So Lonely

I’ve just finished watching the BBC’s The Age of Loneliness on iPlayer – it’s a really poignant documentary featuring interviews with a range of people of all ages from 19 to 90, who are prepared to admit that they are lonely.

I sat there listening to the stories of 70 and 90-year-olds still yearning for the company of their spouses – one keeps his wife’s ashes in a bag on the chair next to him – and thinking about my own mother’s story. Her husband died when she was my age, and her life pretty much folded. By choice.

Her friends reached out to her, tried to involve her in social events, but she removed herself from them. She went so far as to move us all to a little bungalow on a hill above the town, and kept herself to herself for another twenty years. This is not, as you may have guessed, going to be a template for my next twenty years…

What struck me about the programme was how many people were conditioned to only consider a life alongside a wing-person. The thought of living without a ‘significant other’ was leading some of them to suicidal thoughts. They admitted to not liking their own company and not being able to even think of a future without a ‘pal’ (but by ‘pal’ they meant a relationship partner).

I’ve gone there. I’ve thought about that. I’ve been thinking it for a while and the words ‘my romantic life is over’ have been going around in my head for a few years. At first, in a horrifying way, and more recently in a much more accepting way.

And it’s ok. I don’t need a wingman (or a wingwoman for that matter). It’s quite a liberating moment in your life.

Last year I listened to the incredible Kim Cattrall talking in a positive way about her romantic life being ‘retired’ and almost cheered as she went on to tell BBC Woman’s Hour how this wasn’t a negative thing, and about all the people and things she had going on in her life. I’d already been working my way towards that position myself, but here was a woman, admittedly a decade older than me, but describing my current views on how to live life.

Contrasting with that, BBC Woman’s Hour broadcast a new-year programme, in which a lovely woman called Edwina phoned in and talked about the loneliness she felt after losing her husband. She burst into tears during the call and cried out the words, “I lost my husband!” and all of us listeners’ hearts broke for her. I was on the Overground with tears in my eyes.

But my next thought was less sympathetic. I found myself thinking it was a shame that Edwina had only lived life as her husband’s Siamese twin and had expected that to go on ad infinitum. There appears to be a generation of women that can’t cope when their husbands leave them or die before them (and statistically women outlive men). My mother was one of them.

Last night I went to see The Danish Girl alone. I’d been shopping all day, had my hair done, then took myself for a quick prosecco in a central London bar before realising I was due at the cinema within the hour. I posted on Facebook about the movie and immediately women of my age were responding saying they’d love to go, but they couldn’t find anyone to go with them. Going solo is now so normalised for me, I still find it surprising when people are so worried about doing it.

Consider this. It’s never a case that people are staring at you when you’re doing things on your own, thinking you’re weird – it’s you, staring at yourself thinking you’re weird. Once you stop looking at yourself in that way, the demons will take flight and you’ll be standing there laughing, wondering how you could’ve been so daft about it. People will talk to you, smile at you, admire you, even buy you a drink.

If you can get you to smile at yourself, admire yourself and buy yourself a drink, even better. I’m a Kim, not an Edwina. And I’m not moving to a remote hilltop to live like a hermit any time soon.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “So Lonely

  1. Maybe becuz I’m in the U.S., but I’ve noticed just as many men as women doing this upon the death of a spouse, in fact it seems as if men do it more than women. And again, maybe becuz I’m in the U.S, but over here, people will absolutely stare at you if you do things on your own (even more so if you’re female); in fact, I’ve had people say to me & heard it said to other women stuff along the lines of “Why would you want to go there (or come here) all by yourself?! My goodness, DON’T YOU HAVE ANY FRIENDS you could be with?!” Then again, I’m stranded in a rural, conservative area where ideally you marry your high school sweetheart & your grp of friends is supposed to be people you’ve known since grade school; you’d think it’d have to be better closer to civilization…

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      • Thnx, redwoods; becuz of where I live, I can well see that if my husband dies before I do, I’ll be even lonelier than I am now since he is absolutely the only person in my age grp (60s) around here who isn’t religious & childcentric. (When I think of all the times I’ve politely, even tho I was bored outa my mind, listened to some1 rave about how their kids/grandkids are the greatest on earth, etc. but as soon as I open my mouth about stuff that interests me such as feminism, sociology, other sciences, I get bored stares &, in some cases, literally yawns.

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      • LOL; I’m just about at that point. Not 2 long ago, a gal was telling me about how proud she was of her teenage g’son becuz he’s so handsome & popular. I just stared at her blankly & when she giggled & said “He’s quite vain & spoiled but I admit I’m the 1 who spoils him the most. Oh well, giggle giggle.” I thot, “Glad u can laff about this; maybe you’ll be able to laff when he moves in w/u after his 1st serious relationship brks up becuz the gal gets fed up w/his self-centeredness & kicks him out; better keep ur spare bedrm ready.”

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  2. I remember that few years ago some of my friends was surprised when I told them that I went to a movie by myself. And I remember my response that day “I want to see that movie, so I go to see it. As simple as that.”

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  3. It took me until I was in my mid 30s to realise that I enjoyed my own company – the first time I went on holiday solo was a revelation. I’ve now lived on my own for nearly 12 years and can say that I’ve never been more content. I’m busy doing what I want to do and when I want to do it and, like Kim, happily retired from romance years ago and haven’t looked back since.

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  4. I so agree about the going solo. Despite the fact I’ve been married for 30 odd years, I still do lots of things on my own, from choice. Not ‘big’ holidays – but plenty of small ones. We both do. We have lives that meet in the middle. I don’t think anyone should worry about doing something they want to do. some things are better savoured singly.

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