I seem to know many wonderful women who are not “relationship material”, either by their own admission, or by my own “filter” process. This does not, in any way, disqualify them as profoundly beloved friends. I love their company, and their otherness. They exude a sensibility (and sensitivity) that I can only fleetingly understand. I am charmed by their small gestures, by the toss of hair, or the putting on of lipstick, or the odd fact that dressing, which for me is a matter of 10 minutes, can be an hour-long ultimately unsatisfactory exercise for them.
I am sometimes overwhelmed by their unconditional affection, by their caring deeply if some contretemps builds a speed bump across my personal highway. I love their laughter, and their intellect, and their calling me on my bullshit when it is bullshit – which, of course, is not often!
I love spending time with them, but can no more envision taking the friendship over the “intimacy” threshold than I can imagine myself growing antlers and becoming a moose.
This leads to an inevitable result: I live alone. I live a solitary, introspective life – not an unpleasant one, mind, but definitely solitary and even, at times, reclusive.
It is a rich life, full of beauty, books, music and art, and words. I live in a breathtakingly beautiful place from which I can watch seabirds and harbor seals, and the endless play of light on the water. I see mountains, and fog. I have a Siamese cat. I meditate. I sing in the shower. My politics lean the right way, which is left. I think about things like semiotics and Shakespeare and the “observing ego”. I read poetry in French. All would seem well.
And there’s the rub. There are times when this resplendent solitude and its attendant silence is overwhelming; times when I feel a palpable yearning for a gentle touch on the cheek, or a kiss that speaks something more than “goodnight, I had a wonderful time. Let’s do this again soon”.
This is when I realize the intellectual distractions are just that: distractions. They keep my mind occupied, and my eyes averted from the fact that what I do, I do alone. I wonder if I’m lonely.
Not long ago, I was watching a movie on TV in my living room with friends. One woman was sitting beside me. She was tired, and the film wasn’t engrossing. She fell asleep, due to the peculiar geometry of the sofa, with her head on my chest. It seemed that time stopped. That simple gesture, full of trust and vulnerability spoke volumes to me about what is not in my world. After a few minutes, she awoke, and pulled away, embarrassed. I wanted to reach out to say, “no, no, it’s OK. Lay your head back down and let me hear you breathe”. Naturally, I did not.
I wonder if, before too many more years have passed, I’ll become bitter and disappointed. Will that bitterness turn inward? Will a preference for solitude become a fixation on keeping my space inviolate, and will my inner old-guy-turned-curmudgeon finally take his place?
Another woman who happens to be the wife of another friend, and therefore not “relationship material” is very kind to me, and is affectionate toward me strictly within the boundaries allowed. She shocked me a few weeks ago by saying, in an abundance of honesty, that she simply assumed I would spend the rest of my life alone. I asked her why. She replied that she has always seen me as a seeker, who never finds.
Is that praise, or a condemnation?