It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. – Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness
Since moving last summer, I haven’t met too many people I would be able to call a kindred spirit. People here in the Northcountry are incredibly private, tend not to want to make the first move (yes, like on a date), and don’t tend to share too much, too quickly, for fear of being seen as weak (a true indiscretion up North.) As a New Englander named Isabel explained to me, there’s a system to it and you don’t want to put yourself out there, for fear of being left hanging out in the cold to die. “I started having weekly playdates with my neighbor,” Isabel told me, “But this week I don’t know if we’re getting together because I haven’t heard from her.” When I asked Isabel why she doesn’t just ask this neighbor if they’re meeting she said, “I texted her last so it’s her turn to text me.” Um, okay, so we have reverted back to dating…
I wouldn’t say people in NY are friendly. New Yorkers have a tough exterior that can be mistaken for aloof. However, once the exterior comes down, NYers have a lot to say and want to be heard. There’s just not a lot of time, and never enough space, to invest in someone right off the bat. Trust has to be earned. But once it’s earned, it’s pretty much a done deal. Okay, you’re cool. I can be friends with you.
Here in the unforgiving North however, it seems like trust has to be re-earned with every interaction. Yes, we seemed like friends last time we met, but a few weeks have gone by now so I don’t know if you’ve gone over to the dark side since then…” It’s exhausting, and frankly I don’t always feel up for it. I tend to run away to my mom’s (an hour and a half South, and where my sisters are), rather than waiting around to invest (and re-invest) energy in the cold bloods.
It’s a study in human development, as are most things, when I look around the playground and see 10 moms, all sitting alone, either on their phones, or talking to their own children, not interacting with any other adult. I was pushing Violet on the swing last week and there were 4 of us in a row, pushing swings. We all looked straight ahead. The strain was palpable but not one of us wanted to muster up the effort for that obligatory, “How old is your child?” I perpetuated this New England arctic freeze as wholly as the next person because, as I said, I don’t often have the strength for drivel. As soon as that mother tells me her child’s age and asks how old mine is, I’ve already forgotten her answer, she’s forgotten mine, and then we’re back to square one needing to think up some other inane question that neither one of us really cares about. Why not save my strength? It’s not likely I’ll ever see them again.
And this is why I don’t have a lot of friends… Stop laughing owls.
Maybe in NY, there were so many voices all around me, no matter where I was, that it gave the illusion of having company? No, I’m pretty sure I had friends in NY.
5 Ways To Check If You Might Be Lonely
1) When you pull up your street, you see the mail truck and try to time it so that you’re pulling up to the mailbox at the same moment as the mailman so you can start up some drivel about how unseasonably warm it’s been lately. Note: You don’t mind drivel—in fact, you welcome it—if you’re truly, unapologetically lonely.
2) You find yourself thinking about something funny the DJ said on the radio in the car that morning. Epiphany: DJs aren’t your friends.
3) You call your mom once—okay, who’s kidding who—twice a day.
4) When you call your mom, she says, “I’m sorry Iree, I’m on my way out. Can I give you a call later?” Note: This one’s a double downer because not only is your mom blowing you off, but you realize she’s also got more of a life than you.
5) You get excited when you enter the room of the library where you do your writing and see a couple of heads poking out from behind their computers. You’re not going to exchange one syllable with any of these people, however the fact that they’ll be taking up the same airspace as you for a couple hours, gives you a happy feeling of camaraderie. And nope, even that guy clearing his phlegm every other minute like a psycho behind you isn’t bothering you.
Bonus #6: You’ve been off Facebook for a few years now because you thought it was the devil, however once a week or so you ask your husband if any of your friends have said anything interesting on there lately.
Super Extra Bonus #7: You anthropomorphize owls.
Sand & soil,