terrible news: you might have been a loner

Note: To the commenters who recommended “ear planes” to me, when I was sick and traveling last week and my ears were being destroyed by being on a plane, THANK YOU. I found some, in Amsterdam, and they saved my life on the way back. What would I do without you guys? “Stupid name,” I said, of the ear planes, “But best thing ever.” “I don’t know,” said Bear. “I think the name is brilliant. How will you ever forget it?” 

I am unable to clip my cat’s nails. I can’t do it.

“Just massage her paws while you’re petting her,” the vet said. “She’ll get used to you touching them.”

She didn’t get used to it, and also, I didn’t feel like massaging her paws very much. So maybe that’s why. But mostly I’m going to blame her, because she doesn’t like having her paws touched. She looks at me like, “Seriously? Why are you so weird?” And I don’t blame her.

So I was spending another $20 to have the vet weird her out instead of me.

And while I was sitting there in the waiting room, I overheard a conversation between one of the receptionists and another woman, who had just explained that she was a first grade teacher from West Virginia, who was visiting her daughter, who is a vet.

“I need some advice,” the receptionist was saying. “The teacher called and said there’s something wrong with my son. He is a loner. What do you do about a loner?”

“Well,” the teacher said in a soothing, teacherly voice, “That doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Maybe he just likes to be by himself.”

“But his teacher is worried,” said the receptionist. “He’s not normal. And in the pictures of the class, where they’re all playing together, he’s off by himself. He even told the teacher that he’d rather play alone.” There was a desperate note in her voice.



“Are you making sure to expose him to group activities?” the teacher said.

“He’s in kung fu.”

“Good. So that’s good! He’s around other kids. It’s probably just a phase.”

“I hope so. But his uncle is fifty, and he’s still living with his mother. So…I can’t have that happen.” She paused. And then asked, “You don’t think he could turn out like that, do you?”

“Well, that’s about the parents, not the kid! You’re not that kind of parent.”

“No, I’m not! I’ll tell him to get a job and move out!”


They laughed, the mother uneasily, the teacher reassuringly.

“But why would she say ‘loner’? That sounds so bad,” said the receptionist, immediately serious again.

“I don’t think she should have said ‘loner.’”


”Hey,” I said, standing up from the seat by the door and coming over to lean on the counter. “I couldn’t help but listen.”

“Are you a teacher, too?” the receptionist asked.

“Nope. Just…” I tried to think how I could justify my participation. “Someone who is interested in education.” 


“I think you should read this book called ‘Quiet,’” I said. I spelled “Cain” for her, as in Susan Cain, the author, and she wrote down the info.

“‘Quiet’ like ‘be quiet’?”

“Right. Like, ‘it’s OK to be quiet.’”

We smiled.

I explained that the book was about how people have different personalities, and not everyone should have to be social in the same way. I told the receptionist that sometimes quiet kids, who get called loners, are sensitive and highly intelligent and creative.

“Oh, he’s like that!” she said, eager now. “He picks up Chinese from his grandmother. And he says the funniest things. The other day, he said, ‘Mommy, please don’t use that harsh tone with me.’” She smiled, relieved to talk about his good qualities.

“How old is he?”

“He’s in preschool.”


Oh my god.

So very young.

“He’s just developing!” I said. “But I know he’ll be fine. He’ll be better than fine. He sounds really independent.” I really wanted her to believe me. It surprised me how much I wanted that.

“He is!”

The teacher turned to me. “What makes you so interested in all this?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe because I was homeschooled, so my education was unusual.” I wasn’t going to mention it, of course, but I’m bad at not telling the truth on the spot.  I wished for a second that I was not wearing a flannel shirt and too-loose yoga pants, and that I had taken a shower before coming over.

“Oh! Homeschooled! People think that homeschoolers can’t socialize.”

I grinned. “That’s exactly what they think.”

But there’s more to it. I was a loner, as a little kid. If you can even call such a little kid a loner. I was shy for a long time. I became very outgoing when I was a teenager. It took a long time to get there. But of course, at the same time, I was never shy. Around my family, I was always goofing off. I was hilarious. I was ridiculous. I was obnoxious. And of course, even now, I am not only outgoing. I am sensitive. I have moments of complete and utter awkwardness. I can be bumbling. In Susan Cain’s book, when I took the personality test, I fell under the middling category of “ambivert.” Someone who is in equal parts introverted and extroverted. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I didn’t go to school. Because my quietness never made me an outcast, or deficient, and my outgoingness never made me insensitive or popular. They simply were. And then they weren’t. And then they were again, depending on what else was going on.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if people had decided for me, early on, what I was like. I am pretty sure they would have decided that I was a loner. Too shy. Too sensitive. In need  of more socialization, even though I kept saying no, no, I just want to be alone.

