November 30, 2005

"You think loners are weird? I think couples a weird."

Says a loner to Nina, provoking her to consider appreciating loner-tude... rather skeptically it seems to me. Is there a he's-just-not-that-into-you subtext here?


nina said...

No subtext. This conversation was with a person who never married, by choice. He moves in and out of relationships gracefully I would say. It's a lifestyle that I myself think is very appealing (for those without children) and underappreciated in our society where couples are the preferred alternative.

Ann Althouse said...

That seems so bland to me, so unexamined. "In our society"... that suggests there is one mass mind thinking these complacent things. Life is more conflicted that that. Whichever road you take, single or couple, you will suffer to some extent and part of what you will suffer over is not knowing whether it would have been happier on the other road. "He moves in and out of relationships gracefully" -- if that were a line near the beginning of a movie, just think where things would be likely to go. Your comment, like your post, has a strange whitewashy feeling to me. No subtext? If there is no subtext, then life is too boring!

Bruce Hayden said...

I will admit to some extent this is more a male thing than a female one. I don't know if it is because women are conditioned to think they need others around or if it really is something innate.

That said, not all loners are men. My girlfriend is probably more of one than I am. And this is maybe why, after six years, we still aren't married, but enjoy spending time together. We figure if we ever do marry, we would continue living fairly separate existances.

For her, part of it is that no one, not ever her ex husband, can live as neatly as she can and wants to. I still pull her chain by moving things around an inch or so. The trick is to move them just enough that she detects it subconsciously but takes a couple of minutes to do it consciously. Needless to say, you have to take your shoes off in the house and wipe down sinks after use.

I, on the other hand, am just the opposite - a typical male slog. I can live in her environment for short periods of time, or, indeed, in other women's environments (I always end up with neat freaks), but ultimately, I like going back to my own messy cave.

But one thing to keep in mind is that loner state is a continium. You have the Unibomber types who go off into the North Woods to disappear, seeing people as rarely as possible.

But much more common are my girlfriend and I who enjoy the solitude and freedom of living alone, but need some social interaction. She has her two kids and three grandchildren, and her walking partners. I have my own group of friends whom I talk to irregularly, plus my own daughter and family.

Almost all of my friends and family who are somewhat loners are like us. They like living alone or mostly alone, but need some human connection to be happy. Just not enough of it to be married.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Hayden said...


I think that for many of us, you need to seriously try both. I can't envision not ever having been married, but for much of the last decade am happy that I am not.

My worry is that many women faced in their twenties. Do I have some sort of biological clock or something running against me. I was brought up by a generation that was married, and grew up on the idea that you didn't want to grow old alone. Right now, I am healthy and active, and enjoy being mostly alone. I worked hard the last couple of days to get caught up with work, so plan on skiing today and tomorrow. I really like that freedom.

But I do worry sometimes whether I should be trying harder to get back into marriage or the like. But, at present, I am not willing to give up my freedom. I wonder whether I am going to get better or worse as I near sixty in another five years, etc.

Ann Althouse said...

It's true you can try both, but not at the same time. You're always doing one or the other, and, whichever you're doing, unless you've lost touch with your emotions you're going to have pangs about the loss of the joys on the other path.

me said...


You, of all people, should appreciate the virtue of being a loner, as you spend an inordinant amount of time alone with your blog. Nina's post had nothing to with the "he's not into you" mantra. With respect to relationships, there are a host of differing scenarios, and whether one is a by nature a loner, may or may not be much of a factor, just like a couple may be live together but face emotional distance.

Ann Althouse said...

Saul: Where did I say I didn't appreciate being alone? All I said was that solitude is complex. I think Nina is blogging through rose-colored glasses. She's allowed to adopt that literary stance, but that doesn't mean I have to. And, Saul, I'll be the judge of what's ordinate, when it comes to how I spend my time.

Bruce Hayden said...


I agree with that 100% - though I think some of the "loners" in my life have lost touch with their emotions. And yes, I have always looked at the other side of the fence regardless of which side of the marriage fence I was sitting on at any given time.

Lou Minatti said...

Well, it is a sad fact that "collectors" are invariably alone, never married.

Do males collect? I don't know. Probably. The only "collector" stories we hear though are the ones about the 60-year-old spinster who was arrested for having 50 filthy starving cats in her house.

Couples have their own problems. Too many of them beat the crap out of each other. That's also pretty weird.

stoqboy said...

I wonder how many loners get married then revert to their loner status while still married. I vaguely remember some report a few years ago about middle-aged married women reporting the highest levels of loneliness (implying, I believe, that their husbands are the loners).

michael a litscher said...

I'm 42, about to turn 43, and have never been married.

I've had one decent girlfriend in my whole life, who I stupidly let slip through my fingers; all the rest have treated me poorly, and I'd rather be alone than with someone who treats me bad.

You know, it's really hard to feel bad about being single when I can look back at all the bullets I've dodged. Had I settled for any of them, I'd be absolutely miserable now.

Buck Pennington said...

I posted the following over at Nina's:
Nice post, Nina. I'm 60 and have lived alone (with a couple of brief [six month] periods of co-habitation) since my divorce seven years ago. I'm alone, but not lonely. I like my life and am not looking to change it. Like your friend, I can stay up all night if I so choose, and often do. I eat what I please, when I please, and entertain myself as i see fit. I am never nagged. Well, maybe by my sons, but they do it gently and know when to stop. At this stage of life I don't see any changes in my living arrangement on the horizon. And frankly, I'm not looking to change!

Bruce said "...this is more a male thing than a female one."

And I agree. There are exceptions to every rule (our hostess?), but I can cite my ex- as an example: the woman has never been alone. She went directly from our marriage into another relationship, one that she began before she left me. Prior to our marriage she was never without a "significant other." I find that middling-strange.

XWL said...

A response to Michael A Lister's musing about do married loners revert to lonerism.

I think unusually long commutes might be partly explained by this. Driving 2 hours each way in your car, and claiming that this is due to economic necessity is a great way to be in a relationship, have kids, and still have a large block of time to yourself each day.

I'm not saying all commuters are doing this, but I bet there is a solid subset of commuters who are giving themselves alone time, whether it be consciously or unconsciously.

(Which could be confirmed somewhat if singles do the long commute thing with less frequency then partnered folks do, no need to have a rock-solid excuse to be away from home when once you get home it's just you by your lonesome)

Joseph White said...

I also think that there is an element of choice in these things. If you are alone and not by choice, it tends to be much harder for you than if you say, "oh, I feel like being alone right now." I remember a conversation I had with a friend where I asked her if she had any big plans for Valentine's Day, and she said, "No, I'm taking a break from dating right now." I remember thinking, god, I wish I had that choice.