Not all loners are lonely

limyaael on making convincing loner characters:

Some people do enjoy solitude. Other people may lose connections and contacts with family and friends and lovers without there being anything particularly angsty about the loss. Others might leave home to pursue an ambition and wind up so immersed in their studies that they are not secretly pining for a lover. Some loners do choose it, some loners just get uncomfortable when someone else nosily pokes into their business, and some loners are not secretly so clingy that they’ll fall in love with the first person who looks at them sideways. What reason for being alone makes sense for that person? I ask because I don’t find myself believing the angsty stories half the time.

All of which is true not only for fiction. I think we have this societal tendency to assume all loners are unhappy — and prone to commit violence against those they’re isolated from. We don’t trust people who like being alone, and there’s something creepy and something sad about that, not for the loner, but for the rest of us.

I read a book called Cliques a while back, which broke the social structure of high school down into four groups–basically: popular kids, popular kid wanabees, members of small friendship circles, and loners.

Over and over again, when I described these groups to friends, the reaction I got was to look back at their own school days and say: “Well, I’m glad at least I wasn’t one of the loners!”

Which I found startling. Because I was a loner through much of school — admittedly not entirely by choice — and it wasn’t that bad. I enjoy being alone, not all the time, but some of it. It’s the popular kids, and especially the popular kid wannabees, who I pitied when I read that book. I felt — then and now — that there was something to be said for never compromising on your essential self in order to find a place in the social structure; better to be alone than to be someone other than yourself.

As limyaael says, there are pluses and minuses to being a loner. But it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not necessarily angsty or tragic, as so many people seem to assume. Especially if — and this is easier once you’re out of school — you can get to a place where solitude is respected, and not a subject for taunting. Not all loners need or want pity.

Or as limyaael says: It’s wonderful what can be done, when you start thinking of them as solitary people, not just loners. Remember: Not all loners are lonely.

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