Alone in a Crowd

April 23, 2012 § 57 Comments

I went to a very crowded gig the other night in a wonderfully seedy dive.  Two of the band members are good friends whom I admire and revere not least because their music is properly brilliant even for someone who doesn’t much care for music and I want to go to all their gigs.  I could hear them again and again and I had a lovely time.  The place was bunged with old mates and one of my children, of whom I felt very proud, accompanied me.

A total stranger with rather long grey hair, came up to me and spontaneously complimented me on my hair; an unusual occurrence, because my beachy hair is beyond low maintenance because I can’t afford hairdressers so it very much has about it the air of take it or leave it and is sometimes – due to having children of school age – even the all-singing, all-dancing playground for nuclear-resistent nits.  He did it in a nice way, and it worked.  I smiled and thanked him and felt  fleetingly good that something about me had prompted something, however base, in another human being to comment favourably.  Later I was told this man, delightful though he is (one of the band, I realised), has a history of living in a substance-induced parallel universe and he makes passes at every woman who has a pulse.  Oh, how comforting that I qualify!  Ha!

Part of me, despite him and despite the nice time, felt like shit.  Like the sad reject, unmarried and alone in the crowd, if surrounded by friends.  Everyone was married, and the only reason a handful weren’t was because they were still not legally allowed into films with an 18 certificate.  I looked at my married friends, having a normal weekday night out, glass of beer in hand, smiling and chatting to each other and laughing and getting a little bit smashed but not very because it was a school night, and my prevailing thought was how lucky they are but they don’t realise it, and I always realised it, but why should they?  What they have is normal and ordinary, and only to me is it wonderful and extraordinary, and listening to the music, gin in hand, I fixed the brave face in place but honestly just wanted to cry.

Repellent self-pity.

And pathetic.

Fucking pathetic.


§ 57 Responses to Alone in a Crowd

  • Lydia says:

    i suspect you’d be more likely to find a suitable man if you joined a choir or went to the opera. I’ve never had such a good year for men as this year. Hoever I don’t see what married couples have as wonderful and extraordinary . Plenty of them are as miserable as sin and 30% of both sexes cheat. Of course they may be happy because they having their cake and eating it I suppose like DSK and plenty of women too.

    You just need to cheer up. Look I just terminated a short relationship with a really suitable widower who would be good for lots of women on here. Perhaps I should sell these men for a commission. I have a possible other one I might reject this week too although he’s never been a father so that might put some off.

  • aj says:

    Many of those you saw looking happy will go to bed next to their spouses and stare at the ceiling in misery, wondering how their life became full of so much unhappiness.

    I wish I could make it ok for you..

  • I agree with Cindy and aj. *hugs* x

  • Penny says:

    Hello Plankton. Your not pathetic, I would have felt exactly the same in the circumstances, agree with you too about people leaving normal lives with husbands/boyfriends, and yes some of them are happy, we can’t keep saying they arent. Simple thing, yesterday reading sunday magazine “presents a man can buy their wife/girlfriend” lots of sparkly things, lol! when do I get a present from a man?! ah well chin up. Best thing is to go to a gig with a friend who is the same age etc, who is in a similar circumstance. Anyway the guy sounds like a no hoper, druggie idiot, and who wants to have anything to do with someone like that?
    Chin up Plankton, just a bad moment.

  • Barry says:

    As a member of Two Bands, I resemble that remark . Please don’t descend into self pity P . Stop the friggin’ analysys and go with the flow. If you were flirted with….GOOd, don’t immediatly demand a blod test and HIV certificate ! Lovely “Friends” who destroyed you moment of pleaser eh? You are above this idiocy methinks …next time enjoy the moment!

