything I can do? Sure?" Have a ready answer. I decided to use the opportunity to teach a few friends a few mad cooking skillz, so sorely lacking among my friends. The first woman helped me make tortilla chips. She pressed the masa dough so got to play with the little machine. The second instance was a man who followed my instructions for the aioli sauce. He got to play with the immersion blender. In both cases we worked side-by-side. The result, if I may say so myself, was outstanding.

Earlier yesterday I made Ina Garten's chocolate cheese cake that blew everybody away. They kept saying over and over how awesome it was. Embarrassing, actually. Recipe here. It's light and fluffy not a dense NY style cheesecake and not the sort of thing you want to have too much around so the guests took home each two slices. That left a few slices to get rid of. A woman just moved in. Cardboard boxes by her front door. Perfect. Now I have a new friend who knows nothing about me except I'm a nice neighbor who introduces himself and can make an awesome chocolate cheesecake.

Incidentally, my guests kept bringing up politics. One said he saw a bumpersticker that read "The moral majority is neither" How droll. And old. Meaning, he carefully explained, they're neither a majority, nor moral. Grin. I asked if the bumpersticker happened to be sun faded and weatherworn. "What?" "It's old, dude, older than you." But he persisted. Those rotten bastard religionists. Lying bastard Republicans, etc., etc., I'm thinking, "Here we go all over again." I'm not going to let people get away with that crap. Yet by not falling in line I make myself sound like a Republican by comparison. I ludicrously exaggerated the line to demonstrate how ridiculous that sounds to a reasoned ear. Another guest took me for Republican and said as much. At the table during the height of it, I go, "Look. I'm not a Republican, and frankly I take the remark as an insult." "Uh oh, I insulted the host." I picked up, " I despise both these miserable parties but I'm given only two choices in this imposed power oligarchy, which is an improvement over having only on choice like you dopes who limit your range, but for the record, I've voted Democrat more often than I've voted Republican." That was taking a risk. Calling them dopes for taking pride in never voting outside their party, but they did offend me first, after all. Hickenlooper was on C-SPAN earlier yesterday. Usually guests on that show field the most idiotic remarks and questions imaginable from partisan callers across the country, but yesterday was different. There was only one idiot caller this time, and Hickenlooper answered the question far more reasonably than I could have managed. (The caller asked if Hickenlooper's police would be arresting as many white people as they would be black people, the racist dumbass. Hickenlooper answered he hoped they wouldn't be making any arrests, which I thought was brilliant.) I switched topics slightly to that, holding forth at my own table, and I must say, it was rather amazing to me for everybody to be paying such close attention for once apparently interested in my views. They ceased being mean-spirited pricks and began thinking reasonably about what is happening immediately.

As I write this there are transport helicopters racing past my apartment. So much for Mothier Ghia, global warming, carbon credits, and all that.

So, yes, it's important to socialize. But it's also important to control your associations so that the whole thing doesn't get out of hand or that you allow yourself to become swept away by group-think. Or to be made into a project. And that takes some tough decisions.

ricpic said...

What the hell is life without hate, Chip?! You spice your food, don't you?

Donna B. said...

Yes, william. Yes.

Yes, chip ahoy. Yes.

rhhardin said...

How socially oriented women are is always surprising.

``How can anybody be otherwise?'' they think.

They haven't a clue.

rhhardin said...

It's not a matter of introvert.

It's a matter of actually being interested in something.

ricpic said...

It's okay, rh, I understand. Forget that mean Troop with his chicken fixation.

blake said...

So my subscription to Crazed Lone Gunman magazine isn't a warning sign?

lurker2209 said...

I don't think loners can be simply classified into those who want to be alone and those who hate and resent it. I've always been capable of entertaining myself. I was reaquainted with a step-aunt I hadn't seen since childhood at my Grandfather's funeral last week and upon determining that I was the oldest and my (taller) sister was younger, she commented, "O, you're the one who always had her nose in a book."

I develop patterns of alone behavior--solitary activities and amusements. But I find that on the occasion when I want to be around people, I haven't cultivated the skills or the friendships to be able to do so easily. It's awkward and uncomfortable. It takes a lot of solitude for me to reach a place where I'm unhappy alone, but I do reach it from time to time. I let my natural state of being become my only state of being.

