Saturday, 18 February 2012

On female loneliness II

I posted this week about female loneliness, and had a few comments which made me reread what I had written in quite a new light.

What I had intended to talk about was the sadness of losing intimacy with one's friends, as one embarks on adventures like families or big jobs. And I was making the (feminist) point that for women this is a significant loss because their intimate relationships are such a major support, especially in their youth.

But this can then be read as "I don't get enough from my husband". At this moment, my husband is snoring gently, and I am typing away like a mad egret. Go figure. However, in general, husband is a jolly good conversationalist, and banter is high quality (when it isn't about mending the shower hose).

I suppose I WAS saying that part of the marital game seems to be a battening down of hatches, an avoidance of betrayal of the better half which I find laudable in many ways, but troubling in others.

I wouldn't want to live in a world in which I had to play the Stepford Wife everywhere: a good rant about one's beloved is vital, from time to time. I insist. But because there is such focus these days on supporting our kids to behave better, it ends up invading every part of my moral life: I feel unable to let rip to a friend, having just told a 5 year old it is unacceptable to have a tantrum. Plus these days I tend just to rant AT my beloved. After all, now that he's witnessed me giving birth, twice, it no longer seems feasible to hide my inner feral.

No one person could ever be sufficient to fulfil every emotional need. I am not enough in that sense for my husband: he has good friends he needs to talk to. And he does so with my blessing.

No, I'm talking about losing the kind of chat you can only have with a sympathetic friend, the warts-and-all examination of your deepest feelings, without fear of judgment or gossip. That's what goes. That's what there isn't time for. Because it takes time to really get to the heart of the matter with your friends. A whole meal, a bottle of wine, chit chat about the other stuff first, winnowing.

I love the friends I have made through my children's school — I love that shared experience, and the telegraphy above bobbing heads (although I also find it inordinately stressful to negotiate the playground, fielding dates, trailing letters, doling out snacks). But it is all too often just that: a snatched few seconds of rolling eyes, beginning a deep chat, and then the classroom door opening, or having to rush off to an appointment. It's the fragmentation in women's lives once they have kids that I loathe so much.

So I was trying to draw attention to different forms of loneliness that can beset women for very different reasons. I don't suffer these days from physical loneliness, indeed I absolutely crave time alone. But I do suffer from mental loneliness, because I am no longer with friends and colleagues from my former life, and do not have enough time to deepen the relationships with the lovely women I do now encounter.

What I miss is conversation.


litlove said...

I have always deeply appreciated the chats we've had, and enjoyed them immensely, so I do quite see what you're getting at here. If life weren't so overwhelmingly busy with just.. stuff, then we'd probably chat more often. Husbands are wonderful, but they go through everything we do, and are too intimate. You need the distance that comes with good friendship, if that makes any sense, to get a real perspective on things that trouble and provoke.

lulu's missives said...

Having gone through my divorce, I am now back to 'On female loneliness 1' but with a curious child. I do find myself having very long phone calls with a few people, but more often then not, I'm wishing that I had long phone calls with my friends.

You're absolutely right, it is the conversation, the in-depth conversation that is missed.