I have a lot of conversations with myself. I suppose a lot of people do.
“Self,” I say, “We really need to do laundry,” or “Self, you might want to shower.” And recently I’ve been talking to myself more about being alone. Or rather about if we (myself and I) are getting too good at being independent.
I mumble this idea to Chandra, one of my closest friends since high school, while she paints tiny dots on my toenails. Once her masterpiece is complete, she asks me why I’m afraid to be alone. And I don’t have an answer. I don’t know what I’m afraid of. If I’m even afraid of that.
Here’s where the conflict of interest comes in: I really like being alone. Not the isolated, abandoned, exiled, devastated, on walkabout kind of alone. I still want lifelines. But I want to have some quality hang out time with myself. Quality being the keyword here. I mean, I watch Suze Orman, “internationally acclaimed personal finance expert,” when I’m alone, for the love of crap. This is what happens when I’m left alone — I let the self-help nonsense suck me in.
“When you are happy you don’t buy things you don’t need,” Suze explains to her captive audience. Ever the master of the obvious, aren’t we Suze? All the lingerie I’ve bought in the last year is proof of that.
I have discovered recently that I don’t think I really know what the definition of independence is. All I know is I’ve been called independent my entire life. Sometimes with admiration and other times spit through clenched teeth, as though “independence” were a bad word.
I consult the female half of one of my favorite couple crushes. Rick and Nichole have a his, a hers, and an us.
“Independence absolutely means having a life outside of the person you’re with,” Nichole tells me. “And that other person has to be supportive of that.” I enjoy that she says “has” to be supportive and not “should” be.
My happily single friend Alex gives a slightly different perspective.
“It means I call the shots. It means I have an escape route. But sometimes independence can be addictive. I’ve become a bachelor,” this bachelorette says. “I get drunk on making my own terms.”
For her — and for me, too — there is a crowbar separation between what is kept private and what is shared with other people. A few glasses of wine later, Alex says something truly poetic:
“To say independence doesn’t change in relationships is naive. When you give yourself to someone that much, it has to change.”
Change, yes, but not disappear. I have seen many relationships crumble because not enough alone time is built in. People tend to feel like they’ve lost their independence. But independence isn’t gained and lost, it’s given away. It should change in a relationship, but some things should be kept sacred. Some things are so special I want to share them, and other things are so special I want to keep them all to myself.
“Self,” I say, “Screw Suze Orman. Let’s buy more lingerie.”
Frilly panties are, after all, special enough to keep to yourself.
Or to share.
—By Leah M. Charney
Charney is sassy yet classy and does her part to keep Victoria’s Secret in business.
Originally published in Women’s Magazine July 2009.