We'll see how this changes. I'm getting a new apartment with a roommate, mostly for money issues. We both tend to be loners so I don't think the times I tend to hole up in my room with a book or laptop will bother her, but we'll each get a basic level of social interaction. Maybe that will be good for me, or maybe I'll have to make myself get used to it. It will be interesting.

rhhardin said...

Here y'go, Troop. Find the hidden rooster.

A mathematician (let that stand for a male with an interest that occupies him happily) has no trouble socializing. There has to be a reason, that's all.

Like (say) your mathematician has a Doberman because of an interest in langauge; he will very quickly say to a complete stranger with a Doberman, ``Can I meet your dog?''

A few sentences of actual mutual interest are likely to occur.

Compare that to the complete frivolity of a woman in the matter of socializing.

Trooper York said...

RH you freak me out man.

dmfoiemjsof said...

rhhardin sorely needs to get laid

lurker2209 said...

Rh, have you ever met a female physicist? Or chemist, or seen a episode of Bones, for that matter? We're not exactly the type of women who go to the bathroom in pairs!

Trooper York said...

We have to hook up RH with Abby Sciuto from NCIS. You know the funky punk rocker scientist chick. Now I know she has tattoos and weird clothes and all. But I have just two words for RH:

Chicken legs.

Ron said...

Trooper, if you coulda choked more than one chicken at a time, you'd have been the VP!

Andrew said...

I'm a fierce loner, but still get lonely. I enjoy people but generally in small doses. You might think that loners could pal up with other loners, to find that balance. Hasn't happened for me. My big concern is should I become unable to live alone for any reason, how will I handle it? Foreseeing this problem, I indulge my fondness for cheeseburgers.

On a related topic, solitude, here's an awesome book by poet Kathleen Norris:

http://www.amazon.com/Dakota-Spiritual-Geography-Kathleen-Norris/dp/0618127240/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219549822&sr=8-1

rhhardin said...

Female chemists are a dime a dozen. It's fallout from dropping out of pre-med.

Qualified women hired into the math or physics departments wind up in charge of the ``women's workplace issues'' committee or organize conferences.

rhhardin said...

Which is to say, they're not really interested in what you're interested in.

Jennifer said...

God forbid there be frivolity in socializing.

rhhardin said...

I'm just saying there's a gender divide on the matter.

It's what holds your interest.

Pogo said...

It seems odd to me to get into a discussion about solitude.

Where some are energized by others, I find that contact depletes, as if friends were vampires. Interactions are shadows covering up the sun.

My work involves hearing people tell stories all day. Few are happy stories, most involve pain, and decay and the fear of death.

By dusk I am completely drained, and long not to see any other people at all. But they're goddamned everywhere, even in my house.

To me, hell isn't other people, but talking to them can be.

Christopher Vallandingham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Autonomous said...

Party of One has been a big realization for me. Not because I didn't know I was a loner, but I certainly wasn't aware that anyone else understood it! It's an orientation, I agree. I just wish that more people would understand that it's a lifestyle, not a dysfunction.

I'm here on the internet and I can't find any communities for loners. I know loners aren't necessarily condusive to desiring community, but I'm so deeply put-off of people from my grueling experiences with extroverts and socialites. So, I'd like to get a chance to talk to my own kind a little. I know there are a lot of people who feel the same way as me... but I can't find a message board for them.

Ann Althouse said...

Hi, Autonomous. I found your comment interesting and made a new post out of it. So go here to see what people have to say.

PJ said...

It's other people that provide the pressure. They just won't believe you.

dick said...

PJ is onto something. I found that for a time I had all these other people trying to get me involved in groups so I wouldn't be alone. Finally I realized that I had to matter to me first before I could worry about anyone else so I spent time getting my priorities together. Now I am perfectly happy to be alone or to be with small groups. Still do not like large gatherings. Cocktail parties are dead boring to me and the thought of something like New Year's Eve at Times Square makes we want to curl up in a fetal ball.

Goth80s said...

Im happy reading this blog :) There are people who said they were loners but instead they were sad because they have no friends (??!) Loners are people who enjoy their life without accompany of others.

Goth80s said...

You guys should say hi at my forum sometimes..