Years ago I worked in a natural foods cooperative in New Mexico. That place was full of interesting people who were in that twenties stage of life, in between degrees, or ideas, or road trips. I fell into all three of these categories at the time, and my years at the Co-op are among those that I remember most fondly, and I have several lasting friendships that were born there.
I had been working at the Co-op for a few months, when I finally bit the bullet and asked one of my co-workers out for coffee. I had been working there daily, and even though everyone was surely nice to me, no one was overly friendly.
This always happens to me. Always.
I was in my early twenties, and battling the general insecurity that is such an inherent part of those years, I asked my co-worker straight out if I was doing something to turn people off. I remember so well how she looked at me and exclaimed, "Are you kidding?" I told her that I hadn't managed to get to know anyone yet, even though I would surely like to. Her responses to me were limpid and honest.
She said, "You just seem so... so aloof. Like you just have everything you need and don't care about adding anything extra. Like you really have your shit together."
At the time, this comment led to a flood of comments like "That is so not true" and "I don't feel like that at all" from me. I had gone through this same experience with the few men I had had relationships with up to that point, who always told me they never approached me for the sole reason that they thought I wouldn't pay any attention to them.
Looking back on that ever so enlightening conversation with a woman who would come to be one of my dearest friends, today at forty I can admit that she was right. Not about my having my shit together! Or even about me having everything I need. She was right about me not caring to add anything extra.
Extras are something that I've never liked, and never been good at. I'm a horrible person to chat with about the weather. I don't tend to dedicate my time to anything that doesn't matter in an important way to me. I don't have superficial relationships, and if I was to have a birthday party of my dearest friends, the room would not be very full. I walk right past people I know and don't say hello to them, for the simple reason that I don't see them. I cannot count how many times so-and-so has said to me, "You walked right past me the other day and didn't even say Hi. You didn't even blink!"
I have long considered this to a kind of fault in me, like a certain kind of arrogance. I'm rude. I'm self-absorbed. But you know what I'm finally realizing at this late hour?
I'm just a loner. And my best friends, my husband, and all the people I love best, are loners just like me.
I'm not aloof, I'm just alone.