Stephen Fry and the Paradox of Loneliness

Stephen Fry, one of my heroes, recently tried to commit suicide, and has since told the whole tale of his battle with depression in such a way that only he can. One passage in his latest post stands out to me, a very familiar paradox concerning loneliness, especially considering he and I are both performers, stage performers even, who prize our wit and can seem on the surface to be gregarious and light:

. . . perhaps I am writing this for any of you out there who are lonely too. There’s not much we can do about it. I am luckier than many of you because I am lonely in a crowd of people who are mostly very nice to me and appear to be pleased to meet me. But I want you to know that you are not alone in your being alone.

Loneliness is not much written about (my spell-check wanted me to say that loveliness is not much written about – how wrong that is) but humankind is a social species and maybe it’s something we should think about more than we do. I cannot think of many plays or documentaries or novels about lonely people. Aah, look at them all, Paul McCartney enjoined us in Eleanor Rigby… where do they all come from?

The strange thing is, if you see me in the street and engage in conversation I will probably freeze into polite fear and smile inanely until I can get away to be on my lonely ownsome.

I’ve chosen to be more open about my social anxiety at this stage in my life because I simply don’t always have the energy to fake it anymore, smile inanely, etc., and I also feel that I’m at an age where, goddamn it, I have to be able to stop pretending at sometime. This latter principle, however, rarely holds outside the abstract. In real world meatspace, the inane smile finds its way back. Anyway.

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