Thursday, 16 August 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Sick of Staying Home

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

If you are a searching single, but you have no siblings and therefore no hope for nieces and nephews, and also only a few much-older cousins that live very far away, what is your advice for staving off the lonelies? I am only in my mid twenties, but nearly all of my friends around me are in serious relationships, engaged or married. There have been many days where I contact folks to go out and do something and it seems everyone is busy with their significant others and I end up sitting at home watching a movie.

I've been involved in the big Catholic group in my city, but it is currently of no help because nearly all of the friends I have made there are now couples, and the single folk are all quite young (like 5 or 6 years younger). It used to be fine last year, when I was also in a relationship, but now there is significantly less to do and less people to see. Sigh.


Dear Sick-of-Staying-Home,

There is no 100% effective cure for loneliness. We are all going to be lonely sometimes. However, there is no point feeling lonely any more than we have to!

So what can you do? Well, first of all, don't feel that you shouldn't hang out with single folk who are younger than you. I always did and, come to think of it, still do. Don't make your age such an issue. If the 18, 19 and 20 year olds are fun and willing to hang out with you, hang out with them. As long as you want to be friends with them and they want to be friends with you, it's all good.

Second, look for Meet-ups in your town that involve events or hobbies in which you are honestly interested. If you can afford to, take a cab home. This way you don't run the risk of the "Going Home Alone on the Bus" feeling. (Oh, if you have your own car, even better.) Look also for Catholic events in your diocese, like Theology on Tap. And then there is always night school.

Incidentally I would love to go to night school, but I can't because I'm married and night time is the only time my husband and I can see each other. Go to night school NOW while you can. (I should write a post on this!)

Third, those friends with significant others will get rather curious about what everyone else is doing eventually, like about six months into the new stage of their relationship (except maybe for the engaged people, who will be too crazy with wedding plan insanity for thinking about anything else). Consider having a sit-down dinner party at your place for two or three couples once a month. Rotate the couples.

Couples do not necessarily want to drop their Single friends. Most of my friends in Scotland are Single. They invite B.A. and me to their dinner parties, and we invite them to our dinner parties. We hang out a lot, and the boys usually see the girls at least most of the way home, which eliminates at least some of the "Going Home Alone on the Bus" feeling.

Fourth, get emotionally involved with a Catholic blog or two. Internet discussions are not the same thing as chatting with friends in person or on the phone, but they can be very interesting and you are guaranteed to discover new people who share the same passions you do. From my own blog, I have made many friends and, in fact, met my husband, who was a reader. And some of my readers have met other readers; in fact, two Single American girls in Germany met up through my blog and became friends "in real life".

Fifth, ponder the fact that you are only in your mid-twenties. If you are American, chances and statistics are that you'll be married before you're forty. I realize that this does not help with "right now" but it might be helpful to realize that it is most likely you will not always be home alone watching the TV.

Sixth, there is no reason to live alone, unless you aren't really alone but living with your parents in their place. It can be very enjoyable to share a house with women graduate students. In my experience, they are both hardworking and willing to let off steam by going out on Friday nights. They are also up for cups of herbal tea and chats at random hours of the evening.

I hope this is helpful. Figuring out what to do between work and bedtime is indeed one of the big challenges of Single life. I remember well those loooong hours. Before I had blogging, and before I had to read and write for grad school from 7 AM to 10 PM, I used to work out at night, study languages and go down to the local artists'-and-writers' cafe to talk to artists and writers.

Grace and peace,

Incidentally, I still go out by myself. On Tuesday night I went by myself to a Polish poetry reading in Edinburgh's most leftist bookstore. In the window there was a T-shirt featuring Stalin. Underneath that T-shirt was a T-shirt reading "CCCP". Not a very respectable place for a nice Polish poet, I would think. It hurt me to hand over my Visa card to buy the poet's book. Weep, weep, weep. Anyway, if I can sit in a leftist bookstore wedged in beside a Polish lady and God is Not Great to listen to Polish poems, then I don't see why you girls can't go out alone to follow your own strange interests. Just bring emergency cab fare and a mobile phone if you're out after dark.

By the way, I had this to say about calling romances "relationships."


S.L. said...

Thanks for writing on this. I am in a similar situation and find myself staving off the loneliness by going to classes at the YMCA and accepting any and all invitations to dinner (even if I know it will be awkward--it usually makes for a good story later!). I'm also making it a point to devote this time to finding a spiritual director, which is something I never seemed to have the time to do when coupled-up. Also, Groupon is great because it introduces you to deals at places that you might not otherwise think to try (for example, a nearby store was offering sewing classes to beginners for half the regular price). You get a chance to develop skills and explore your interests.

Domestic Diva said...

I always thought "night school" had to be some academic pursuit, but then I found some landscaping and gardening classes. Perfect! I had a lot of fun, learned a lot, started a new hobby, and met a few people. My point is that classes can be about ANYTHING you are interested in: sewing (as S.L. suggested), wine tasting, name it! Local colleges often have non-credit courses for you to check into.

american in deutschland said...

>>in fact, two Single American girls in Germany met up through my blog and became friends "in real life".<<

Well now I feel FAMOUS!

american in deutschland said...

