THIS IS NOT MEANT to be a cynical rejection of popular ideas concerning romance and the eternal bonds between two people. When I sat down to write this morning, I could only think of how recently, my desire has increased to be alone, to sense the world and all its beauty in solitude.
I took a drive out to the coast, I passed the homes of friends along the way, but I felt no need to talk to them, and I didn’t dream of having a new partner by my side. I wanted to fade away into the forests and estuaries by myself, breathe my own breath, think my own thoughts, unworried.
This is supposed to be a very bad sign, these days in particular, where we are supposed to remain connected at every moment. People send me all kinds of photos at every hour of the day. Most often these are images of pets or images of the food they are eating. I am not sure why people like to send photos of cats, but they do. I am not sure why they send photos of lunch but they do. I accept these advances, I try to take them to heart, but actually I would prefer to turn it all off.
I want to be by myself.
This flies in the face of popular culture. Most popular songs are about the very desire to not be alone. “Yes, I’m lonely,” sang the Beatles’ John Lennon in his song, “Yer Blues. “Want to die.” The anthems to loneliness weave a somber tapestry through the ages, from Ricky Nelson’s 1959 hit “Lonesome Town” through Dua Lipa’s “Scared to be Lonely.” Loneliness is unwanted. Loneliness is bad. According to some studies, loneliness is lethal. You should be with someone. You shouldn’t be alone.
Popular concepts about relationships between men and women similarly leave me grasping for my coat and running for the coasts. Relationships are seen as a kind of emotional employment. You are either in one (employed), actively looking for one (seeking work), or without a job. People in our lives are like employers. Relationships stack up like our LinkedIn profiles. “From this date to that date, I was with this person. Then I moved on, but it was just a short-term gig.”
Such short-term relationships following a longer relationship are called “rebounds” in popular parlance. Some people are even afraid to get involved with someone, maybe someone they like a great deal, only because that person had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and they don’t want to be that person’s “rebound.” I’ve had some arguments about this one, not involving me. People are convinced that such “rebound relationships” do exist. “They’ve done studies on them. It’s a scientific fact.”
My favorite concept from relationship land though is the “work in progress.” This is when a person gets into a relationship with someone they are unsure of, but believes they can change over time. “I see so much potential for growth,” I have heard too many times. “You’ll see. He’ll change.” This is how people — women in particular — wind up dating men who are gamblers, womanizers, or just emotionally absent. They wait forever for their partner to change, but nothing changes. They stay the same.
The dating scene reminds one of the hunt for a used car or a new apartment. People are divided up not just by their looks or their personalities, but by their specifications. Divorced, not divorced. Children or no children (and do they want more children?) Location, location, location! Boxes are checked in the search for the perfect fit.
Whenever I raise these absurdities with friends, I am accused of being embittered, cynical, still going through some healing process, or whatever. “Don’t worry,” they say, “you’ll find someone.” More recently, it’s become, “Why haven’t you found someone yet?” As if I am just holding back. It’s time to dive back in, to get back into the game, because to avoid the game is to be alone and to be alone is to be lonely.
The truth is that I am not interested in finding someone else today. I’m interested in heading out to the beach, breathing, and looking at the sea. No worries, only peace. Solitude can be so satisfying.
An Estonian-language version of this column appears in the spring 2019 issue of the magazine Hingele Pai.