I’ve been spending a lot of time alone lately. This is something I am accustomed to, and comfortable with, having been raised an only child. What I am not quite accustomed to anymore, however, is the way in which having no one to be accountable to totally screws me over.
Look, I come from a fastidious family. At least on my mother’s side. The one anecdote that explains everything is that when my grandmother was a child, she used to make her little friends wash their hands before they could touch her dolls. And this was in the 1930s. I’m not entirely positive they even knew what germs were, back then. Or hands, for that matter.
That was a weird joke. How wouldn’t they have known what hands were? What is she even talking about?
Speaking of talking, here’s a problem: I keep talking to myself. Full conversations. This is what happens when I have no husband around. Or friends. Or coworkers. I must fulfill all of these relationships by myself. It’s getting exhausting, frankly. I am compelled to gossip with myself around my Brita water pitcher, and share all of my emotions with myself, and keep myself on task with projects, and give myself a kiss when I walk in the door, and do all the cooking and cleaning to boot.
Which brings me back around to keeping clean. I’m not, really, when I’m alone. I’m not saying I heft my filthy shoes on the couch and stack my used dishes up in the bathtub and use the bedsheets to wipe chocolate sauce off of my face. But my family legacy is still in danger of being shamed. I don’t wipe the counters — HORRORS! I leave dirty plates sitting in the kitchen sink overnight — HORRORS! I don’t bother putting my junk away — HORRORS! I leave my unfolded laundry on the bed — HORRORS!
It’s enough to make my grandmother have to lie down on the couch with a cold washcloth over her face. So let’s just keep this between us, please.
Another problem is that when I’m alone, there’s no one to gently suggest that maybe I should consider going to bed. When the beau is at home, he usually brings the canister of floss out to the living room. This is his signal. This his heartfelt, loving reminder that the SLEEP TRAIN WILL SOON BE DEPARTING FROM THE STATION, and that I’d better get my ass on board lest I be forever left behind. Then he flosses while watching the last few minutes of the Daily Show, and leaves the used waxy string draped over the arm of his chair, where I sometimes find it the next morning.
MARRIAGE: IT’S NOT JUST DEPRESSING SITCOM FODDER ANYMORE.
I hate to say this, but without anybody here to tell me to go to sleep, I just… stay awake. I work, curled up on the couch with a blanket and my laptop, pecking away at the keyboard deep into the night. I try to get more billable hours in, or I plug away at a blog post, or I catch up on Twitter. Occasionally, I just drink vodka and cry over music videos. Somewhere around 1:00 a.m., it occurs to me that the decent, respectable citizens in my time zone have been conked out for hours already, like the decent, respectable citizens they are. And like I am not. So I make pathetic advances towards getting ready for bed. But maybe there is an atrocious sentence I wrote and have since been worrying at, and I can’t just let it go until morning, so I decide to give it another shot. Or maybe I have a glass of wine that needs finishing. Or maybe — look! The algorithm just keeps recommending MORE videos I might like! Let’s give them a click or two, shall we?
Then it is 2:00 a.m., and I am finally brushing my teeth. Success! I am the picture of responsibility and trustworthiness. I would probably buy a used car from myself. I would probably “check in” at myself on Facebook, just so I could get a coupon for 20% off a future purchase of myself. Look at me, there in the mirror. With all the zits around my mouth. What is going on with that, anyway? It looks like had a slobbering makeout session with that orangey grease that always skims the surface of a slice of pizza.
My pizza face feels gross. “I divorce you!” I say to the mirror, just to get a rise out of me. But I never say so much as a word in protest. Tell me, where has all the magic in our relationship gone?
Then it is time to turn off all the lights and circle the house, looking out all the windows for murderers. Then it is time to get into bed and think about every scary story I have ever heard over the course of my lifetime. Eyes fly open and close again. Noises from other rooms are heard, and I must get up to check on them. And so sleep begins in fits and starts; slowly, slowly, circling the rim of a yawning velvet black void, until first one foot slips, and then the other.
All of a sudden it’s 8:27 a.m., and I’m forcing myself to GET UP ALREADY because it’s late, so late, and I have things to do, and billable hours to meet, and objects to halfheartedly clean, and why am I so lazy, and why am I so tired.
And the cycle begins anew.
At least I’m not alone all the time, I guess. This is what the television is for: a chattering box of companionship. And nothing does companionship for me quite like sports. I know, it’s weird. It’s the only thing I put on when it’s just me in the house. Something about the incessant nattering of the announcers is comforting, like when you played in the corner while the adults talked at the table about things you sometimes didn’t quite understand. Plus, the format is perfect: I get to look up for exciting plays, then go back to concentrating on work without worrying I’m missing some important plot development. With football and hockey, I already know the plot.
Even so, sometimes you get surprised. I had my DVR’d Oregon-Washington game from last Saturday on, and it was the halftime intermission. Two commentators named Marcus and Kevin were in the studio, yammering on about standings in the BCS.
Kevin: “I wanna ask you — should Alabama drop in the BCS poll, and how far should they drop.”
Marcus: “No, absolutely not.”
Kevin: “How far should they drop, Marcus.”
Marcus: “Two best teams in the country. If you look at this game, Kevin, I don’t think Oklahoma should jump ahead of them.”
Kevin: “Okay, but hold on –”
Marcus: “Kevin, you’re being emotional about this.”
I looked up. Whoa there, Marcus! Don’t you think that’s a little rash? Kevin doesn’t exactly seem like he’s on the verge of tears to me, but then again, I don’t really know the guy.
So they went on. Back and forth for a bit; Kevin suggesting that Alabama should drop in the rankings because they lost to LSU, and Marcus holding the line. And suddenly, again:
Kevin: “If they remain at #2, that means the BCS is a sham.”
Marcus: “You’re being emotional, Kevin.”
Oh snap! Marcus, I’ve never seen someone deliver the “hysterical woman” shutdown treatment to a male jock! Well played, sir! But the proverbial icing on the gaslighting cake came a few seconds later, when Marcus delivered his final MANSPLAIN of the segment:
“Kevin, I appreciate your rationale, but you know, I’m the expert here.”
I need to ask the expert something, Marcus: what does being very, very lonely feel like? Because I doubt Kevin ever wants to grab a beer with you after the taping is over.
Annnnnnnd this awkward transition is my cue to skedaddle. The beau is coming home tonight. There are dishes to be washed and dollars to be earned. I’m still working on the remaining Arizona posts, plus two other posts on different topics entirely. We’re going to L.A. tomorrow for a wedding, though, and then when we get back there will be heaps of laundry to wrangle and Whole Foods to visit in search of arrowroot powder, whatever the hell that is.
So basically what I’m telling you is that this weekend is a total wash in terms of getting more writing done, but hey: At least I’ll have someone to guide me to bed before midnight.
Tell me, what do YOU do when you find yourself alone? Are you really as good as usual?