Gary Parker

The Unique Loneliness Of Being Single When Your Friends Are In Relationshps

Last night after work, I went to the gym with two of my co-workers. We were gabbing about girl stuff while we warmed up.

"I need to get my legs strong for cowgirl sex!" my one co-worker said as she squatted.

My other co-worker laughed. "Jake* likes when I do this one thing to his butt ..."

I don't have a boyfriend. I'm also currently not having sex, so I figured I should stay out of the conversation. My input was NOT valuable here. So with nothing to contribute to the guy talk, I chose to focus more on perfecting my burpee form.

When I got home, I took a long, hot shower. I ate some pretzels. I threw my backpack on the floor, lit some candles and crawled into bed. There was a joint on my windowsill, rolled and ready to go, and I'd been waiting all day to smoke it. I lit one end and puffed slowly. Three puffs in, I was already too in my head to pay attention to the episode of "The Office" blaring in the background, so I just kind of sat there dwelling.

And I felt lonely.

Why the f*ck do I feel so lonely? Do other people feel this way when they're alone at home? I thought. Or is it just me? And if it is just me, then why is it just me? Ugh, here I go, spiraling ...

"Unworthy," a book that my boss had given me about cultivating self-love, was staring at me from its place on my nightstand. I thought about picking it up. Then I thought about opening my brand new coloring book lodged somewhere on my bookshelf between "Ishmael" and Mindy Kaling's “Why Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?"

It was like I was spending every moment of my post-work alone time warding off loneliness. That stupid f*cking relentlessly nagging loneliness.

Earlier that day, I'd asked my female co-workers in our company chat how many of them are in relationships and how many are single. Not everyone answered, but here were the responses from the girls who did:

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Sh*t. No wonder I feel so lonely. I spend my day surrounded by people in relationships. And no hate against them, but I kind of feel like a reject. A subhuman. Plain wrong for not doing what everyone else is doing.

My therapist told me that whenever those feelings of loneliness strike, I should sit with them, not fight them. Befriend them, even. This was hard for me to do because I always try to fight them by self-destructing: I'll get too high, too contemplative, eat to the point of a self-induced stomach flu.

So I didn't eat myself into a coma. I didn't color or read to distract myself, either. Instead, I sat cross-legged on my bed and looked out the window. I watched the people walk by beneath me. I noticed I was hungry and thought about making a meal. I heard my neighbor's dogs barking, begging my neighbor to take them outside. I wish I had a f*cking dog, I thought to myself while enveloped in strawberry-scented marijuana smoke.

And then I cried. It felt good to cry, I'll give my therapist that much. But I'd never tell her just how often I feel lonely. I don't want her to worry unnecessarily, so I'm telling you guys instead.

If I cried every time I felt lonely, though, I'd cry a helluva lot, and that's the problem. Because I feel lonely every time I'm alone.

So I try to avoid being alone as much as possible. But I can't spend my life running from myself.

How do I block out the outside world and just do me? How do I remember that my path is my path, and that path requires being alone a lot, and that just because it's different doesn't mean it's wrong?

Loneliness is a special kind of monster. It can consume you when you're in a room full of people, or it can sneak up on you when you're all by yourself. Loneliness is just a state of mind, but it can turn into a disease if you let it. And I've got to find a cure.

* Name has been changed.