  • Jayne says:

    I agree with everything said on here. When I was married I put on a very good front but I wasn’t truly happy. I’ve now been single for a few years and have dated a fair bit (in my 50’s, so there are fellas out there!) but not found anyone I would want to spend the rest of my life with. Sometimes, when I’m feeling low, I wish there was someone at home who would wrap their arms around me and tell me everything will be okay, but there isn’t and I can deal with that more than I could an unfulfilling relationship. Barry is right, take a compliment, flirt back…it’s great fun, it makes the world go round and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t lead to anything, it’s good for the soul. Stop looking P and let it happen, there’s plenty of time yet. And maybe ditch the ‘friends’. xx

    • The Plankton says:

      Thanks for this, Jayne. Points taken, though I will never ditch the friends because I adore them and it’s not their fault that they are married and I am not. Pxx

  • june says:

    O poor dear P, been there know how you feel.

    I went to london friday with my two coupled up younger friends, and we had a lovely day, age diffference is no problem,i suppose as i have no kids, technically i am old enough to be their mum,ones mum is dead and the other doesent get on with hers, i do feel a bit maternal towards them, but we are good friends more than anything. On train home they said o god spose house will be tip with men on their own in it, the usual stuff women say, and i said mine will be same as i left it. And i thought thats it P isnt it, the normal things of coupled up life, missing for us and noone with a partner really does understand, lots of my friends admit they dont, they admire me for dealing with it, but what the hell choice do i have. One of my friends, the one who lives nearer to me gave me a lift home from station and she was saying, and her relationship is up and down believe me, i shouldnt moan i know what it was like when we split up as they did a couple of years ago, i do know how it is for you june, i wish i could help you more, but again what can friends do, the fact we have them is lovely P, how much worse without them. Yes we know relationships not perfect, but then as we know nor is being alone and i guess like me youve thought god will it always be this way, but at moment i have to say i can see no way of changing it, certainly not dating websites and i admit the fact i just dont fancy most men of my age at all, doesent help.

    Yes it is nice to go to events with people in same position as someone said, but i dont have that many unattached friends do you P, i dont seem to get on that well wtth them, ive only one i do,other unattached women seem to me to be hooked on anti depressants to cope with it, or running around trying to convince everyone what a wonderful time they are having as single women but you dont believe a word of it. Its only with the one plankton friend i mentioned and on here i can indentify.

  • Jill says:

    And I second everything Jayne says. She speaks extremely good sense, and what she says mirrors my own experience. In the final years of my marriage, I kept up such a good front that none of my friends even suspected how bad things were, in my desperate and dogged attempts to preserve the marriage I never had but so wished for. Now that I have been separated for 18 months, I am constantly amazed by being the recipient of all kinds of unsought-after confidences from those same friends, often about the deficiencies of their husbands and their marriages.

    Yes, there ARE some lovely men out there, and it is a fact that a good many of them are feeling exactly the same as we are. I do think that “getting out there” is no bad thing, however, and I made a vow not to refuse any invitation or opportunity to do something new, however alien, which is standing me in good stead. For someone as youthful as you, P, there is indeed “plenty of time yet”, but for those of us for whom 60 is closer than 50, perhaps a bit of proactive “looking” is advisable! And why not actively encourage your really good married friends to do a bit of judicious match-making while you’re at it?! Just think how happy (and smug?) they will be when they succeed…….

    You go girl, P….and xxx Jill (hanging on every word)

  • Natasha says:

    I never usually comment on blogs, but your last entry has prompted me to say something…

    I wonder whether what you call ‘self-pity’ is actually a mild depression, most certainly, neither would be pathetic, at all… Just a normal response to a difficult situation.

    I have recently come out of a 7 year relationship that has left my self-esteem in tatters, and am busy building myself up again. For the first time in my life (where I have always felt empty and afraid if I didn’t have a man) I know, and finally completely understand, that a relationship is not the answer to anything… in fact it often makes it worse..

    A local homeless man stopped me in the street last week and asked me to marry him. I thanked him, declined politely and told him he’d made my day… he had, he totally had. I’m grabbing it all with both hands.

  • Barry says:

    I’m with Natasha here, there is definitely a little depression lurking behind the words I feel.

