Loneliness is a terrible thing.
I think it’s one of the major drivers of male suicide, and I see it all around me.
I can’t speak to the female condition. I am not a female. And while I’m sure the ladies have their own issues, I’m not a lady so I’m not about to dig around in there.
But I am a man. And I know that many of my friends suffer from loneliness.
They do not have a partner, or a close circle of friends, or a few best mates, or even a family. They are alone, and they are lonely.
As a consequence, they become depressed. How could they not? To not have anyone beside you to share both the good times and the bad – and having someone there to share both of these things is crucial – is appalling.
I have, on occasion suffered from loneliness myself. They were dark times. Times when I questioned my worth, ie. “I’m lonely because I’m a pig of a creature and no-one wants anything to do with me”, and times when I wondered what the point of living was because there didn’t seem to be much point if I was to live lonely.
Now I’m an only child. So I am used to being alone. I enjoy being alone and I like my own company very much. Being alone is very different to being lonely.
One chooses to be alone. One does not choose to be lonely. Lonely seems to happen for all sorts of reasons. The death of a partner, a divorce, friends moving on with their lives while yours seems to remain in stasis, people growing apart, friendships dissolving for various reasons.
In many ways Social Media offers a vague, rather Potemkin Village solution to loneliness. Hence its ever-growing popularity. It is possible to connect with people on Social Media and maybe put one’s loneliness in a box for a while.
But for all of that, it’s not the kind of true connection I reckon blokes want or need. There has to be a tactile, face-to-face thing going on, a relationship, in the true sense of the word.
Dating sites seem to be the new and now only way to meet a partner these days. I know a few of my friends have found happiness that way. I haven’t trawled any of them myself, and I understand that things like Tinder offer one-night stands, which is certainly a more efficient way of getting laid than trawling late-night bars and clubs, or waiting for a wedding so you can gronk on a pissed bridesmaid.
I have known men who have been lonely for so long they’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a partner they can share their lives with. When they have found such a partner, they have literally blossomed. Their transformation is epic.
I have known men who have lost a partner and simply cannot be bothered starting over. Their loss is so vast, their heartbreak complete. It doesn’t really matter whether that loss is due to death, betrayal, or she simply leaves you because she wants something else. The finality is the much the same.
And loneliness is not just a thing older blokes experience. Young blokes are just as susceptible – and less able to cope because they haven’t got years of half-arsed coping skills to fall back on.
It’s a jungle out there for young blokes. Incels are a real thing. I am horrified by the stories my 26-year-old son has told me, about how the entire dynamic of the male-female interaction has changed since I first went fishing in that delightfully-perfumed lake.
In this case, Social Media causes far more harm than good. Young people live via TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. Us older folks seem to get by with Facebook and Twitter. We aren’t even sure how or why that other stuff even works, but we know it’s a crucial adjunct to any young person’s love-life.
Don’t blame them. We made them the way they are. We could hardly prepare them for Social Media and its impact since we ourselves didn’t have a clue about it.
So male loneliness is a huge problem, most assuredly and obviously in western cultures like ours, where men are meant to be rocks. They keep their emotions bottled up inside and always present a brave and positive face to the world, because they’ve been raised to do so. Stiff upper lip, and all that.
Wogs are different. Our lives are passion and emotion incarnate. Our problem stems from the fact we live in a western society which frowns upon public displays of male passion and emotion.
So I tend to think male loneliness is a much bigger problem in our society than it is in Europe. It is certainly a huge problem in Asia, where male emotion is also frowned upon. You only have to look at the bizarre hermits who live in Japan and Korea, never leaving their rooms. Their loneliness has become their armour against a world too hard to deal with.
I think male loneliness is tied to an entire range of issues facing blokes today. Where once we walked upon a path that was more or less clearly laid out before us, that is no longer the case. The very qualities that made men such superb providers, warriors, and protectors, are now viewed in a negative light.
So men adapt as best they can. There isn’t a map given them to navigate this new landscape, so they do what they can to try and fit into the new way things are. Most succeed, for we are hugely adaptable.
Some don’t. It’s all too hard. The rules are unclear. Or ever-changing. These blokes choose the path of least resistance, and that’s usually the path that leads them straight to loneliness. After all, no-one can criticise you, or correct you, or offer you advice, if no-one is with you and you spend your nights drinking beer in front of the TV or indulging in self-destructive behaviour because if no-one else gives a shit about you, why should you?
I know. I’ve been there. It sucks balls and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. So you tell yourself it is what it is – a statement of the stunningly obvious if ever there was one.
But it does not have to be what it “is”. In fact, it must cease to be what it is, and it must be driven to become something else, if the bloke is to have any of the happiness we all crave and deserve from time to time.
If you wish to de-lonely yourself, it’s no longer a workable thing to declare that you are the way you are and the world must accept you that way. You’re lonely because you ARE the way you are, and for that to change, you must change.
At the end of the day, that’s the thing. And it’s entirely your thing. Only you can change you. You can allow life and its various cruelties and betrayals to kick you into a pit, and stay there, lamenting your situation, or you can decide you will not allow this.
If you need to talk to someone, then do that. That is not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s what blokes do when the obstacle seems insurmountable. You reach out for a hand. Another bloke will take that hand and help you. Because we do our best work together and we share much of the same pain.
If you think professional help is needed, and it may well be, then you get ten free sessions with a therapist via your doctor’s referral. This is a lottery, but you may be lucky and find a good one, and what the hell have you got to lose by trying?
So be as alone as you want. Riding your bike is as alone as it gets, and that’s a wondrous thing. But do not give in to loneliness. Do not permit it to rule your life. We aren’t here for all that long as it is, and if an effort needs to be made along that journey, the make the damn effort.
Make the journey worthwhile.
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