Why are we so afraid to let kids be alone? To  let them like to be alone? Being good at being alone is so important. Why are we so afraid that kids will turn out to have the “wrong” personality? And why does being quiet so often get  interpreted as the “wrong” way to be?

I couldn’t seem to stop talking, at the vet, even after my cat was returned to me, chastened, in her carrier. I set it on a seat and stayed at the counter. And the receptionist didn’t seem to want me to stop, even though I was this random unwashed girl in a flannel shirt, who had been homeschooled. I told her about my little brother, who used to be sullen and withdrawn around other kids, and who now can be seen in a clip someone posted on Facebook, singing at the top of his lungs, mic in hand, at the front of the stage, as his frat brothers sway in a choreographed line behind him, backing him up. You can hear the girls in the crowd screaming happily, like fans at a pop concert. I told the receptionist that this, too, has its challenges. Now, when we worry about my brother, we worry that he is too outgoing, too popular, too cool. There are dangers here.

There are dangers everywhere, I guess. There are dangers in everything.

But for some reason, I just want this child, the son of the receptionist, whose name I don’t even know, to pass through preschool untouched and unlabeled. I want him to move on to kindergarten and first grade without having learned that there is something wrong with him. This child who seems to know himself so well, so young. I want him to be left alone, to discover the world.


*  *  *

Were you ever a “loner”? Are you now?

Unroast: Today I love the way I sometimes look at a woman on a stage and think, I could be up there, rocking that outfit!

A version of this post is also up on HuffPost here

A ridiculously adorable reader cake pic for the gallery! Send me yours!




Kate on April 23rd 2012 in being different, life, Uncategorized

51 Responses to “terrible news: you might have been a loner”

  1. nyssnoo responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:05 am #

    I was a lone. Well, i AM a loner.
    I resolved to make new realationships. Build would be a better word though, i think.
    And its happening slowly but surely. In an akward (amlost charming id like to think) fashion.
    Even thugh i dont go to school, i now have a best friend who cares about me.
    I am almost proud of my self.

  2. Karen responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:06 am #

    I love this post. I was a very outgoing child but a bit of a loner at the same time. It sounds wrong but it’s true. At school or at work I’ll be very sociable and outgoing but I also like to go home and be alone.

  3. Katherine responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I saw Cain’s TED talk and have been dying to read the book. I was seriously shy as a kid, a loner too, and people at my school reacted so negatively. They thought maybe my parents were abusing me, they sent me to a psychologist who diagnosed me with “selective mutism” and they tried to put me on medication. I was like ten years old. I’m forever grateful that my mom put her foot down and refused to medicate me. I’m still fairly shy now, but I do talk :) I definitely perceive a bias toward outgoing people in our society. Thanks for speaking up and reassuring that woman that it was okay for her son to be who he is. It’s okay!

  4. Celynne responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:26 am #

    I was an only child, so ‘alone’ was kind of a default for me, yet maybe luckily so. I enjoyed being with my cousins when I was little, but I was always happy to go home to play quietly by myself. Seems to be that it’s crucial children can comfortably be alone with themselves, because there isn’t always going to be someone there. They should be able to stand up on their own two feet and know they don’t NEED others to be happy with themselves or how they live.

  5. Jensketch responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:30 am #

    You spoke out and stood up for him – how absolutely wonderful and courageous you are Kate. Never forget that bravery. Because that is what it was.

    That sweet honest little boy will never know he had a champion. But you will.

  6. Melanie responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Great post Kate. I was never a loner, but I was always coming to their rescue when kids teased them. I agree with you 100%. Why do we push kids to be “part of the group?” Why can’t we just let them be?

  7. Kerry responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:55 am #

    As a former pseudo-onlychild (my two sisters were grown and out of the house by the time I turned 5) I find it endlessly interesting how people prosthelytize this idea of social weirdness onto loner kids. I was a loner, and I feel like I have a great (occasionally unnerving) knowledge of my own tastes and preferences as a result of all that quality time with my own self.

    One area where I do find my loner past to be a bit of a hindrance is in fighting/arguing. Because of my solo tendencies, I was a major conflict avoider, which is generally a good thing. But in a marriage, some conflict is going to pop up here and there, and avoiding it isn’t always the best option – had I grown up in a household with a bunch of siblings, or had I been more social with kids, I think I would have better arguing skills.

