You don’t need me to tell you that we are living in strange times. Everything feels like it’s kinda being put on pause.
Life is not on pause. Life is going on. It looks different from what we are used to, perhaps. But that doesn’t mean anything actually just STOPS.
Over the last week or so, I’ve heard several people say (in podcasts, on television, in casual conversation) that this must be especially hard for “single” people. It must be particularly burdensome for those who have to trudge home, alone. Those who have to sleep by themselves in empty beds. Those who have no one to cling to. After all, those who are “single” cannot go out and date. They cannot mingle in bars or trendy restaurants. They cannot hook up or flirt or play. They are truly, irrevocably, alone. And that must be a true kind of punishment.
I can certainly see why they might think so. In high security prisons, the champion of all punishments is “isolation.” Evolution has programmed us to be social creatures, so to quarantine a “single” person up and force them to distance themselves, physically, must be a special kind of torture, right?
That hasn’t been my personal experience.
First, I don’t consider myself to be a “single” person. I consider myself to be a person. A most treasured friend in my life said, jovially “I don’t self-identify as being a single person unless there is a gorgeous female who has just entered the room. THEN I consider myself “single” in that I am available.” I laughed right along with him. I don’t know if this makes us outliers, or if this just makes us unique in that we are willing to say aloud what others actually feel internally. But like him, I don’t see “single” as a big part of who I am. Unless there is an attractive male walking into the room, of course. Then, you better believe I consider myself “single” in that specific context. VERY single. Please-come-and-talk-to-me-and-take-me-home single.
Second, it is not, in fact, true that I have been unable to date, flirt and play. Admittedly, it looks different. But humans are not animals to be underestimated in their capacity for creativity. For example, one gentleman invited me out for a physical-distance-walk. Like good citizens, we met in person but remained a good six feet apart. We went for a walk. He handed me a mason jar with some red wine and a sanitizing wipe. A jug of wine of my very own! We drank and walked around the then-open park. Truth be told, I would have considered that a pretty good date even without a pandemic at play. On a separate occasion, a gentleman called me (for you kids who do not remember that there is a call feature on your phone…it’s where you dial a set of numbers and talk to the person in real time). We talked about interesting topics…podcasts and books and politics. In the midst of our conversation, he said “hey…do me a favor and go to your back porch.” He had ben to my house, before, and remembered that it was fairly easy to see people from the back deck. There he was. A solid six feet away, of course. But nevertheless, he was there. In the flesh. He simply said “I just wanted to stop by and say hello because I hadn’t seen your face in a while.”
Tell me more about how romance is dead.
Third, I can’t say that coming home to a house devoid of other humans has caused me any discomfort. If anything, it feels like an oasis. Perhaps part of the reason for this is because I recharge with solitude. That has been true of me for as long as I can remember. I am by no means a perfect person, but I like myself. I enjoy my own company. The world “out there” might be chaotic. But the world “in here” is deliciously calm. I listen to mothers who are overwhelmed with the responsibility of being parent and teacher and chef and ….and…. I listen to wives who love their husbands but who would dearly love it if their husbands occasionally disappeared from view so they could both have some peace and quiet. No, when I come home, I do not feel like I’m being punished. I feel like I’m being myself.
None of this is to say that I don’t miss being touched by another person. Of course I do. In case you’re curious, touch is probably my favorite love language. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so at ease if I didn’t have a cat and a dog to lavish all my cuddly affection on. All I’m saying is that while these times are unfamiliar, they have not been nearly as painful as the story-weavers out there in the media would have me believe. When I’m not allowing others to dictate how I should tell my own story, the voices in my own head are pleasantly quiet. Content, even. I find that I am perfectly capable of pouring myself a glass of …some beverage of choice, cooking myself a nice meal, and lighting up a candle. I am capable of romancing myself (in EVERY way – she says with a wink). I can, in other words, “romance” myself, thank you very much.
So I invite you to turn off the talking heads who insist that you should be afraid. Turn away from the stories that are creeping into your mind agitating you with their insistence that you take every experience and cram it into a narrative casting you as a victim. And in that moment of silence, try to see the world as it really is. Are you okay now? How about now? And are you really and truly as alone as the word “quarantine” would suggest?
Now I look to you. I want you to think about the concept of “romance”…
If you live with a partner, and are feeling like you want to bang them over the head with a frying pan, how might you create romance in this space? How might you both make these circumstances worth celebrating? If you live alone, how might you play with the idea of “romance” in a new way?
Get creative ; )