Sometimes I confuse myself. This morning, I woke up knowing the only thing I wanted to do today was lie in bed, watch Netflix, and eat leftover thai. I didn’t have any expectations for the day – a refreshing change of pace. Something about not having a single obligation for an entire day feels liberating. I imagine some people use free days to reconnect socially by getting lunch with a friend or calling relatives they haven’t spoken to in a while. It wasn’t that I was completely against the idea of interacting with people today, it was more that I didn’t have a problem not doing that.
I’m wondering if this is a holdover from last summer. I spent so much time wallowing in loneliness that the sensation became sort of comfortable. It’s got me wondering if I’ve become too comfortable being alone. Furthermore, it’s making me wonder if there’s any harm in that. I think most people would agree that the cruelest punishment is solitary confinement, but that’s not what I’m really talking about. I’m talking about being okay with spending six nights a week mostly on my own with books, manicures, and Justin Timberlake on repeat. When my one social obligation came around on Saturday night, I welcomed it. But it came and went, and on Sunday morning, a day in bed on my own seemed perfectly wonderful.
Last night I went to a dinner and a comedy show with an academic. The conversation prior to the comedy show ranged from classic literature to dealing with that dirty feeling you get after watching too much of something like Louis CK or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. At one point, he started to deconstruct some of the comedy shows I wasn’t very familiar with (Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm) in order to persuade me to watch them. I followed this thread of deconstruction throughout the rest of the night. Over wine, I began to analyze our conversations, wondering if we touched on the typical date conversation topics. In those conversations, you’re each trying to decide if you want to invest more in each other. But listing favorite bands, movies, books, and television shows only reveal so much about a person, right? By the time we got to the comedy club, I was in full deconstruction mode, doing quick dissections of the jokes.
But my dissections were shallow and obvious. One comedian said he was saving up to buy a firetruck so he could safely drive home drunk. “Firetrucks are supposed to be speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. Have you ever seen a firetruck get pulled over? No.”
The dissection (which I kept to myself) was something like, “It’s funny because it’s absurd. The idea of saving for a firetruck to support alcoholism is absurd. The image of a firetruck being pulled over is absurd.” Though my initial comedy analysis was simple and obvious, it made me start to wonder why I enjoy it so much. I admire the way a good comedian can quickly illustrate a complete story well enough to make an audience empathize. I admire the ways some comedians make us laugh at ourselves and how others make us ashamed. Comedy is more than just laughter, it’s the acknowledgement of human nature and its ridiculousness.
Anyway, I ended up spending most of the day in bed trying to learn more about comedy. I started reading And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft. While reading, I compiled a list of movies and television shows to watch and re-watch, and books to read: The Graduate, To Die For, Louie; The Office (UK), Arrested Development, Spaceballs; Catch-22, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love…I expect the list to grow tenfold by the time I’m finished with the book.
The twisted thing about today is that I did exactly what I wanted to do: no more than read a good book and watch some funny television. Yet, now that the day is done, I’m a little sad because I feel like I could have been more social. I always get like this after spending a day on my own, even if I’m fulfilled and pleased with my endeavors. A couple weeks ago, I spent the day with e.e cummings’s six nonlectures, feeling myself become more inspired by each page. But just like today, after sunset, I was left feeling lonely. It felt like mental masturbation; as if I’d rather spend the day with a book – something I can interpret and manipulate for myself – than forge a connection with someone else. That’s not actually true, but I’m afraid resistance to reach out to people could be interpreted that way.
Yet I find myself telling you all about it here – an act that could be construed as a narcissistic indulgence – in an attempt to feel connected. Surely this must resonate with someone else. Other people must feel the tug of solitary pleasures while also craving deep connections, right? I’d like to think I keep posting for the same reason comedians take the stage night after night: to feel – or even just get a taste of – social resonance.