    I tend to have only 2 speeds: not being upset OR crying hysterically, without much knowledge of how to verbalize my feelings or take criticism with grace. I’m working on it, though, and I wouldn’t change having been a loner for anything.

  8. Mandy responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I was the weird kid who liked to read a book at recess, and who would sit up at the front of the bus because I liked the bus driver. I was teased rather mercilessly, until I learned to verbally defend myself–in high school.
    Thank God my parents didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. Matter of fact, “weird” was a badge of honor in my household. It meant you were different and interesting. It meant you weren’t average.
    So, yeah, I guess I was a loner. I came out of my shell a lot in college. Maybe because it was okay to be different, in that environment. But, I’ve always liked myself, and my own company.
    So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for standing up for that little boy!!! The support of his parents will make a huge difference in how he perceives himself.

  9. Ava responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:56 am #

    What a fabulous post! Good for you for speaking up on behalf of all us “loners” out there. I especially loved what you said at the end, about letting this kid pass through preschool (PRESCHOOL!!!) unlabeled, because the sooner those labels are applied, the sooner the kid will feel he has no choice but to live up to that label. Good on you!

  10. Loren responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I wanted to say that I also pay my vet so that I don’t have to ‘weird out’ my cat.
    I also am a bit of a loner. I’m totally capable of socializing and making friends. But sometimes even in a crowded room it’s nice to sit quietly & not talk.
    I think there’s definitely a push for people in our society to be more extroverted. But with more research coming out lately pushing the ‘introverts agenda’ I felt much less guilty the past couple years when I need to take a night off from socializing and stay home by myself.

  11. Hannah responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    In first grade (or maybe third grade?), my teacher sent a note home to my parents, telling them that I needed to stop reading during recess and run around with the other kids.
    I thought that was perfectly ridiculous. I loved reading in the sun during recess. Also, A TEACHER TOLD ME TO JUST STOP READING.
    But as perfectly ridiculous as it was, she also threatened to take the book away for the rest of the year if I kept reading.

    I stopped bringing a book outside for recess.

    But I felt awkward, always unsure what to do. I was even less physically coordinated and inclined then than I am now. I used to walk around by myself and make up stories about the characters in the books that I read on the bus but left in my backpack during recess.

    In fourth grade, by the way, I made a new best friend who was actually in my class and we spent every recess playing jacks on the cement sidewalks, which, while not a sport-sport, is still a game I played with other people. But still.

  12. katilda responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    oh boy! there i am with my skittle cake! that makes me mucho happy. on the topic of your blog….i wasn’t a “loner” when i was younger…i just desperately wanted people to like me. at the time, i think i thought the “cool girls” liked me…but looking back i realize that i was “that girl” who they kinda kept around to make me do stuff like take notes to the boys for them, etc. i suppose my saving grace was that i was blissfully naive to my “uncoolness”….and when i hit college (where it’s acceptable to be a little quirky because other ppl are quirky with you), it all sorted itself out and i settled into myself.

  13. Liz responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    I was totally a loner as a kid! I was the middle child (still am) and I often felt ignored and out of place, like I didn’t quite fit in with the kids at my school. I never really wore the right things, I never knew the cool things to say…I was always just a step behind. I distinctly remember one time in 2nd grade seeing my best friends’ toenails and how pretty and polished they were on her long, lean toes…and here I was: short, stubby Italian without cute polished toes, and I felt completely wrong.

    But as I got older, I realized that I prefered to be on my own. I still do! Since college, I’ve taken plenty of those personality tests (Myers-Briggs and the like) and I’ve begun to own my introversion and my desire for solitude. I appreciate that part of me because it helps me to remain self-aware and to know my own limits when it comes to social commitments. I have friends who also appreciate me and my needs, and they even help me to be more outgoing when I need to be. So yes, I’m introverted and always have been, but I’m proud of it, now!

    I really loved your plea for the little boy to go through pre-school unlabeled. What a crucially important thing for a child…to just be accepted! I know that I wasn’t or a long time, and it affected my self-confidence. I wish all children (and adults, really) could know how wonderful they are just by being themselves. So, thanks for that wisdom. :-)

  14. Henry/taufmonster responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I was always shy and withdrawn when I was younger. Quiet, rule-obeying. I didn’t socialize outside of school. In 9th grade [[I went to an all boys Catholic high school]], my mom was apparently worried about this, and so she called the principal, Father Tribou, explaining her concern and asking if he had any perspective/advice.

