I was ordering my favorite food from a quaint café I discovered recently. Setting up the table as elegantly as ever. With the right spoons, the right forks and the right glasses. For one. A candle that shimmers in the dim beauty of warmth. Poured myself half a glass of wine, and enjoyed my well-deserved meal.
Where is the partner for whom I’d do this, you ask? Or would do it for me, you say? For meals, to be made to feel special, for company, you say? Or because I am at the marriageable age, you say? Well, I don’t have to have a partner, because you think I must. I will have a partner, when I think I must.
Solitude in our country is pitied. It is used as a synonym for loneliness. 31 and unmarried? Poor girl, I often hear. How lonely you must be, I am often told. This assumption has to be questioned. The best company, the most empathetic, authentic company I can ask for, would be my own. If I feel lonely with myself, how on earth will I not be lonely with someone else? Does sharing physical space, amount to lack of loneliness? Do we all not stand with our own clouds, hoping to clear them one day?
Social structures refuse to acknowledge their deepest flaw – that there is hardly room for choice. Entwine into this patriarchal expectations from women, and voila! We have a heady cocktail that ensures women freeze in their tracks, agree in tying themselves to others, because it is expected. All because people refuse to see the difference, between alone and lonely. They refuse to understand that with solitude, comes the immensely empowering capabilities of introspection, reflection, articulation, independence and peace.
Why must we as women, always be co-dependent to exist? Do we not exist alone, in our own right?
We often reduce the importance of self-conversations. Of understanding our own reactions and our fallacies. We are living in societies where criticism is worse than mistrust. In an age of inflated egos, that get a surge with each social media ‘like’, it needs consistent conditioning to take criticism.
Conversations with myself time and again, have helped me absorb truths, dynamics and circumstances around me. Assess my own reactions. They’ve helped me articulate my insecurities better and address them. They’ve also helped me gauge and judge my relationships with my closest friends and parents far more effectively. I’ve learnt to negotiate, dismiss, ignore and expect better. I’ve learnt to fail better.
I’ve also learnt to address pain. Decode it, master it. But don’t get me wrong, solitude hasn’t turned be into a master of my feelings which has helped me scale great emotional waves. No. My friends and family have helped me achieve that. But what solitude has taught me, is to respect their time, space, feelings and my expectations from them. It has taught me, that I am enough. And no reason except absolute choice, will drive my decision to a conversation or a partner.
Why is self-love considered to be selfish? And all other all-consuming loves acceptable? Why can’t a woman love herself enough to make choices of solitude in her life? I watched my first film in a theatre alone when I was 19. And I continue with this even now.
Solitude also gave me a sense of immense power and power need not always be aggressive.
I took my first solo trip when I was 26. Independently, I sat at restaurants and leisurely enjoyed my meals. I remember the very first time. I did feel conscious as stares piled on me, and restaurant staff waited around awkwardly before approaching me, asking me if I was waiting for someone before they could take my order. I felt apologetic at first, mumbling as I said I was there by myself. It was only as I went through that meal, with my own thoughts for company, that I realised I really shouldn’t be.
Why must we as women, always be co-dependent to exist? Do we not exist alone, in our own right? Why must we be in pairs to validate our lives? Until this date, I frequent restaurants alone, and watch films alone. That is how I enjoy my relationship with myself. At 31. Unmarried. Unafraid, untamed. And negotiate my relationship as a single, solitary woman with patriarchy, that expects me to be someone else, always.
Solitude also gave me a sense of immense power and power need not always be aggressive. In my case, power has been to grow, to mold myself into the kind of woman I always wanted to be. It has helped me constantly, imbibe and absorb my own growth. The fact that I have an ability to control my mind, and my emotions, itself gives me greater power than others could exercise over me. It allows me to be the master, gauge, ask and react simply. It also helps me be bereft of any images I would otherwise be expected to conform to, but simply, at all times, be just who I am. An independent, fierce, feminist, articulate woman. Now and forever.
And really, truly, comfortable in my skin. Celebrating myself every time. With the one person who attempts to understands me best, me. So unclutter. Exercise your right over yourself. Learn to hear your own voice. That most clearly tells you the difference between right and wrong. That screams at you and tells you your own mistakes. You just have to step out of the din, to listen. Trust me, solitude is a beautiful thing. It is the politics behind solitude that isn’t.
Also Read: On Solitude, Sleep And Other Stories
Featured Image Credit: Vice