  • Yet again, a vignette drawn from my own life. (Well, except for the nits — LOL! — but I don’t have kids.) Sometimes you just have to accept you feel rotten, as I do today. It doesn’t help that it’s the beginning of a hideously stressful work week, and that the rain is coming down in torrents. I went to a music festival in Europe a couple of weeks ago, and over the next couple of weeks will be spending several evenings with friends at the opera and at Carnegie Hall here in NY — pretty nice, huh? I know I’m lucky in that regard. And yet when I boarded the plane to return home after the festival, I thought to myself, “why did you bother?” And when I return home alone on each of these upcoming evenings I know I will feeli like an empty shell. I’ve got no wisdom on this one, Plankton.

  • Barry says:

    I am at a loss to help as well. This is another case in need of professional help I feel.
    A little step is perhaps to think positive….share your wealth with others who are really less fortunate, homeless, hungry , abused, abandoned.
    The joy you will find will help to alleviate your feelings of self depreciation and loss of direction and fulfillment in your actually wonderful life .

  • Stefanie Mills says:

    I know exactly how you feel!!! I am old enough and wise enough now that I no longer envy the crazy in love people, gazing into one another’s eyes, oblivious to all but each other. I envy the middle-aged couple, walking hand in hand, doing the normal couple things…sharing life, day to day. Yes, they are so fortunate, and I want what they have so badly I could cry!!!

  • Stefanie Mills says:

    Me again. I agree that not all the apparently happy couples are happy, but I know quite a few couples were well who are extremely content and happy. I also know many single women who lead full, happy lives without a man. I personally want very much to be in one of those happy marriages one day, and I feel sad and left out at times when witnessing a couple in such a marriage. So, I understand just how you felt!

  • Elle says:

    Plankton, I think your friends should have left well enough alone after the man complimented you. They probably were worried that he wasn’t good enough for you but the reality is that he would have disappeared into some hazy druggy sunset and you would have gone home feeling happy about the compliment.

    Sometimes well-meaning married/coupled-up friends can interfere too much with their single friends. So what if the man chats up everyone with a pulse? If he makes people happy along the way isn’t it better than standing around with a scowl all the time.

    These days I’m trying to be grateful for small things. They add up.

  • EmGee says:

    Hurray for Plankton Tuesdays!!!

    I guess it’s all been said;
    Friends’ comment that the guy who complimented your hair was worthless, were unthinking and didn’t need to burst your bubble. What, were they afraid you’d run off with him on such a measly enticement! Hmmmmph!

    No we don’t usually know whether people are in happy marriages or not. I know one couple who is, and you can just see it, they wouldn’t dream of being with anyone but their spouse, ever. The exception that proves the rule.

    Self pity *is* mild depression and afflicts us all, but it is also easy pull yourself out of, unlike serious depression, if one only gets off the pity pot and starts thinking and moving in a positive direction.

    I have friends in bands that I sorely hate to miss when I know they are playing. One is quite famous in another band (with a band on the ‘side’), whose bandmate is well respected among his peers, and one solo performer- “the next best thing that never was” as he puts it- who chugs along anyway because he can’t imagine another life. There is nothing like the high I get, getting to see them play.

  • lulu says:

    Dear Plankton, totally understand how you feel. And you are not “pathetic”. I recently met up again with an old friend – someone who I met through work over 20 years ago and who I ended up going travelling with. We have been in touch over the years but not seen too much of each other. We are both the same age, both worked at the same jobs, yet she had the good fortune to meet someone in a club in her twenties, married him, and they now have three sons together. She is a full-time mum, living in a lovely old-style cottagey house in Norfolk and doesn’t have to work as her husband covers the outgoings. She spends her ‘free time’ walking along the beach, going for coffee and just enjoying life.
    I, on the other hand, have continued to work full-time, live on my own, and find things hard financially. I am also not in a relationship.
    This was the first meet-up for over two years and it was so wonderful to see her again as she is such a delightful person, yet our lives now couldn’t be more different. When I left her to drive home, I felt such an overwhelming emptiness and sadness that she was going back to a busy house with a family full of half-term plans, yet my life has been restricted down to working to pay my bills and fighting the nightly isolation as best I can.
    I think so much of what happens to us is chance: she could never have met anyone, yet I could and the situations would be reversed now.
    I don’t envy her the life she is living, I am just very sad that mine so different.
    I don’t know what the answer is. I try acceptance of ‘what is’ as much as I can, I have friends, I try and pursue my interests, and yet … yet…. the emptiness and sadness is never very far away.
    It’s part of our human condition, this longing to be in a partnership, to feel supported and loved. It’s a very hard life without it. Yet, we do survive, and somewhere along I have faith that happiness will be back on the agenda.