    I was called out of class one day to go the principal’s office and was very confused as to why. When I got there we talked for a little bit and then he told me about my mom calling him. He asked if I had friends at school and I replied that I did. I did have friends at school, we sat together at lunch and socialized between classes and before/after school. Then he asked me why I didn’t socialize outside of school, and I said “I don’t know, I just don’t ever really feel like it.”

    Then he told me that there was nothing wrong with me and that in the over 50 years that he had been at Catholic High he had seen hundreds of boys just like me. He sent me back to math class and called my mom to let her know what he had said to me.

    I’ve always cherished that talk that he and I had. It was wonderful validation that I think every quiet child needs.

  15. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    wowwww…i completely agree with your thoughts on this subject…i was labeled as such, people fail to realize that just because someone is quiet…well, it doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention to what’s going on around them…in fact, they’re truly listening, processing…he’ll probably grow up to be a blogger :)

  16. Sheryl responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Good for you for standing up for that child! I can’t believe that at that age preschool teachers are actively trying to say that a preference for being alone is a problem. The bias towards extroversion is really getting extreme in society.

  17. Raia responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    I was called “very shy” as a young child. Or maybe it was “painfully shy.” I wouldn’t speak up in class, I think I was scared to, and spent recess playing with imaginary friends who were elves. As an adult I am introverted but do well in social situations and make friends easily. I still have trouble speaking up in large groups, I much prefer small groups of people.

    I agree that being comfortable alone is a great thing for kids to learn. And it’s great that you stood up for the little boy. I will add that as a mom, especialy a new one, it’s tough not to over analyze everything my kid does and wonder what it will mean for her future. Even though I know deep down that everything will be fine and she will make her own path in life, I can’t help but want (what I think of as) the best for her. So I can sympothize with the mom in the post, being told her son is a loner, I would probably worry about it for a while too. But try not to let my kid know about the worry.

    Great post : )

  18. poet responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    I was a loner and a very shy kid, and the only reason I felt bad about the former was because people told me that this was abnormal, a sign of social incompetence. Otherwise I’d have been completely happy playing by myself, reading, etcetera. Even though I always had friends. As a grown-up, I have a well-connected circle of friends, a happy relationship, and I make an effort to meet up with people regularly, but the anxiety that I might be socially inept remains…

  19. Sarah responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    First of all, my cats hate having their claws clipped and my husband and I have to tag team each cat to get it done. I keep thinking we should just take them in like you do…but then we have to tag team them to get them in the carriers so we’re still clipping at home.

    Kudos to you for offering the scared mother another perspective on her child. It’s frustrating that people try to classify others, particularly so young. Kids change. I mean a quiet 4 year old could be the most out going grade 8 kid around – unless someone starts telling them that they are quiet and shy.

    I was a loner as a child but I don’t know how much of an introvert I really was. I was a loner because I was a friendly child but a little too sensitive and much too weird for my small town. Phrases like “has trouble making friends” and “late bloomer” were used to describe me. I always thought this meant I lacked social skills.

    Then I went away to university and realized I was perfectly capable of interacting with other people. I had just grown up without cable (anti consumerist parents) surrounded by kids who talked about nothing other than the latest music videos.

    I think the labels hurt my self esteem more than anything else because I grew up thinking something was wrong with me when all I really needed was to meet a couple of people who didn’t care about The New Kids on the Block either.

  20. jensketch responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Oh also, you don’t need to trim your cats nails. Ever, even once. It’s not necessary at all.

    I have two cats, 9 and 4 and they shed them naturally and easily and it’s not a problem.

    I mean, think about it. Do you think the cats they descended from in the wild had to be taken to a vet to get their nails trimmed? Makes zero sense.

  21. Kate responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    I WISH this was true!
    My cat’s nails grow really quickly. Maybe there’s something wrong with her? Maybe she doesn’t know to scratch the right things for long enough? She’s very domesticated. And then she gets stuck on things, like furniture, and people, because her claws are too long. For example, she got stuck on my shirt the other day. She reached out at me as I walked by the counter, and suddenly she was dangling off me with these wide, terrified eyes. It was a new shirt. Sigh.

  22. Kate responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    I feel like that’s ALWAYS the reason why it feels bad to be the way you are–because people tell you there’s something wrong with the way you’re being. Why do they feel the need to do that? Otherwise, you are fine, you’re not bothering anyone, and life goes on.

