A couple of months ago, I was leaving a film screening down the street from our beloved New School. I slid out of the theater and onto the sidewalk, where a young African-American couple had stopped, oblivious to the ebb and flow of sidewalk traffic.
The young woman, about a foot shorter than the young man, a scarf tied around her neck like a hangman’s noose, was looking up at him and yelling. He looked defiant, but sort of nervous, like he was listening to the closing arguments at his own trial, the prosecutor laying out his list of offenses with alarming severity. (In my imagination her yelling sounded like a Morgan Freeman voice-over narration.) As I walked past them, one thought crossed my mind: “You know, maybe being alone isn’t such a bad thing.”
People bitch and moan about being alone all the time, myself included. But what everyone needs to understand and embrace and celebrate is that being alone is okay. In fact, more often than not, it’s a goddamn symphony of awesomeness.
Living life lone wolf-style has many advantages. For instance, there is a “single rider” line at Walt Disney World, which lets you skip ahead to the front of Space Mountain. And the last time I was shimmying past all those chubby tourists in Bermuda shorts, I didn’t notice a “Couple Madly In Love” express line. Solo missions also mean that you are on your own schedule. If I want to get to New York an hour early so I can go by that store that sells mummified animal hearts, I can. And you know what phrase I didn’t hear last night when I was playing a new snowboarding video game on my PlayStation for so long I that I thought my eyes were going to pop? “Drew, can we turn this off and go to bed?”
That’s right: In the kingdom of singleton, you reign supreme. You don’t even have to feel like a selfish asshole about it, either.
I mean, don’t be too much of a shut-in weirdo. You should still see your friends occasionally, if only to borrow money or drugs, and make eye contact when encountering strangers, delivery men, or public officials. (One of my former teachers warned me repeatedly that “being alone too much is bad for you,” and I’m not sure she was talking about Vitamin D deficiencies). But be comfortable in your own single-breasted suit. Don’t let people get you down. When some rude rando asks you why your Facebook status is, defiantly, “single,” tell them that it has something to do with global warming, but you’re waiting for the hard data to be absolutely sure.
Society puts too much emphasis on coupling, and when you get to be my age, you start to feel like you’re a doomed crewman inside the movie “Alien.” But instead of being picked-off one by one by a drooling space-beast, each of your friends is getting married, settling in or living together. There’s less gore, but it’s just as horrifying. At times, this will make you feel like pretty soon it’s just going to be you, the space-beast and the self-destruct button. But then you realize that the self-destruct button isn’t going to send you endless texts wondering where you are or disappoint your mom.
And all of this is making me sound like some crotchety old man, which is sort of true (I remember when “Jurassic Park” came out in theaters, y’all), but I’m not a crotchety old man who’s fed up with love. A few times my heart has felt like Mustafa, getting trampled under that herd of wildebeests, but I remain irritatingly optimistic. After all, there are many pluses to being in a committed relationship with someone who you enjoy Frenching — things like unexpected rides home from the train station, having someone’s hand to hold during a movie, and orgasms that don’t exclusively involve the Internet.
What I want to reiterate, though, is that it’s okay to be alone. Claim this time and use it to grow as a person by asking yourself tough existential and philosophical questions and finally reading the “Song of Fire and Ice” books. After all, no matter how much you complain or society squeezes you, one day you will end up with something resembling a life partner (or at least some kind of weird S&M thing that goes on for a while). Might as well use the alone time now to make a better you, so when the special someone finally comes along, they’ll get the ultra deluxe badass package. And if you’re bored while waiting for that special someone, I’ll let you borrow my snowboarding video game.