    • The Plankton says:

      Thank you, Lulu; very true. Pxx

    • june says:

      So true lulu, i often think that why the hell was i the one who didnt meet anyone im not unattractive, a pleasant person, ive plenty of friends, people like me, seek me out i looked at facebook tonight and realised that of an old work friend of mine, who i knew at my old branch of my company where i worked before i moved to the city i now live in, i am only person she knew from there shes still in touch with, we ran into each other in city before christmas and she seemed so upset we had lost contact, now we are in touch again but noone else only me. Then i think so how is it there has never really been a significant other in my life,im obviously likeable,what the hell went wrong, how did i end up by myself.Seems so true of many of us on here, why us.

      Still guess we have friends,which does prove we not such awful people, i know it doesent make up for no significant other, its what we all want and need, but if we felt totally unloveable how much more awful that would be.

    • Lydia says:

      That living off male earnings thing is morally pernicious. Instead let women go out and earn their own money. You aren’t well off because you didn’t make the career choice this woman’s husband made rather than because you did not snare a rich man.

      • lulu says:

        Thanks Lydia, but my point is not about the money: she is by no means well-off, but she IS happy with her life, whereas I am not happy with mine. The crux of the matter is her meeting someone, by chance, who went on to be her husband and father of her children; I have never had such a chance meeting. None of my relationships were material for marriage or parenthood and thus I remain alone, unprepared to force a situation (i.e. marriage and children) onto a relationship that I could not see myself staying in.
        I do not wish to be richer per se, but I do wish to be happier.
        My life, compared with hers, feels empty and lonely and more fraught with the existential angst that makes daily living so hard sometimes.
        A partner who could support me financially would be the icing on the cake; however a partner who I could just have a genuine, meaningful, intimate, loving relationship with would make my life far more bearable than it is at present.
        That was my point really.
        Not everything is under our control.

  • Bridget says:

    I saw a film the other day which wasn’t particularly great but one line has stayed with me: “There are many ways to die but the worst is to carry on living all alone”.

    Nuff said!

  • anniebub says:

    Going to the gig was a great idea. The best. Just unfortunate about the grey-haired old pothead. But never mind. Next time there might just be that gorgeous unattached wicked looking character you have been in search of. A gig is a good place to find him. Surrounded by good married friends too means more chance for you to shine. Hang on in there Plankton. Your day will come.. and the prince etc., xx

  • ToneDeafSinger says:

    well I suppose Plankton if you are suffering so much at least it means you’re still alive… I don’t feel anything anymore. Starved of any sort of affection or communication from the early days of what I cannot bring myself to dignify with the word marriage, and starved of sex for 2 / 3 of it, I felt relief when it was over, but that’s it. I feel nothing now.

  • Dawn says:

    I clicked on the Meetup link that Jayne provided. There is one group in my area – a bunch of 20-somethings who play Dungeons & Dragons and the like. Unless they need a den mother, I probably wouldn’t fit in… It might be worth it to show up just to see the looks on their faces… 🙂 And that’s what I get for living on an island in the North Atlantic.

    I don’t feel like carrying on living all alone is a kind of death, though. I’ve come to rather enjoy my solitude. I suppose it helps that my marriage was a mis-match and whenever something goes wrong, like the car breaking down or some such, I usually think that it could be worse, I could still be dealing with it with the ex in tow (he of the running around in circles flapping his hands school of coping).

    I will never understand why people criticize someone for being down about being alone, though. If being in a relationship is so wonderful, should not the lack of one be, at the very least, slightly distressing? It’s a bit of a double standard (one of many).

    In any event, Dear P, enjoy the flirtations when they arrive, but don’t take them too seriously. There’s lots of fun to be had, single or otherwise. Just enjoy!

