On Being a Hermit

I’m not sure at exactly what point that I decided that being a hermit was not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve never made friends really easily, although I have made some very good and close friends over the years. I’ve just never been tremendously social; sometimes it just seems much more of a burden than it’s worth.

I was definitely well-trained for hermitdom (is that a word?) as a child. I didn’t have many friends and I learned early on how to spend time alone, whether I was watching TV, or drawing pictures of buildings and designing houses and stores and making maps of imaginary cities, or reading. It very often bothered me to be disturbed by the reality of having to talk to people and especially to have to explain what I was drawing or reading or watching. All the same, I felt lonely a lot of the time, although I wasn’t bothered enough to do anything much about it.

I guess I learned a few social skills by the time I hit high school. When I entered college and found myself thrust into an environment of people I actually liked and with whom I had things in common, I bloomed into something of a social butterfly. I even got so “social” at one point that I stopped going to class and suddenly found that I can’t even in college anymore. But even then I still spent a good deal of time alone, sometimes by choice and sometimes not.

The real test came the first time I moved away from my hometown. I learned a lot about spending time alone then, even though I really tried to meet people. I still believed at that point that there was something inherently wrong with being alone, especially in places like bars, restaurants, and movie theatres. Apparently, the social skills I’d acquired in college weren’t serving me too well without my support group. I was depressed. But I was also learning a lot about myself. All in all, it doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect.

I did finally meet a whole new circle of friends, even in “soulless” Charlotte. These were some of the most bizarre friends of my entire life, making some of my unusual San Francisco acquaintances seem positively boring in comparison. I’m still in touch with some of the saner members of this crowd.

My first few years in San Francisco were an intense “social” period for me. I surprised myself with my capacity for meeting interesting people. And for picking up fun sex toys in bars and sex clubs. Funny thing was, though, that most of the people I met faded away pretty quickly. Except for my roomie of almost six years, I don’t much talk to (or even see) most of my crowd from the first years I spent here.

There also never seemed to be that one really close friend that I called every day, had dinner with on a regular basis, went to movies with, etc. This was really odd for me, as I’d usually had a friend like that even in my bleakest periods.

All the same, it seems I was always running around doing SOMETHING those first few years here: going to parties, hanging around in the Mission or Lower Haight or (gasp) even the Castro. I had a boyfriend for a relatively long period of time. After I finished with him, I had several “fuck buddies” I played around with between one-night stands. I hit a point where it was hard for me to go anywhere without running into someone I knew, which always seemed to me something that wasn’t supposed to happen in “the big city”.

It was at this point when I started doing Planet SOMA. Things have been going downhill ever since. I don’t think it has anything really to do with the web site, although email has made it easier for me to avoid face to face contact. I’m actually spending less time in front of the computer lately.

But I’ve noticed that it’s increasingly rare that I actually leave the house and do things. When I bother to go out drinking at all, it’s pretty much ALWAYS in the neighborhood. I’m not exploring the rest of the city anymore. It’s rare that I see people I know when I go out. I haven’t picked up anyone in months. I used to cover a lot of ground and see a lot of people and places. Now I read a lot of books. I watch too many “Star Trek” reruns.

Many people have given up on me. I almost never have phone messages, probably because I’m so bad about calling back and arranging meetings. I’m hesitant about making social commitments. For a couple of weeks earlier this year, I rarely left the house at all other than to go to work or Safeway. Thanks to my friend Sarah, I do drag myself out on the occasional Saturday afternoon bookstore/thrift store/burger excursion.

So what’s the story here? Am I just getting old? Are the habits learned in childhood coming back to take over my life? Have I just become a bitter old curmudgeon who is too impatient with the world which surrounds me to be an active participant therein? Or is it just a phase?

I’m not really moping or depressed or anything like that. I just don’t seem to have the energy or the inclination to DO much lately. Should I be worried about this or should I just bask in the joys of being a hermit? I’m not really sure.


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