U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew Crowder learned that he can live alone, but is willing to admit that he’d rather be cuddling.
I have been visiting GMP for the last few months and many of the articles have spoken to me in one way or another. The other day I found the article “Can Men Live Alone” by Tom Matlack and from the moment I saw the title I knew that it was for me. When I sat and read it, I found that it spoke to me in ways that I have not been spoken to in a great while.
You see, I am a 33 year old divorced father of a wonderful seven year old girl. I have been separated/ divorced for a year and a half now and haven’t been in a relationship for about seven months now. Being and living alone is what I do. It is the life that I am living right now.
The article brings up a valid question though: Can a man live alone? There are many aspects to this question and many have given their answers to it. Some say that it is a residual Oedipal complex that makes it hard for men to live alone while others don’t even notice it. When many in society see a single woman who lives alone think, “That poor girl, can’t find her a husband.” Or, “when is she going to find a husband to take care of her?” The same is not necessarily true for men. Most do not bat an eye when they see a single man living on their own. If they do have an opinion on it though, they often times confer negative conations to it such as “He is just like that Barney Stinson guy on TV, just playing the field with no care for the future.”
Stereotypes like this on both sides of the argument are harmful to our society and I feel, more importantly, hurtful to the person that they are being thrown at. In my case it is hurtful. I am not single of my own choice. While getting divorced was not my decision I see it now as something that was and is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It is also a very good thing for my daughter. She has two parents and a step-parent that love her and want nothing but the best for her and she doesn’t have to live in a home where mommy and daddy aren’t happy. She has told me many times that she has “The Best of Both Worlds” now, but that is a different subject for a different time.
Yes, I am alone and it is not my own choice, but I have embraced it. This is a time where I can truly re-find myself and go back to being myself. I have even let my inner geek by out by renaming my apartment, my “Fortress of Solitude”. For a while I dreaded being alone. I wanted nothing more than to be with someone. I needed to fill that void in my life that was left by the loss of my wife and family. I started filling that void with anyone who would fill it which not very healthy to say the least. It caused my depression that I was feeling to grow deeper and darker each time. But I kept on doing it because I saw being a single man who was alone as being a weakness. This is where my thought process went wrong in the process.
Being alone isn’t a weakness at all. It is a natural part of life for many. The weakness is not embracing the time you spend alone. I have grown accustomed to being alone. I read one article on GMP about how the writer finds having a drink by himself is when he can clear his thoughts and enjoy the solitude of that drink. For me, it is going to a movie by myself. I can go in to a theater on my own and when the lights go down and the previews start to roll I forget about what is going on at work and life and in my mind I am transported into the movie world for a couple of hours. I like seeing movies with someone, lifting the arm rest and cuddling up close just like the next guy, but if I am with someone else I have them to think about while I am there and I can’t turn my brain off like I need to.
Someday I do hope to recapture that “lightning in a bottle” feeling that comes with being with the right person. I have felt that since my divorce, but unfortunately it was not the right time for it. I miss making dinner together or snuggling up on the couch under a blanket and watching a good movie or tv show. It doesn’t matter what the show or movie is, it could be Rambo (which according to “The Bro Code” by Barney Stinson is mandatory viewing if it is on tv) or The Bachelor/Bachelorette, it’s the being with someone that you love that is what matters.
Like Tom Matlack said in his piece, “The idea that us guys all really just want to cuddle cuts against the stereotype that what we really want is sex with no strings attached except perhaps a pop tart in the morning if things end up going all night.” I couldn’t agree more with him. It does cut against the stereotype. Maybe I am like him in that I am “particularly needy and sometimes neurotic man of a certain ilk.”
For me, cuddling is comforting. It is that feeling of safety and closeness that being alone I don’t have anymore. Maybe that is why when I have my daughter on the weekends I look forward to cuddling up with my daughter on the couch and watching the same reruns on Disney Channel over and over again. With my last girlfriend it became a running joke that I would always fall asleep while we were cuddling. At first she was a little hurt, but I explained that it was actually a compliment to her. You see, I am people pleaser, sometimes to the point of being overly neurotic about it. The fact that I was able to doze off meant that I was comfortable and felt safe so I let my guard down, my brain stopped over thinking and I was just feeling again.
Now that we have seen my life both with and without someone we can go back to the original question, “Can Men Live Alone?” That Tom asked here on GMP and also in the New York Times, Well, I know now that I can live alone. Just because I live alone doesn’t mean that I necessarily like all aspects of it, or that I have decided to live alone for the rest of my life. I’m okay living alone, many nights with no one to talk to but my dogs and eating take out on my couch or at my desk. I have adjusted to it well and enjoy many aspects of it. It’s all about what you do with the cards that are dealt to you. I’m playing mine pretty well now after fumbling through the first few hands. I know that someday my “Fortress of Solitude” will become a castle built for two, but until then I’m a man that can live alone and I am very proud of it, despite what anyone else says about it.
Photo of U.S. Army Spc. Leo Leroy Courtesy of The U.S. Army