  • rosie says:

    Oh P, shit shit shit, from one who’s been there so many times!

    As for these people who say they can lead a happy, fulfilled life (what, all of it?) on their own, I keep hearing about them but, in nearly 50 years of being on the planet, have never actually met any. Which is not to say they don’t exist, just not in my orbit.

    And why wouldn’t loneliness cause depression? Surely they are inextricably linked? To those who say it’s just wallowing in self pity, I say YOU try spending your umpteenth weekend (I’ve lost count) on your own and then come back and tell me you’re not depressed.

    @MissBates, your post made me silently sob. I’m lucky enough travel for work and have an amazing trip coming up to somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit but the journey home from the airport is already at the back of my mind. Why fucking bother indeed. Maybe the airline will have invented an ejector button by then!

    • MissBates says:

      @Rosie Enjoy your trip “in the moment.” (That statement’s a little New Age-y for me, but it’s the best I can do!) I also know exactly zero people who find being alone for years on end “happy & fulfilling.” I’m not saying it’s not theoretically possible; nor am I saying that solitude is not a precious commodity (I myself absolutely require it at times); but in my fairly wide circle of friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues — nope. Not one person I know WANTS to be without a partner long-term, and that includes many, many clients from my practice (divorce law) who have survived hideous marriages. (Many want and treasure a brief respite of being completely on their own after such an ordeal — but not one aspires to a life w/o ever having another partner.)

      • june says:

        So true Miss Bates, friends say to me that they cant stand being on their own all dont know how you put up with it,The times when i was younger and my mum would say to me find someone june, you are an only child, wont always have me and your dad. Well i did have my dad til i was 62,lived with him til past 60 so suppose i never really experienced being alone all time and for past 4 odd years i have been alone and no i dont like it, i think i am past point of wanting to llve with someone permanently, i do need my space, but think you right noone wants to be alone for always, but when honestly you feel you will,how do you come to terms with it.

        Someone said on here about new friends group,ive loads of friends that isnt what you need, its that not having that someone. I know my standards are high for a women of my age, .and i see friends with partners putting up with things i wouldnt , is that what you have to do to not be alone,if only so many women wouldnt do this, perhaps it would be easier for us who wont put up with things, lots women seem to humilate themselves to have a relationship.but ive far too much self esteem for that. and as i said 60 plus men apart from odd one or two i know who have partners, leave me cold.

  • rosie says:

    ps, I don’t think P’s friends were out of order for warning her about this man. Who on earth needs some drug-addled doofus at this stage in life?

  • leftatforty says:

    And, does it matter whether the married are happy or unhappy, lonely at night or mating like rabbits? Why care what others might be feeling or projecting? The fact is that Planktons are alone in a crowd. “No one dies from lack of sex, people die from lack of love”

  • Chris says:

    Yer back on form planky. Every now and then you pop a gem like this….well worth waiting for !!

  • MissM says:

    I feel this question from Dawn deserves repeating: “I will never understand why people criticize someone for being down about being alone, though. If being in a relationship is so wonderful, should not the lack of one be, at the very least, slightly distressing?”

    I don’t get it either. It makes perfect sense to me that a person in need of intimacy will feel distressed by its lack in the same way that a person in need of food will feel hungry. As P put it so perfectly: “It is an actually wonderful life, yes, I do know that, even if intimacy is like oxygen and that’s what’s lacking.” I wish people would stop pretending that an intimate relationship is not an integral part of a fulfilling life. Maybe there exists a handful of people for whom this is not true, but they would have to be the exception rather than the rule. When an important part of life is missing, pain and distress as a result seems perfectly natural to me.

    A quiet little snort of agreement from me at Rosie’s suggestion for an ejector button in planes. I think it was Rosie (please forgive me if I am wrong) who thought up the idea of an “off” switch for life too, which many times I think I would have availed myself of had it existed.

    Also, the quote found by Bridget: “ ‘There are many ways to die but the worst is to carry on living all alone’. ” So true. There is some comfort in knowing someone else out there gets it.

