I've learned a lot over the course of writing this column. Readers don't care for wedding critiques. Also, if you want to generate a ton of comments, write an impassioned polemic against open-toed sandal-boots and vodka tonics. Interweb columns sure are strange!
, when not worshiping Cthulu, kicking toddlers or excising all of my best jokes, likes to remind me to write honestly. And in trying to do so, I've started to come to some startling conclusions about myself.
Conclusions like, I think I've realized that I'm in love ...
... with being alone.
And if the countless emails I've gotten from you all are to be believed, I'm not alone in this loner love. It seems that many of us, often unconsciously, have become independent to the point of becoming an island unto ourselves.
I'll stop right here so the psychic waves of "You only like being alone because no one will have you" crash against my brain shores. Ah, refreshing.
But I've read the emails and comments, my fellow Island-people. You don't sound like a horde of toothless recluses using an IBM Basic that runs off turkey grease. No, these are lucid, funny, honest emails from normal women who have lives they enjoy -- alone.
We seem sane. But are we kidding ourselves?My Fellow Islanders
Happily single people? Your islands sound like my island, wonderful places filled with books and wine and selfish Netflix choices. From time to time, sex happens. Sure, occasionally debris of sadness and confusion wash up, but I snap out of it much quicker than I used to.
But here's the thing: I wonder if I'm starting to like this island life a little too much. Books are piling up in my apartment like totems of solitude. I've started leaving my apartment so little that, last week, a protracted battle with invading ants became the de facto email topic with my friends.
The weird thing is I don't really mind. And perhaps that's what's not quite right.
And to you women who write to me about either the hard-earned freedom you've won, or the freedom you've never given up, do you ever feel like maybe, just maybe, you've created a life without a drawbridge? Or maybe you have a drawbridge, but the moat's lousy with flying alligators?
Have we become so independent (and, in my case, strange) that there's no way back to sharing our lives?
Stage One of Solitude: Pre-Plane-Crash Tom Hanks (Sans Helen Hunt)
Look, the reason I love my island life so much is that I remember what life was like on the mainland when all I wanted was a girlfriend. I was totally miserable for most of my 20s.
For almost an entire decade, I was a person who believed that a girlfriend would validate that I was a likable and sexually attractive person who didn't smell like a drum circle.
Or so I told myself.
You should have seen me in my 20s. In retrospect, I can see what a lunatic I acted like, being so desperate for a relationship. Is my girlfriend here in this bar? How about at this birthday party? OK, what about here in this coed flag football league? Yes, people, I joined a coed flag football team, and you better believe it wasn't because I loved wearing mesh pinnies and running buttonhooks.
Hey, gang? I'm never going back there.
Stage Two: Washing Up on the Island
Many of the emails I get from women are about finding out the hard way how much they needed their independence. Women in their 50s and 60s coming out of divorces, women in their 30s and 40s realizing they're still young and vital and ditching dead-weight men. The relief is palpable in these letters.
Like them, I had a few relationships leave a bad taste in my mouth, and so what followed was a thousand first and second dates and tons of free time. I began to cultivate the relationship with relationships that I have today.
Perhaps you know this story; without realizing it, you sloooowly start to like being alone a bit more. You realize you don't want to be in a relationship for the sake of it (the times you attempted that were an unmitigated disaster), and so you basically start dating yourself. The movies! Walks in the park! Dinner and drinks! Very gradually, the happy couple canoodling over appetizers doesn't give you a case of the Sads. In fact, if you're anything like me (and this, I admit, is not healthy) you watch and wait for that one moment -- perhaps she suggests the catfish makes him gassy, or he says, "Really, hon, you've had enough wine." You think, Ha, ha!
Stage Three: Wilson the Volleyball
Then, a new feeling sets in. This new feeling has begun to attend almost all of my interactions with couples ... and if I'm being honest, other people in general. This feeling accompanies me to barbecues and work functions, it follows me back to my apartment after a weekend spent with my married siblings, it sits beside me in the empty space at the back of the church while a friend gets married, it's the same feeling those women who had divorced after 30, 40 years wrote me about: relief.
Relief that I'm alone, relief that I'm no longer so hard up for someone to make me happy, relief that I can choose to be present, or be by myself.
Is this healthy? I'm not sure. I know that one critique I'll get for saying all this is that I feel this way because I'm a guy. It's the terminal-bachelor thing. And yes, most of my single girlfriends want to be in a relationship. But many of them are women who have the capacity to give and receive love, yet who all report the same feeling after getting out of another, not-quite-fulfilling mini-relationship:
Speaking of relief! My editor, in all her eternal wisdom (it comes from the fact she happens to be the legendary Greek Empusa demigoddess who seduces, waylays and murders men) has suggested that you, my dear readers should write in questions and I, your humble [Redacted] Guy, will do my best to answer them.
So, you call the shots next week, and I'll just sit back and answer them, from my comfortable little island. Suggested topics are -- but are not limited to -- love, sex and natural home pest control.
[Redacted] Guy is the resident single guy writer at Lemondrop. He likes ice fishing, hurting his editor's feelings, and "The Wizards of Waverly Place." His Google Voice number spells "DESPAIR." Email us if you want the area code.
Send him hate mail and love letters here, and follow him on Twitter.