  23. Caitlin responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    I would have felt a lot better growing up if someone had stepped in and spoken like you did to my parents and one grandmother in particular.
    They always signed me up for group activities and pushed me to be with other kids. I just wanted to read and play with my only friend occasionally.
    I still just want to read and play with a couple close friends and I’m 26 now.

  24. Lynellekw responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    My mother thought I was “independent” and “mature” when I didn’t play with the other kids. That’s what my preschool teacher told her – “she’s so independent – she’s just happy to play by herself, but if other kids want to join in then she lets them. She’s very mature.” So my mother (who was a teacher herself) felt good about the fact that I spent a lot of time on my own. She liked that I could entertain myself around the house and didn’t need to be constantly provided with activity. I saw myself a little differently as I grew up – I recognised that I didn’t know HOW to engage with other kids, so I waited for them to come to me. But at the same time, I enjoyed my own company. I was encouraged to read books and climb trees and wasn’t chastised for avoiding the company of others when I didn’t feel like I could deal with it. As an adult, I think I’m good at making acquaintances but not so good at making friends… but on the other hand, I’m still pretty happy with my own company. I like the stillness of my house. I like reading. I like drawing and making things. I like being on stage & the centre of attention, too – but having people around me constantly wears me out. And I’m not good at fitting in to “the group”. I’m not good at the hive-mind thing where you can’t go anywhere or do anything or think anything without the agreement and company of others. When I go to work functions, I forget that I’ve agreed to meet the rest of my team at a certain place & certain time, and instead wander off to introduce myself to other people I haven’t met before. When someone says, “…and we need a volunteer…” I’ve got my hand up before they’ve stopped speaking. When someone says, “We’re all going to…” I’m saying, “you know what, I don’t want to. I’ll catch you later”. I don’t think of myself as a loner – just as myself. Independent.

  25. San D responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    I moved every 22 months growing up, so yes, I was a loner. And different. An sensitive. And artistic. And unknown to others. Yup as a loner you become unknown. Unknown to your teachers, other students, almost invisible. But that said. I knew myself well. Very well. I wrote, drew, read, and listened and watched. I developed a sixth sense about people from all of the observations. I developed a keen sense of being able to figure things out on my own, whether problem solving, or navigating the social world. And, I became quite the actress (not on a stage). I picked up the clues needed to socialize, and before I knew it, people came to me for friendship and advice. Who knew? But as my students used to say to me when I taught “Mrs. H, I love that you have your own style, your own way about you, and that you seemingly don’t care what others might say. I hope to be like that when I grow up”.

  26. rowdygirl responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    I love it when a fellow West Virgininian looks good in story :)
    I was a loner kid, and I’m mostly a loner adult. For various reasons, I just never connected with alot of people, and even now I’m more comfortable with just a few people. Story: A few years ago I had to be interviewed for a top secret security clearance. I had filled out my paperwork and they require that you go back 10 years and list all your addresses, neighbors, landlords, etc. I freaked a little bit because I didn’t know my neighbors and they didn’t know me. The first thing I thought was “Oh no.. they’ll think I’m a loner, which equals weirdo”.. I was extra cautious during the interview when they asked me about my neighbors and I was careful to not say “I’m kind of a loner, so I don’t really know them”.. which is the truth, but it made me feel odd. It all turned out fine and I got my clearance. However, it made me want to know my neighbors, just in case :)

  27. Kate responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    I thought she was really cool! She handled the situation so well.
    And wow! Top secret security clearance? I’m now imagining that you are definitely a spy.
    Also, does anyone really know their neighbors anymore? A lot of mine won’t even smile at me on the elevator.

  28. Steve responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Thank you so much for standing up for the loners. It’s incredibly important to be happy with your own company, and it’s frightening that any teacher would actually believe that self-sufficiency is a personality defect.

    I wish I could talk to that Mom, though, and urge her to talk to her child, and find out what’s really going on. Because we don’t know for sure that the child really is a loner, only that a teacher with questionable judgment thinks so.

    Sometimes, “loner” means “loner.” If this is a happily independent child, then I agree completely, the Mom needs to learn how to celebrate that.

    But sometimes, “loner” means “lonely.” This is a kindergartner, still learning social skills. For all we know, this child might be an extrovert, who craves connections with other people and just doesn’t know how to form them. In that case, labeling isn’t going to help, but neither is celebrating an introverted nature the child may not actually have.

    And sometimes, “loner” means “ostracized.” A teacher who feels no empathy for an introvert, might also fail to empathize with a kid who’s being rejected by the group, or bullied into silence. Maybe it’s easier to blame this one kid, than to actually try to fix the social dynamics in the classroom.

