It’s a bit of a dreary subject for a kink blog, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness..
I’ve been lonely. At least, I’ve been what I think of as lonely. I’ve been restless. I’ve been sad. I’ve spent a long Friday night or several not quite sure what to do with myself. I could say it’s because I’ve recently moved to a new city, but the truth is that I’ve felt this way most times in my life. I have rarely if ever experienced an abundance of intimacy. What intimacies I’ve had, I’ve cobbled together—this friend here, that friend there, sometimes a partner—and I’m often afraid I’m leaning more on one person or another than our relationship can bear.
I’ve been thinking about the stigma of being lonely. How I feel inclined to closet myself about it, afraid that if I admit to feeling friendless (or at least not having quite as many close friends as I’d like) or to having an empty weekend, it’s as good as admitting that I’m just plain unlikeable. Even as I write this, I’m hyperaware of how I might come across (oh good, I sound like I have some friends at least). I’ve been thinking about the way we talk about lonely people, or people without friends: Pathetic. Pitiable. Losers.
I’ve been thinking about the ways that finding intimacy takes skills, energy, and vulnerability. The ways heteronormativity (and homonormativity too), assume that all the intimacy we need comes from our romantic/sexual partner(s), and how much of that belief I’ve taken in—sure, I say I’m looking for community, but every time I get close to someone, I catch myself hoping that it’s romantic and/or sexual, and often when I think about loneliness, I imagine that what I want is a partner.
But this restlessness is one I’ve felt even while partnered. It’s one I’ve felt even in a room full of people I care about, who care about me. And it’s one I can sometimes quell by wandering somewhere new, or absorbing myself in reading. I’ve been thinking that what I’ve been calling loneliness could better be described as understimulation. That what I need isn’t precisely intimacy with other people but ways of challenging and engaging myself (intimacy with other people often facilitates this kind of challenge and engagement but isn’t the only route there).
The other night, I had planned to go to a local kink event, and I was dreading it. Interacting with strangers takes a lot of energy for me, and I don’t trust public kink groups, particularly ones that aren’t explicitly queer, to give me much energy back. There are too many wrong assumptions made about me when I walk in the door: that I have certain kinds of kink/sex experience; that I am available to be touched (kinky folks might ask first, but I don’t trust most of them not to balk at a “no” answer); that I will not object to casual racism/classism/misogyny; that I find play easy and uncomplicatedly rewarding.
But I’d also been thinking that going to the event might ease my loneliness. After all, this is a community with which I have at least one significant point of connection (that kink informs my worldview), and it’s a point of connection that’s been missing with many of the radical queer folks I’ve recently started getting to know.
I didn’t go. In the end, I didn’t feel I had the energy to interrupt all those assumptions, let alone reveal to strangers the things that about me that are real. Instead, I asked myself, what is it I need now? what is it I desire? The answers surprised me. Exercise, because part of this restlessness is my body wanting to move and be challenged. The right books, because incisive political analysis, mind-bendy alternate realities, and skilfully rendered emotional experiences challenge and engage me even when I’m sitting still. To make a practice of pushing to my edges (and no further) when it comes to building connections, which means knowing what I’m up for, being aware of things like, say, the impulse to be closeted about my loneliness, and prioritizing being vulnerable and open when it feels reasonably safe and productive to do so.
It’s no coincidence that noticing these needs and desires brought out my first blog post in months. Particularly when part of the mission of Circumstance and Carefulness is to build community.
So, welcome back to Circumstance and Carefulness (and on its shiny new site, no less!). If you’ve got any thoughts on loneliness and desire, you are welcome to leave them in the comments.