Yo, doggg. You know what’s tomorrow? Yeah, you know. You know it’s going to be a big night, a long one. There’s going to be some intimacy, but likely with a price. It’ll be a little tense. You might even find yourself missing a very important person who was in your life this time last year. A good buddy of mine recently asked me, as we cruised past a billboard, “Let’s make a bet. What’s the over-under on you getting laid on Valentine’s Day or just watching the entire second season of House of Cards?” Fellow lonely-hearts, that is not a game of pitch n’ toss that this Kid’d play. There’s no wager - I’m all Keyser’s and Princess Buttercup’s that evening. But they’re not people. I’m a people, and sometimes, a people is on their own.
Will either of you be my Valentine?
Full Disclosure: We’re pack animals, social creatures. That’s why a bunch of misanthropic scientists got together and made The Internet and R.P.G.s and comic book conventions and nuclear bombs. We’re not designed to be alone as a rule, but many of us do some good work hand-in-hand with ourselves. Loneliness is indeed an affliction, a condition that us nerds often know all too well. While being alone can be a transcendent experience, do not go forth as a hermit, but rather accept that we often do our best work with ourselves.
Note "Pansy Division" shirt.
We’ve become adept at figuring out ways to not be alone. Of course, on The Internet, you’re never alone. Thanks to social media, loneliness has become something of a choice, rather than a fact of life. You might find yourself wanting a Grande Caramel Double-Macchiato and realize, “I could stand to be alone while I drink this,” right before you send a photo of it to your landlord, your dentist and the poor schmuck who just made you that slice of cake in the form of a coffee. Even if your bag is hating other people, like women, there’s whole swaths of Internet you can claim. The poetry is that embracing the truth, which is that you hate yourself, will only lead you to be alone with the guy you really despise. You probably deserve that, you jerk. But that also brings us to the most important aspect of being alone: knowing thyself. Some famous Greek, probably either Uncle Jesse or John Cassavetes, said to “know thyself.” Most signs point to this ancient proverb as early snark, to be interpreted as “get over yourself.” That’s extremely useful, in these last days of DISCO, YOLO, FOMO and HIV. There’s an entire generation of narcissistic, sociopathic kids out there who aren’t anything because they don’t know themselves. We know stuff, or rather, we have access to stuff. I love Westerns, counter-culture and anything with the flavors of mint and chocolate combined, but does that mean I’m a full-fledged person? Not only do we need to know why we like our pleasures, guilty and innocent, but we need to find confidence in them. Such as: they give us the comfort to be who we want to be. Nobody’s going to help you with that, friend-o. That’s on you, and the work you do.
You're never really alone.
We wonder how to be alone. Being alone usually means avoiding other people, so stop your Tinder swiping and InstaFace liking. There’s an age-old adage in acting that it’s mostly listening. But that’s not entirely honest, because more often than not, we’re not listening when we’re communicating with somebody else. Usually, because we’re egomaniacs high on cocaine/caffeine/high-speed broadband, we’re just waiting to say our piece and our peace. By avoiding other folks, we’re forced to listen, to watch, to actually immerse ourselves in something other than the chewing of our own cud. When was the last time you took in a movie on your own couch and didn’t check your phone every five minutes? If you’re watching movies that make you want to run away into Twitter's hovel, maybe that says something about the movies you like. See, you just done figured something out about yourself. Deeper still, perhaps you want to hone your attention span, expand your horizons, Goatse your mind, which is a thing to do alone, without pressure. That, in fact, is where all those nasty little arguments we like to have about taste and knowing it all come into play; that’s where you’ll get the actual fodder to win ‘em. My father, 70 years old, still works a day-job, often upwards of sixty hours-per-week. He doesn’t get vacations through the year, with exception of the one week around Christmas, where it’s nearly impossible for anyone to get something done. So he saves up all year and for the last decade or so has been taking himself, solo, to Paris. In France. Like a boss. He usually stays at the same little hotel, eats at the same restaurants, finds the best current exhibitions, films and strolls around The City of Light. My dad’s a very social guy, and he has pals, makes friends frequently, but his yearly Paris trip is very much his alone time, to curate himself. Some of us don’t have the luxury of working for sixty years to afford regular trips, but the simple act of cooking oneself dinner, diving into a deep cut on Netflix or strolling around the neighborhood, can provide comforts in ourselves that no one else could. Therein lies the power of being alone.
A man of mystery, on his own. Very attractive.
It takes a long-ass time to get good at something. For example, I’ve been sexually active for over 27 years and only in the past few months have I really gotten the hang of it, at least when it comes to being on my own. Your alone-time is your time to shine. It takes at least three or four tries to get good at sleight of hand, for instance. You might have to spend a whole afternoon with a deck of cards if you want comparisons to Master Ricky Jay. There is simply no substitute for the time and energy that you spend on failure, success and the processes in between. Give yourself the gift of that experience, because practice doesn’t always make perfect, but at least nobody’ll have to watch you flail about. Start with your own town. Go all Nancy Drew and do some digging, long constitutionals with your camera and learn where you’re from. Chances are, even in a brand-spanking-new city like Los Angeles, there’s some crazy history you can discover just meandering about. You’ll also get some exercise. If, for some crazy reason, you’re the type who’d prefer to stay at home, there’s the obviousness of taking in some literature or a movie. Better yet, learn to edit, to write, to record. Not only are those skills terribly embarrassing to learn, so being by yourself is helpful, but once you meet folks to collaborate with, you’ll be prepared to share.
Time spent well.
So you go to your classes, your bars and coffee-shops, you take those lessons and you make them yours. There’s no mutual exclusivity here, other than the existential dread that you will eventually have to face yourself. So you might as well put on your best eyeshadow and curl your ringlets for you. Seeing as how Christian Slater is the only guy I’m ever regularly compared to, I know a thing about being My Own Worst Enemy. By being your own best friend, maybe your show’ll go into syndication. Your aloneness is not an opportunity to wallow, you other white meat. Weeping, sitting in the dark eating wet cigarette butts like a dog and self-flagellating is not you being the best you. You’re not discovering a thing, only embracing the crap that self-improvement will destroy. Be good to yourself, friend-o, because you’re your own. So tomorrow rolls around, and maybe you’ve got plans, maybe you’ve got a Love. Bless you both. Perhaps you and some bros are going to do keg stands, play naked Twister and watch First Wives Club, commiserating within your very own Sgt. Segan’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Or you’re just alone, doing a load of whites, dude, because we all need clean undies. The dishes need doing, too, and why not go ahead and vacuum? Start that novel, binge that show, but all with the goal that you’re filling your coffers with the art and compassion that makes you a good person, being the human you want to be. That’s for you and us, your pals, because we all like to be inspired, surrounded by the best of the best. Embrace your You Time as a gift, a respite from the din of your devices, the harangue of your head, the cacophony of your colleagues.
Here's some ideas.