Why women like to be alone and men don’t.

Did you catch this NYT article by Dominique Browning on why women like being alone? And men don’t, especially after a break-up? It’s interesting…

Picture 17 Why women like to be alone and men don't.
image via weheartit.com

Browning describes the time she fell over at home and couldn’t move. She lived alone. She had that thought I’ve had often: I could die here and no one would know. It got her thinking about a whole heap of generalities to do with choosing to live alone (which women love and men don’t, she claims). Here’s a few:

Most men seem unable to live alone for longer than, say, at the outside … three months.

Most single women I know really love their lives.

And this, which I really do agree with:

Sometimes we suffer pangs of loneliness, sometimes we ache for the companionship of that mythic soul mate, but mostly we cherish our independence. We love doing whatever we want to do, when we want to do it.

Women alone eat breakfast at 11 if we feel like it, lunch at 3 and dinner never if that’s the way the day is winding down. Single women do not worry about cooking unless we want to. And we don’t want to unless we like to.

We love not being judged, not being criticized, not being hemmed in. We love the give and take of making our own decisions….

Single men could not care less about any of the above lifestyle features.

I love all those things and I’m aware that most single men I know don’t. They might be OK about living alone, but they don’t cherish these things – they don’t get all hygge about curling up on a couch with no distractions or having eggs for dinner in front of Offspring. Browning points out that men like shacking up and seek it out. Then asks, but why, and rambles thus:

After I hit my tailbone and joggled my brain, I lay there, thinking …This is, indeed, dangerous.

…Men are hard-wired to feel danger all the time… that’s what makes a man a man. A man is on guard because that is his job.He hunts and tangles with wild beasts. He does not nest….He avoids danger, aware that only so many arrows are granted to him in a lifetime, so he should husband his resources.

Being alone feels dangerous to a man. No one has your back. No one feeds you. No one nurses you in your sickbed. No one takes up a watch if you vanish or sends out a search party if you wander off the trail.

The world is dangerous enough without adding the dangers that come of being alone.

And women?

Women do not walk around alert for danger. Nor do we feel that being alone is dangerous. Women are hard-wired to read the signals that keep us from danger, and, when confronted by trouble, we escape, fleeing into our homes.

To a woman, being home feels safe.

We love our nests. We tend them, and in exchange we expect them to keep us snug and warm and serene and safe. Which, generally, they do. Because nests are reliable.

I agree with a lot of this, although it’s a little too essentialist for my liking. But I add these two (essentialising) thoughts:

Men often have a need to go to their “cave”. A cave is like “being alone”, but is temporary and – and this is the important distinction – can be experienced while a woman is sitting right next to him on the couch. Women can’t do this. We can’t “escape” to our alone spot when people are around. We’re too aware, too conscious of others’ needs and feelings. We have to physically get away.

Men uni-task happily and well. Women don’t/can’t. Men can remain absorbed in an activity they love. The washing up can beckon, dinner time can loom, a partner might be hovering – and men can continue to do the things they love (watch telly, fix a bike, read a book) without being distracted. I find I can’t. I juggle lots of things at once…

The point of these two points is that men (mostly) can satisfy their need to be alone (to get away and to do things they love) while being with a woman. In fact, they feel safer when they do them with a woman.

What do you think? I know I – and Browning – have made some sweeping generalisations. But can you see the thread?

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