A Letter to Alice

Dear Alice,

It’s been sometime since I’ve written in response to a fellow blogger, but your recent piece, ‘The Insecurity of Being Single‘, really got me in the feels; as I believe people (by now, far younger than I), say. I hope replying by letter isn’t too… I don’t know… I just felt that a letter would help focus my thoughts.

Well, where to start?

How about the unavoidable question: What is it?

At risk of sounding creepy; it’s not your looks. I think it’s fair to say that you are, by objective-21st century-Western standards (whatever they’re worth; it’s too early for cynicism), higher than a 7.5. To level the playing field, I’ll put myself at around 6.6, on a good day. (God bless decimals.)

However, I’m not interested in numbers or ratings. And I would never try to convince someone to think differently about their appearance because I know how painfully difficult that can be. I honestly do. I wish I could convince everyone who has ever agonised over their appearance in the mirror that to do so isn’t necessary; but that would be desperately unrealistic and damned hypocritical.

So, is it personality? No!

Please, please, please, don’t change your personality. Truthfully, I think the quiet confidence of which you write – and which I detect – will stop you ever actually doing this, but I still can’t resist begging you not to anyway.

I take this almost personally because I know exactly how this feels. I have spent so long feeling like an outcast and I think only in the next few months will I finally feel like I’m somewhere I can – in an intellectual sense – feel at home.

I’ve thought about this endlessly. I’ve cried about it. I’ve stared aimlessly at whatever in the vain hope that a switch may flick and I’ll suddenly be passionate about football and I can ‘fit in’. It didn’t and I still don’t, entirely: I think I might be boring.

I believe I have that quiet confidence you spoke about, but only in very particular circumstances. (Everyone has their niche, of course.) Drop me in a room full of strangers and I could start a conversation quite happily. Ask me about international politics or the history of American imperialism in Latin America and I’ll be confident – I may even fall in love with the speaker for having asked such a question. But tell me to go and start chatting to a girl in a bar and even with four or five pints down me, and it’ll seem like one of the most awfully challenging things I could ever talk my way out of actually doing.

And women like confidence, right? In which case, I’m destined to spend the rest of my days alone, devoid of the romantic, emotional company I – by now, strongly – long for.

You can almost picture the insecurity boiling over, can’t you?

The truth is, I’m not an antisocial person – quite the opposite. I just happen to love one inescapably solitary pastime (reading). And whenever I thought I’d found someone with similar interests, they hurt me. But what can one do? I refuse to change and shed my passions; neither will I wear my heart anywhere other than on my sleeve, for I feel it plays no small part in the rest of my emotional makeup.

Finally, for the record, I agree about the difficulty of finding confidence as a single soul. I do remember quite distinctly the confidence I have felt in the past when I have been loved, and in love. So alien was it, that it actually surprised me somewhat.

I realise that this letter has been a bit of a brain dump, as one of my favourite bloggers, Hannah Rainey, is fond of saying (to my displeasure). I will, for both our sakes, try and end on a positive, as you so wonderfully do in your piece.

I have no idea if humans, as a loving species in need of company, should aim for either better or different. But I have, by pure coincidence, just stumbled upon a gem of a phrase by Bob Dylan in the first volume of his autobiography, Chronicles; and which I think can be helpful here.

Describing New Orleans, he writes:

Great place to be intimate or do nothing.

Wherever we may find ourselves on the spectrum of confidence, there will forever exist a whole world between those two domains. I believe that we should do our best to take each day as it comes and enjoy everything which that world has to offer.

With love,
Josh

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