  29. Liz Rebecca responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    I was a loner! Hard core loner…I was an extremely nerdy loner. I would read during recess in a corner while my girlfriends would trade smackers chap sticks in the playground.

    But it was a strange loner-ness…I was also really good at kickball, and would socialize there. As I got older I turned into a model more like your brother. Too outgoing, too many friends, acquaintances, 4 plans in 1 night and I’d try to make them all.

    I’m trying to find the balance, being somewhere in the middle. Or better yet, having the confidence to choose when to let out my “loner” and “social butterfly” parts of myself without fear of missing out on either.

  30. Amanda responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. I was a “loner” in Preschool. The teachers called my mom too. Eventually they figured out that the games I wanted to play were too “advanced” for the other kids—they didn’t understand all the rules and roles I came up with and left me to myself. I never seemed to mind, and thankfully my parents didn’t freak out about this and let me develop at my own pace.

    I was shy in elementary, middle and high school and had a hard time making friends. But then I got involved in choir and theatre which helped me express myself, make friends with likeminded people, and excel at something that a lot of my classmates couldn’t do.

    Now I’m an amnivert as well…

    I’m going to pick up that book “Quiet”. I’m sure you’ve seen Susan Cain’s Ted Talk about “The Power of Introverts”, but just in case you haven’t: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

  31. Diana D responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Your post moved me to tears. I loved that you wanted to take the time to reassure a small child’s mother that he was okay just the way he was.

    I watched my 11-year-old daughter during morning break last week. She, too, sat alone while girls grouped together, chatting and sharing their food. She looked lonely and sad. She told me later she prefers to sit alone because she has to interact with everyone all morning, and it gives her time to sit and think.

    She is in a community play where she belts out songs, dances and her voice fills the auditorium. After reading your post, I knew she was sensitive, intelligent and highly creative, but now I realize I don’t have to worry about her. She probably gets overwhelmed (like I did) with all the interaction required at school, and the break is her “down-time” to recharge and reflect.

    And my kitties need a trim once in a while, too. I just buy some special cat food, feed them, and while they nap, I play with their paws and trim them as best I can.

  32. Allie responded on 23 Apr 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    I was a loner and I still am to this day. Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with me that I don’t need to be in constant contact with a dozen friends, as many people, especially girls, my age do. But today I read an article about the heath benefits of female camaraderie in nature which cited 3 as an ideal number of close friends. That sounds pretty good to me. Besides, most of the time I pride myself on not being ashamed of doing things alone and being able to observe, take in and enjoy the world that way.

    Rewind to anytime before high school graduation though, and I was not so secure in my “loner-ness.” I was very shy in elementary school, middle school, and became less so in high school, and I hated myself for it. I felt paralyzed by my shyness- I wanted to be with friends, to be socializing, but couldn’t muster the courage to make it happen. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, but not the rich social life I dreamt of. I was trapped inside a shell I desperately wanted to break out of.

    Fast-forward to college and life after, where people who have met me since the passing of my “shy” days are mind blown when I tell them that I was very shy in high school- often as proof of this stage I must admit that fact that I did not have my first kiss until age 18 (this is a whole other story). Now I am the person who will make friends with strangers in a bar, at a concert, if just for the few hours, and it is a great joy. But I also never saw what was SO WRONG with wanting to stay in on a Friday night in college. The loner in me lives on, and I am not ashamed.

    The “loner” kids more often than not appear to be the creative ones- you the writer, your brother the singer. Why stifle this creativity and force them to be something they are not? Thanks for speaking out for us loners.

  33. bethany actually responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 2:37 am #

    YES. I was, and am, mostly a loner. I was called shy as a kid, but I think mostly I was sensitive to large crowds and was easily overstimulated and didn’t like being the center of attention, and I didn’t learn how to deal with those things internally until I was older.

    I love being alone. I like going to the movies alone, I like eating at restaurants alone while reading a book, I enjoy being the only person awake in the house and just puttering around after everyone else is asleep. I love being around my friends and family too, talking and laughing and working together, but after time spent around them I need time to myself.

    I call myself an extroverted introvert, because when I’m in social situations I’m talkative and outgoing and comfortable…but eventually I get exhausted from all the talking and being friendly (especially with people I don’t know well). Being around people is enjoyable, but it drains my batteries. Solitude is how I recharge.

    I love that you stood up for this kid you don’t even know. And that book sounds really interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!

