In 7th grade, Steve Anderson approached me in the school library and said, “You’re a loner.” I peeked over my shoulder at my classmates clustered at other tables and hoped they hadn’t heard the comment. Red bloomed in my cheeks and my ears burned. Then Steve tried to engage me in a conversation asking me why I was a loner. I wanted him to go away, but he persisted. He kept asking why. The answer should have been obvious to both of us, but we were young and inarticulate. I was a mega dork – socially awkward and painfully shy. I desperately wanted friends, but didn’t have a clue on how to make them.
My shyness and the more obvious social defects vanished over the years. I became pretty, developed a wicked sense of humor, and learned to fit in better. And I’m now ridiculously outgoing – I chat up strangers wherever I go and accept social invitations from people I barely know. I love to introduce people to each other, which is a hangover from childhood. I hate to see anyone to forced to hide in corners and not be included in conversation.
I have a few close friends and many, many social friends (people who I meet up at places for meetups, parties, and dancing). But I admit it, deep down I’m a loner. I travel my life as my own complete entity, not needing people as much as others seem to. I prefer my own company to anyone else’s. And I love the freedom of being able to do whatever I want without negotiating with another person.
However, I’m a loner who loves meeting people more than anything else in the world. A strange paradox. But I’ve learned to navigate the contradiction in a simple way. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I go it alone. But I take myself to places where there are lots of people. I take personal invitations seriously. I like it when someone I don’t know that well invites me to hear them DJ, go to their apartment for a BBQ, or join their friends for brunch. I make the time to go. I get to know the host better, and I get to meet new, amazing people.
But I usually I come alone and leave alone. And then I go out and do something by myself. Like dancing. Dancing is my favorite thing to do in the world and, for many reasons, I prefer to do it alone. Dancing is a good loner activity – the music is too loud for talk and everybody is crushed together so it isn’t painfully obvious that I’m solo. I dance with people when I’m out, but I’m not attached to any particular dance partner. I’m not antisocial by any means.
Lonerdom has a bad rap. I wish I had told Steve to fuck off back in 7th grade.