(yet I fear my handle is now a bit disingenuous, as I'm back to just regular old "American in America")

n.panchancha said...

Yay! These are great things to remember. :o)

I find writing letters to people also really helps beat the lonelies. I like this more than email/facebook/whatever for anti-loneliness purposes, since, with letters, you can't and don't expect an immediate reply. (If you are waiting for an immediate electronic reply and it doesn't come, that seems to feed the lonely feelings.) It's also more natural to put time and effort into a written letter. It's more of a slow conversation, and it's nice to think that (a) you are connected to someone, and (b) that person will be very pleased to find a letter from you in their mailbox. How friendly! And I think it's doubly helpful if to write to another single person who might feel sometimes lonely - even your former parish priest, for example.

Catherine said...

Some things I do with my gratuitous alone time that I recommend:
-Go to the gym.
-Cook something new. I actually taught myself to cook via a combination of blogs, cookbooks, and advice from my mom. There have been a lot of interesting results, but I've gotten pretty good, and there's something fun about cooking a fancy, real meal for yourself every once in awhile.
-Find a new TV show to get into, and watch all the seasons on DVD or Netflix. A couple episodes a night of a really good show will give you something relaxing to look forward to.
-If you have an Adoration chapel nearby, make frequent visits or even sign up for a weekly hour.
-Take some sort of class or lesson. Learn a language, a musical instrument, a fine art, etc. Many of these things are available via town Parks & Recreation departments for little or no cost.
-Get a library card and start working through your list of books you've been meaning to read.
-I agree that you shouldn't hesitate to do things by yourself. I love to go to the coffee shop with a book or magazine and sit there for a couple hours. No one usually talks to me, but it's nice to people-watch and enjoy being out of the house. I also go to movies and lunches alone quite often. It was intimidating at first, but now I really like it.

Do I wish I had someone to do things with? Yes. But I've never had that. Maybe I just don't know the difference. But I don't want to spend all my time wishing I had someone, when I could be doing fun things, albeit alone. Alone is really not so bad.

TGWWS said...

Letters--handwritten, snail mail letters--yes!

The gym--also yes! Do something that allows for setting goals, like weight lifting or running, so you have the sense of accomplishment as well as the endorphins.

I'd add:

Learn to play a musical instrument. It's a double mode of staving off the blues. First, because it is an occupation, like any other occupation it takes your mind off being alone. Second, music (well, a lot of music) is a natural anti-depressant. And (bonus!) as with sewing or cooking, you're learning a worthwhile activity that you probably won't have time to learn if and when you're married.

Charming Disarray said...

I can completely vouch for Meetup. In fact, I'm going to a Meetup meetup both tonight and tomorrow night. If you're wary of signing up for something online, it's really just the same as joining a club. Either way you're going to something with a bunch of local people you don't know but with whom you have something in common. There even turned out to be an NCB in the group I joined. (No, I don't have a crush! It's just nice to know they exist, you know?)

Beatric said...

As a musician and a librarian, I can vouch for both areas. Your local public library will probably have many free programs that are great to attend. If you study an instrument, try to find a teacher with other adult students. There are sure to be get-togethers or recitals where you can meet people.

Meaghan said...

I just moved to a brand new city where I don't know anyone and have JUST started to meet people in my age group. I tend to get lonely, too, but whenever I see something that looks fun I go out and do it by myself. Shakespeare in the Park tonight!

Urszula said...

I've just moved to a new city too, but I've never had problems finding things to do. I rather like having the boyfriend-less evenings now, so many exciting things to do, so little time!

Meetup is great - just be wary of so-called interest groups which turn out to be dating markets in disguise. But most groups are great, and it's easy to find someone who is into the same things you are, be it hiking, biking, art exhibitions, or French. Just follow the basic precautions of getting together with people you've never met.

I feel like American culture especially makes you feel that being alone is lonely, and there is little acceptance for doing things on your own. I've traveled out of country, gone to parks and concerts and movies and walks alone in Europe and enjoyed it. But it does take some getting used to, and cultivating the enjoyment of solitude.

I think it also helps to think of whether you are an introvert or extrovert, whether you need more or less social interaction, while you look at your time and try to populate it with activities.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks there should be a Seraphic Singles Meetup?

Ditto the advice of finding housemates. (The other advantage is that you can end up with a lot more space than you would if you had to live by yourself in a tiny studio. I have a whole section of our house to myself, so sharing a kitchen is a small price to pay.)

Also, four-legged furballs do a lot to assuage loneliness. There's something good for the soul about coming home every day and having someone, if even four-legged and not human, who is happy to see you.


EM said...

Thank you for the Swashbuckler!

Andrea said...

When I used to feel lonely (still single, but I just don't feel lonely so much, if ever...) I'd call up people who I thought might be lonelier and/or sick at home and/or in need of something. It may have sounded somewhat forced because at the outset of the call what I was really doing was choking back sad feelings of my own loneliness. However, on many, many occasions, the people I called actually needed something. And then bingo: you are not lonely, you are helping. Just a thought.

Alisha said...

You are all awesome and inspiring :)