The word ‘loner’, in my culture, is shorthand for wild, bearded hoarder type people. Women with long, brittle grey hair who live in crumbling houses full to bursting with manky old newspaper cuttings, rotting teabags and cats. Men with monstrous red noses and no teeth, who drink cans of super tenants on park benches, clutching crumpled pictures of ex-wives and screaming ‘fuck ya’ at passing children. Loners are the kind of half-humans you cross the road to avoid, in case the crazy explodes from their souls and scuttles menacingly towards you like a sinister swarm of synchronised cockroaches.
Because of this, ‘loner’ was the worst insult teenage girls at my cut-throat comprehensive could use against you. It was a potent weapon. A chilling slur that immediately ordained you as a freak-bird: the skinny, studious girl who sits at the front of the class, talks to teachers, knows about philosophy and sometimes comes to school with her trousers on inside out.
No-one wants to be that girl.
Not in Plumstead.
Not at 13 – it’s too soon to give up on life. Too early to have your peers acknowledge that it is your destiny to end up outside Morrisons (which we hadn’t even invented in South East London in 1995, but you know, some of my peers were witches and psychically predicted the meteoric rise of the little-known northern retailer less than a decade later which would result in a store in Thamesmead – it’s a shame they were so busy getting pregnant and taking the piss out of me for having no tits, instead of investing in the stock market) wearing only a stained T-shirt and soiled knickers, singing aggressive Christmas carols at passers-by in June.
The antidote to being a loner was pretty straightforward: surround yourself with comrades at all costs. Even when those comrades were moronic fat bitches. This was my teenage tactic. Quantity over quality every time. My friends were spiteful plump teenage human shields who could use their venom and puppy-fat beer-bellies to deflect attention away from the crazy-rays leaking out of my pores. It was not a happy time.
I don’t know why I was so bothered about being labelled a loner when I was an adolescent, because now I happily give myself that title: ordaining myself Queen Freak-Girl in a coronation ceremony that takes place in half in my kitchen, while I stir pasta sauce and sup on a glass of red, and half in my mind, where I wear heavy velvet robes and kneel before a faceless statesman who solemnly places a jewel-encrusted crown atop my peroxide crop, while crowds of restless freak-citizens wave flags and cry patriotic tears of joy.
Perhaps my psychic witch-peers were correct and this blog is a 21st-century incarnation of the pavement outside Morrisons. Like my Nan says, as long as I’m happy.
Loner-dom is well underrated in our society, and I think we should do something about it. It is, surely, not those of us flying solo – indulging every whim we can afford, satisfying ourselves with food we like, casual lovers we fancy, books we love – who’ve got the problem? It’s the rest of the world. The people who can’t be alone – who actively choose, in the moments when they haven’t got to be at work listening to knob-ends chunter on about bullshit, or at the shops waiting for harassed strangers to pay for pointless wares, to snuggle up on the sofa next to someone who is going to either a) fart, b) mind if you fart, c) want to watch Match of the Day on the telly.
I know there are some sane couples who have separate ‘studies’ they can retire to for the necessary hours of solitude. The problem is that these people have the flaw in their personalities that has resulted in them being rich enough to afford two spare rooms and posh enough to carefully structure their time in order to maintain levels of privacy sufficient to ensure stable mental health. I don’t know about you, but my experience of living with non-posh people is that they do not give a shit if you’ve given them prior notice, shut your study/bedroom door and settled down to enjoy the new Kate Atkinson. They will barge into your space uninvited and shout mildly humorous anecdotes from their day at you anyway. Which will result in a lot of suppressed rage, and occasional violence.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for seeing friends and family, should you have them, for a couple of hours on a Friday or Saturday night (as I have previously expressed on this very blog). But come on people. You’re telling me you prefer spending your precious weeknights worrying about methane and watching sport to painting your toenails, chomping on a big bowl of garlic pasta, farting and watching late night QVC? Seriously? You obviously need to pay more careful attention to my advice.