However much we may enjoy being around friends and family, there’s something peculiarly liberating about being on your own. Sitting all by yourself in a quiet room with just your thoughts to keep you company. Not having to cater to the needs of parents, children, siblings or spouses. Not having to make nice with friends at a party or pretend to be paying attention to the boss.
Yes, nothing quite compares to the feeling of finally getting time to yourself in the midst of a hectic life, lived mostly to fulfill the demands of other people. When you can finally let your guard down and relax, when you don’t have to worry about putting on your best face for the world, when you can do stuff that you enjoy without worrying about how you look to other people.
So, the harried mother of two kids under four fixes herself a bubble bath when she finally gets them to bed, lights some candles and lies back thinking wistfully of those days when this kind of thing used to be a prelude to sex. The young adolescent waits for his parents to leave for work so that he can log on to all those websites that his parents fondly imagine they have barred from his computer. The corporate honcho waits until his staff has left for the day before lighting up his first cigar of the day, pouring himself a single malt, and enjoying some downtime before heading back home to meet the demands of wife and family.
Sometimes these few minutes of solitude can make it all seem worthwhile. When you can collect your thoughts, ruminate on your day, gird yourself for what lies ahead. When you can feel that life is not just about other people, but also about meeting your own needs and desires.
Which may explain why some people so enjoy travelling for work. There’s something deliciously decadent about coming back to an empty hotel room, ordering a burger and fries and settling down to watch TV in bed. You can watch all the shows that you miss when you’re sharing the remote control with the spouse or the kids. You can drip sauce on to the bed without worrying about how to take out the stain later. You can leave the wet towels on the floor without anyone shouting abuse at your naked back. And in the morning, you can get breakfast served in your room, along with the obligatory red rose.
Of course, you don’t need to be alone to enjoy any or all of this. But, believe me, sometimes it helps.
And then, there’s the stuff that you could do in the presence of other people – if only it wasn’t quite so shaming. Reading a steamy romance novel stolen from your daughter’s backpack. Eating baked beans straight out of the tin. Watching those saas-bahu serials that your friends scoff at. Sneaking a bar of chocolate into bed in case you get hungry at night.
Further down this sliding scale is the stuff that you can only do when no one is watching. Picking your nose, I imagine, comes pretty much on top of that list. As does googling yourself or cyber-stalking your ex-husband/ex-wife. Or sending off anonymous posts about them to their current boss/partner. Or trying on those skinny jeans you last wore in college and wrestling in vain to get them past your thighs. Or even calling up former lovers and hanging up when they answer.
As for me, I find myself trawling all the trashiest gossip sites in the world – I know, it’s truly shaming, but there you are – looking for gossip about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston’s new man (is it Gerard Butler? Or isn’t it? Will Jen ever find true love?). Yes, aimless searching on the net is what I do when I’m alone. It could be about Gwyneth Paltrow’s exercise regimen. Or the Tudor dynasty and the six wives of Henry VIII. Or Michelle Obama’s upper arms.
Or the Turin shroud and whether it was really forged by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Well, what can I say, I develop these random obsessions.
A random survey among my friends produced some interesting results as well. One of them shame-facedly confessed to indulging in some naked yoga when home alone. Apparently, it makes all those bendy asanas a lot easier to execute. Another admitted to making bread and butter pudding, slathering it with condensed milk, and eating it instead of dinner. One obsessive-compulsive mate colour-coded her wardrobe whenever there was no one to look over her shoulder.
I guess all of us develop rituals that help make our me-time more meaningful to us. Some may spend it in meditation and reflection. Others may play video games in the dead of the night. Some may use it to clean out their underwear drawer. Others may do something far more forbidden.
So, what do you do when you are alone? It may say more about you than you think.