    So many perceptive and poignant comments today, and some very real emotions being shared, expressed beautifully and totally the sort I can relate to. Since I do practise gratitude for the good things I do have in life, thanks to everyone who has written a comment here, and of course our original Plankton for creating this blog. At least one anonymous person from the internet whom you will never meet truly appreciates it.

  • Erin says:

    Dear P, please forgive the following bit of tough love. You have got to pull yourself out of this. I am speaking from experience here. It is very easy to slide into a funk that could last for months, even years (been there, done that). You will not meet people if you remain in this frame of mind. You will not. I know you don’t want to hear this but you have got to explore different ways of meeting people and you are going to have to put in the effort, lots of effort. But your effort will reap rewards. If I had not pursued internet dating, I would still be single now. Met no one at work. They were all married. Friends were all married. I fell into a funk that lasted 2 years. Then I tried internet dating, met a couple of people and didn’t put in the effort and quit. Another year and a half of funk went by until one day I realized I was 47 years old and didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. I went back to internet dating and put in the time and effort, went on the bad dates, went on the dates that were nice but no chemistry, emailed people who I had to turn down, dealt with disappointment of people who turned me down. Then I met my now husband who we’ve certainly had our moments and ups and downs over 6 years, but life is not a fairy tale. Marriage is not perfect. It’s a lot of work. But I am happy most of the time and couldn’t imagine not being with the old curmudgeon : )

    I guess what I want to say is you are better than this. You have a hell of a lot to offer. There are men looking for a woman like you. They will not knock on your door out of the blue. They might possibly be introduced to you through friends, but very possibly not. Meeting people through work is hit or miss too. You are English. Gather up what is left of your self esteem, hold your head up and make things happen. Quit waiting for things to happen to you. YOU make things happen. YOU can do it. You can do it! You owe yourself this! DO IT.

  • rosie says:

    Erin, I think you’re missing the point somewhat. P HAS been putting herself out there, going on dates and generally doing what you’re supposed to do to meet men. Five or so dates in less than a year wouldn’t be bad going for a 20-something, never mind a plankton. The sad fact is that these same men, for one reason or another, have got other ideas. Not P’s fault, surely. And, forgive me, but what does being English have to do with it?

    MissM, yes it was me who mentioned the ‘off’ button. I suspect if it were that easy there’d be a lot more people checking out. Don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not.

    As for my own Non Twinkle (the one my sister was supposed to be setting me up with) he texted today, apologising for his tardiness but that he’s been ill. And also that in the last couple of weeks he’s started seeing someone! Hilarious. Or it would be if it wasn’t so fucking tragic.

  • june says:

    Thats great advice Erin but P has been getting out etc it just hasnt happened for her , she might as shes still right side of 50 get somewhere on internet dating but she honestly wouldnt if she was over 60 or poss the wrong side of 50. i met an old friend today, we reconnected on facebook, shes had 2 marriages, herfirst husband was killed, she remarried, then divorced, and has just come out of a long term relationship, shes in her mid 50s, he was my age 8 yrs older than her, but she said he seemed to get so much older than her, i said yes thats why im alone,men of my age are too old, yes june she said god they would be too old for you. Yes thats the problem they are, ive looked at the website someone suggested for women meeting younger men but it seemed very london based and felt no good for me, to be honest it sounded a bit kinky, didnt seem right.

    i can indentify with so much people have said on here, iv e been there,i try and be positive , im healthy, in good shape for my age, have many lovely friends but im still alone too much and it is that lack of someone to do nothing with as someone said, i can find people to do things with,people fortunate enough to have friends can. On POF lately ive only had one pleasant normal sounding man and he lived 80 odd miles away, we do still message on here but a long distance relationship is a nono for me im afraid,i just dont want that, i like living where i do, my friends are here, my life is here, im just not prepared to travel long distances,home is where the heart is and my home is here.

  • Only me says:

    I find your posts so heartwrenching! I sincerley hope you find your true happiness..and a man who deserves you. Above all keep smiling. Hopefully it is just a matter of time. In the meantime your words are, as alot of others might confirm, our own similar thoughts.

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