By Richard Bleil
There is an old saying, “Some are born to greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them.” The same can be true of perpetual singlehood.
As a society, we don’t tend to take loneliness as a serious condition. I am thinking about a date I had around 1990 (plus or minus two years) when I was a graduate student in Boston. I was in my mid- to late-twenties. I finally landed a date on a computer dating site. Looking forward to meeting her in person after chatting online for a bit, I wanted to do something a little bit different. She said she liked Indian food, so I decided to overextend my meager income, and asked her to meet me at a very nice restaurant where we could sit and talk with a nice surrounding and wonderful and, for most Americans, different food.
She seemed uneasy from the beginning. Of course, at first, it’s hard to blame her, but she never seemed able to relax. Eventually, she let out that it was not, after all, a date. She had a boyfriend, and was interning at a local radio station. The DJ’s had goaded her into a “funny bit” wherein she created a “real” profile, and went on a “date” with some poor unsuspecting idiot who thought it was real.
The idiot was me.
I don’t blame her. She was as much a victim as I was, feeling pressured to play along for fear of losing her job. The next day, I got to hear her talk about it on the radio, since, just a little hot sauce in the wound, it happened to be the radio station that into which I typically tuned. The DJ’s tried to get “the dirt” out of her, but she didn’t really say much. Clearly she was uncomfortable, and only said that it was a nice dinner.
The really messed up thing is that, to this day, I feel like I owe HER an apology. Unknowingly, it is because of me that she was put into a situation that was clearly uncomfortable to her. And, I feel like I owe her boyfriend an apology as well, for any stress I may have caused her relationship with him, although clearly I was never a threat.
But the culprit was not me, and not her. In a strange way, it’s not even the DJ’s who orchestrated it. The problem is, as I have stated, our society does not take loneliness seriously. Recent studies have, again, proven that loneliness has serious negative repercussions on our health, and yet my love life, or lack thereof, was the source of bemusement and a ploy to boost ratings for these DJ’s.
I can’t claim innocence. Ninety percent of the time, I make fun of my own loneliness. For me, humor and painful jokes is my way of hiding my loneliness, and the pain with which it is always accompanied. And yet, when I eat alone, when I want somebody with me, the reality of this pain is all too real, and I find myself dwelling on, this time, my failures from thirty years ago, failures that any rational person could never find fault in my actions. But my heart carries this baggage anyway.
And even now I am crying.
Undoubtedly, that is why I have been so single. My longest relationship has been with my ex-wife who, if you add in the all-too-brief courtship, was with me for a little more than two years. I have speculated in the past as to why this might be, but the only constant throughout this all has been me. There can be nobody to blame, or only myself if there is. Some of us are, unfortunately, just afflicted with single.
Such predatory acts on the single and lonely is a common thing in our society. Every time I get a piece of spam mail for a dating or “hookup” site, it’s predatory. Every time I get a friend request on my social media with a photo of a sexy woman but clearly fake is predatory. Every mainstream advertisement promising me that if I use their product I will be irresistible to the opposite gender, yes, even that is predatory.
We’re so saturated with these predatory practices that we have become blind to them. And, no, I don’t have an answer. My meager opinion and blog will not change these practices. I know this. But maybe we can all try to understand the lonely, just a little bit, whether or not we are among them.