Friday, December 5, 2008

About the Big Apple

I've just read an article in the Dec. 1 issue of New York Mag, "The Loneliness Myth." In New York [it was not entirely clear whether Manhattan or all of the five boroughs], slightly under 50% of the residences are inhabited by only one person. Many things have been written about the "lonely crowd" and the loneliness of a big city. Not so says writer Jennifer Senior. And I agree.

The author cites all kinds of sociological studies which bolster her premise about connectivity within the single-ness, I have an immediate reaction. I know that in this country and in the world, a woman alone [of any age] tends to be conspicuous -- FEELS and IS conspicuous. Not so in Manhattan. Neither a man nor a woman of any age alone is actually at all conspicuous. When society makes one feel one's aloneness, then that person tends to dwell on it and think he or she is lonely rather than just alone. But here that aloneness is so general that nothing about it feels strange nor is on treated as if one is less important than a couple or part of a group. Walking into a restaurant and saying "One" does not feel like an oddity -- because it isn't.

The article is far more sociological than psychological, but, in fact, loneliness is an individual state. Does one need feedback from others? Do you need to discuss a book or movie or event with someone? Will emailing a friend or family member in another city/contry/place resolve that need? Apparently, the answer to the last question is often yes. I can understand that and often feel that way. In fact Senior emphasizes that having internet communications is often a satisfying substitute for actual interaction.

Just how much one depends on another body being present really depends on the individual; I grew up without playmates except for a brother who was not a satisfactory playmate. I don't think I was lonely; that was the fact of a rural life. Probably I learned a degree of self-sufficiency that way; many other people do not have that experience and so depend more on immediate reaction from family or friends.

Demographically speaking certainly I see the truth of those statistics in the building I live in. On my floor more at least half the 20+ apartments has single occupant. We are not really a community but many of us know one another's names, those who have been here longest have our conversational forumulas [largely to do with weather] but there is a satisfaction in the tenuous neighborliness. I like living alone, having to answer to no one if things are strewn about as they are ust now while I am rearranging closets. Tomorrow it will be put to order again, for my own satisfaction. And so it always is, no excuses, no apologies, living life as makes sense to me.

No comments: