Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

How have I managed to be alive without knowing this book existed until today??

Anneli Rufus's Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto just fell into my lap, and geez, if it isn't a godsend of the greatest kind. Just when I was feeling hungry for another Jonathan Rauch-style introverts' manifesto, this book appears. And by god, I'm in love.

Here's a blurb:

Such a simple concept. So concrete. So easy to represent on charts or diagrams with dots and pushpins either in or out. Yet real life is not dots. Some of us appear to be in, but we are out. And that is where we want to be. Not just want but need, the way tuna need the sea....

We do not require company. The opposite: in varying degrees, it bores us, drains us, makes our eyes glaze over. Overcomes us like a steamroller. Of course the rest of the world doesn't understand.

Someone says to you, "Let's have lunch." You clench. Your sinews leap within you, angling for escape. What others thrive on, what they take for granted, the contact and confraternity and sharing that gives them strength leaves us empty. After what others would call a fun day out together, we feel as if we have been at the Red Cross, donating blood....
Amen, sister. And that's just the introduction.

It never ceases to be a revelation when I come across writers who have the rare ability to describe this feeling. It's introversion, yes, but it's not just some psychobabble; it's that deep-seated need for silence and solitude that only the loner understands, the dread of the telephone, the pit of weariness in the stomach at the prospect of social plans already made. As Rufus writes, "
Maybe we're not holed up in caves all day, or in submarines like Captain Nemo in his Nautilus. But alone we feel most normal. Most ourselves. Most alive." So true. And the vast majority of the world seems so heavily extroverted that finding someone who can articulate those feelings is always this great relief.

I haven't had a single conversation today. I had a solo lunch, a blessedly quiet lunch, at a blessedly quiet off-hours cafe with my newspaper and my thoughts and my phone set to vibrate.
I go to the opera, the symphony, the theater, the movies, once a week, often more, 90% of the time by myself. Not because there aren't 16 people I could call up and invite along. But because the thought of someone else being there is so goddamned exhausting. And when you're by yourself, you can go to the pre-show lecture, and read the program notes, and people-watch, and listen closely to the chords and the diction and the swells of the orchestra, without having to worry about making trifling conversation once intermission hits. That, my friends, is called being a loner.

As Rufus points out, it's hardly surprising that Newton and Einstein and Michelangelo and Dickinson and O'Keeffe were all loners. I'm astonished that anyone who's not a loner can ever get anything creative done, can ever read, write, compose, build, paint, anything. I wish I didn't feel the constant need to justify this loner-hood. And I'm grateful for authors like Rufus who put that reality into words.

Anneli Rufus: Party of One


Anonymous said…
...just one question: hypothetically speaking, to what extent would it bother you to know that not one single person will ever read this blog entry?
Rach said…
Considering that I have about 2 readers and that I go into this blogging thing with v. low expectations, as more of a practice than anything else - not so much. If you don't expect anyone to read you, it's always a pleasant surprise when someone actually does.

But the internet is also different. As Rufus, Rauch, et al, point out, it's a haven for people who find social interactions exhausting. You get all the mental stimulation of exchange without the bullshit small talk and social game-playing. You can engage or disengage at your will. You never have to answer a phone. An introvert's dream. Which is why many of us who tend toward the loner side I think have found a comfortable social outlet in the internet.
Giselle said…
I am so glad to know that I am really not "alone" in my thought process of loving solitude. I devote my energy to people 80% of the time as a yoga teacher, and look forward to just being with me on my days off. I have plenty of friends, but prefer being alone so that I can direct my energy where I choose; developing myself. Thanks for the great writing on this subject.
Rach said…
Thanks for all your thoughtful comments, folks. I almost didn't post this entry to begin with; was afraid it'd be too inflammatory, too selfishly "me"-oriented. So what a pleasant surprise it was to read of your shared affinities for this loner sensibility, as well. I think there are more of us out there than we might realize...

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