  34. Iris responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 3:38 am #

    I was definitely a loner. I preferred reading books to going to birthday parties, and sometimes forgot to go to parties because I was too wrapped up in my book. I stubbornly resisted peer pressure at every turn, refusing to swear when other kids did and egged me on, never wanting to alter my personality or what I did to suit anyone else. I didn’t earn me a lot of friends in primary and secondary school, but it did give me a very independent attitude and a lot of confidence and security in myself. I learned that it was okay and possible to be myself fully, that the opinions and judgement of other people couldn’t hurt me.

    It also made me pretty antisocial – aggressively so, sometimes. I didn’t know how to interact with people or fit in even if I wanted to. When I worked that out, I managed to find balance between being individual and being social, and now I consider myself an extravert and definitely don’t have trouble with socializing. But I’m so thankful that I got to discover who I was by myself, without having an identity or a certain way of acting imposed on me.

  35. sami responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 4:14 am #

    It’s nice to be differnt, I think. As a child I loved reading (still do!) and I’d get in trouble for sneaking off and reading my friends books instead of playing with them when I visited their houses :) I’ve always loved my alone time and I really crave it a few times a week at least.

    Sometimes being too social can be a bad thing. My ex was very needy in that regard. We lived together but if I ever went out, even just to the shops for an hour, he would have to call a friend to come over or he would go to them. He literally couldn’t be by himself and I found that really strange, especially given that I would go batshit crazy if I was never alone! I guess in hindsight maybe it wasn’t really ‘bad’… just unusual.

    I don’t trim my cats claws cos I am sure they would hate me forever, they spend so much time sharpening them ;) I sometimes randomly find claws left in the couch, on the bathroom sink etc. Meanwhile I call one of my cats ‘velcro feet’ because he can’t seem to retract them properly (maybe cos he never had a mummy to teach him these skills? He also never learnt to meow!) so when he walks on carpet he sometimes gets stuck. But I figure it teaches him some independence and problem solving skills ;)

  36. Stef responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Wow at this post and the response you’re getting!

    I was a loner, always have been and probably always will be. I’m getting over the shyness, but the introversion is going to stay and I’m fine with that.
    My parents either didn’t care when I was growing up, or they didn’t think there was anything wrong with me, and the only times I got into trouble with teachers was when they were supposed to assess my contribution in class (which was nil – I would answer to questions, but to this day I don’t see the point in drawing attention to yourself by stating something that really, should be painfully obvious to the whole room anyway…?)

    I got and still do get my share of crap from more extroverted people, and I wish there were more people like you who speak up for the quiet ones, especially when the quiet one in question is a child. Far too many people act like there’s something wrong with people or children who “never say anything” and put them under a lot of pressure, which results just in unhappiness all around.

  37. Aezy responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 7:06 am #

    Basically I really identified with this post! Thank you for sticking up for the kid and reassuring his mother, there’s nothing wrong with us loners!

    I used to get told off for reading books in class. Especially during primary school when I think the lessons went too slowly for me and I got bored. I also have vivid memories of going on adventures across the playground by myself, alongside the complicated games I used to play with friends. It’s quite interesting that teachers used to think I was the outgoing one out of me and my twin sister, but people who knew us better thought the opposite since she was more likely to do something crazy and loved playing with other kids.

    Also I do have a knack of saying things which offend other people, because they wouldn’t offend me, most of my friends just call me blunt now and think it’s pretty funny. Thankfully I have a group of friends who I have mainly known since primary school who like my oddness and I can just be myself around them. Since the group is a bit larger, I don’t feel bad if I say I have to bail on an activity as there’s always somebody else who can go and I can have an evening curled up with a book.

  38. Alpana Trivedi responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Kate, have you heard of the book “Party of One: A Loner’s Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus? Well, the author basically talks about how loners are stereotyped as lonely, troubled, negative, even potential criminals, etc. when all they really want is (gasp!) to be left alone.

    I HATE it when children are labeled (or adults, for that matter). I mean, good God!! Can’t people be who they are anymore without some kind of diagnosis floating around? Good for you for sticking up for that kid. A funny side story. I was really shy in kindergarten. A couple of my teachers actually thought I was mute. LOL. My dad told them that I talked up a storm at home. Now I talk up a storm pretty much everywhere and people wish I would shut up. I guess you can’t win. LOL

  39. melissa responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    oh yes, I’ve always been a bit of a “loner”.

