It was about two weeks ago when it happened. It was the first time in a long time that I was going to have a weekend to myself and I planned on doing nothing but resting, eating terrible food, and catching up on TV.
That Saturday went exactly as I planned it — or so I thought. As the daylight that shined through my windows turned into moonlight, I realized something that I don’t think had ever happened to me before…
I went an entire day without a single text message or DM.
I’m not going to lie. It bothered me — and not just for the obvious reasons. My first thought was Has everyone I know gone an entire day without once ever thinking about me? It was scary and depressing to even think like that. As I sat in my bed that evening, I took a chance to reflect on the life I had created for myself that could allow me an entire day with no intentional interactions. I thought about how often I chose isolation, pushed folks away and placed band-aids on old wounds that required stitches.
Things in our childhood often manifest themselves in interesting ways when we reach adulthood. As a kid, I would say that I was known but not necessarily “popular.” I got along with most people, and my normal group of friends were girls — because of my effeminate behavior. My days of having real social interaction and friendships primarily existed because I had to be around people. When I came home, I would play basketball with the guys in my neighborhood but even then, the relationship was based on my athletic ability — no one wanted to be friends with a boy like me.
Before I had the words understand that I was queer, I had the words and understanding of myself to know that I was different, so I kept away from people. I didn’t make a lot of what one would call “friends” in high school. Even in college I struggled with that. There, it got better, but I still was very private, very closeted, and very much in fear of rejection. Isolation became better than rejection.
Year after year, I worked on being more of the person I knew I was. I came out thinking that would change things. I opened myself up to having real friends and becoming the truest version of myself around family. And yet, there are still times when I’m in a room with all the people I love and those who love me and feel alone. That feeling of how temporary the company of others is weighed against relationships that are encompassing of so much more — a “more” that I didn’t feel I needed to do the work for.
I felt I was entitled to friendship, family, or a relationship that I didn’t have to work for.
Instead of healing, I built a world that gave me the false impression that I was never alone. On Twitter, I have about 22k followers and average over 100 million impressions a month. One would think that loneliness may be an impossibility with so much social media interaction, but it’s not. It’s all a form of avoiding the work I’m unwilling to do on myself that would address the issues I have with rejection and vulnerability.
The hookup culture I have subscribed to for so long is a mask. Not in the sense that I don’t enjoy sexual interactions, but that I used it to fill the void of the loneliness if only for a minute or night. Hanging with guys I had no real intentions of wanting something long term with. Entertaining situations with folks with no real interest. The good morning and good night texts to and from folks are all ways to feel like someone gives a fuck about me. Convos on apps that last weeks with no date to meet up ever scheduled.
Drinking also became a part of the loneliness. I drink to be social when I’m with friends, of course, but for the most part, I don’t drink when it’s just me at home. But every now and then I pour it — usually when I’m feeling really alone. The alcohol makes it all seem to just fade away. Makes whatever is on the TV more enjoyable. Makes the mask I’m wearing more acceptable and digestible when I’m looking in the mirror.
Even in a room of our peers, we all are so different. We all have layered oppressions, many shared and some not. Many of us hiding them with cocktails, meth, and pills as a coping mechanism for the pains we are hiding. Shared pains that we are often too afraid to tell one another — fearful of being seen as weak. Subscribing to the culture that tells us that “big boys don’t cry” and to “woman up.” So, we die together in isolation.
Having an entire day where I had no intentional interaction bothers me. Most importantly because I had the power to fix it. I had the power to text, or call, or walk outside and I didn’t. I let isolation beat me that day. I let loneliness beat me that day. But like Molly says on Insecure, when you know better you do better. Hopefully, unlike Molly, my better isn’t going back to the same habits that render me helpless in a problem I have the power to fix.