    Okay, that’s kind of a lie. Before I started going to school, I was that kid who used to go door to door looking for other kids. Then at some point I became so terrified of strange new things! I’m sure it didn’t help that in public school they teach us that strangers want to kill us, adults want to have sex with us, friends want to make us do drugs and crime, lovers want to use and hurt us, etc.

    Despite what might have made me this way, I don’t particularly dislike being a loner. I never had to deal with peer pressure. Saying goodbye isn’t very difficult to do.

    Sometimes I wish I could have some close friends nearby, or I wish it wasn’t so difficult to leave the house or to go to places I’d never been. But I don’t think I’m particularly “missing out” because I avoid clubs and don’t really go out much. It’s not really “missing out” if you’re not enjoying it.

    ps: my cats don’t like claw trimming either (you have to start them as kittens), but they’re more open to it when they are either asleep or having a good snuggle.

    Well, the front paws anyway. Rear paws are a whole other story.

  40. Sooz responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    What a beautiful post. I was choked up while reading it. I LOVE the book Quiet. I am a loner and always have been. There is nothing wrong with being one. Thanks for another wonderful piece of writing, Kate. :)

  41. Kate responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    God, woman, you always leave the sweetest comments!

  42. Kate responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    @Diana D
    Awww!! I’m so touched that you had this reaction!
    And I wish I could hang out with your daughter. Sometimes a big group of same-age girls are totally overwhelming. I know I used to feel completely overwhelmed in those situations. But ultimately, who cares about being in a giant group! It’s better to know yourself and be able to find a few good friends.

  43. Sarah responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    I would have said the same thing about cat’s nails not needing to be trimmed until I moved into an apartment that had some sort of carpet my cat’s nails kept getting caught in. She gets stuck in it just trying to walk around, poor cat. So unfortunately it’s something that needs to be done in some situations.

    And hello to all the fellow loners out there! If you are a severe loner, like me, I would also recommend the book Party of One by Anelli Rufus. It’s an unashamed defense of lonerdom.

  44. Mara responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I never really considered myself a loner, but I guess I was, sort of. Hmm. Okay.

  45. camelshoes responded on 24 Apr 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    This just resonates with me so much. As a child I really liked to play by myself. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in my room. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy spending time with other kids, just I liked my own space, and enjoyed my own company. I think it’s sad when people don’t see this as a positive but think something is wrong with a person who is quiet and enjoys their ‘alone time’.

    Also, going back to your earlier post, today my yoga teacher said something that reminded me of your experience. She said “There is no perfect way to do a pose. You just work with your own body and your individual limitations.” When I heard that, in my head I was like “YES!” and “must remember to tell Kate!”

  46. Reckless Housewife responded on 25 Apr 2012 at 10:49 am #

    I love people, but I am perfectly content to be alone. I consider myself introverted and test that way on personality tests. At the same time, I have a large social circle and deep friendships with different types of people. I’m also pretty chatty in the blogosphere. Maybe I am actually an ambivert.

    I never thought of myself as a loner because I’m not unhappy being by myself, but other people may have slapped that label on me without my knowledge. I was a painfully shy child. I know teachers commented on that for many years.

    I have a child who is definitely an introvert, one who is an extrovert, and one I can’t decide yet. My husband is an extreme extrovert. He talks to walls, and they talk back! It astounds me.

    I’m going to read the book Quiet. I’m glad you plugged it.

  47. Kay responded on 25 Apr 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Thank you Kate. I’m 52 and an introvert by nature. We homeschool our (turned 12 yesterday) son who is far more extroverted. I loved reading your post. Although I have always remained committed to homeschooling, it is such a comfort to see what amazing results (You!) can occur with the journey.

    I appreciate your humor, sensitivity and writing style.

    Thanks again.

  48. Kate responded on 25 Apr 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Thank you! I’m an amazing result! I feel pretty good about that :-)
    It’s funny how kids’ personalities work. I was very introverted as a kid, at least in many contexts. One of my brothers was extroverted, the other not so much. Now we’re all outgoing, but the one who was the least outgoing as a kid is by far the most social now. I think the whole experience has been interesting for my parents!
    I’m glad you’re homeschooling.

  49. Eating as a Path to Yoga responded on 25 Apr 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Society makes it so hard for introverts to just be who they are. Why not celebrate us?

  50. Tempest2002 responded on 25 Apr 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    Really? A loner? I wasn’t exactly shy in school, but I am now. See, I went to public school until the first grade when my Mom pulled my brother and I out after an incident he was in, to homeschool us. I’ve heard the socialization stuff before and yes, I was lonely at times growing up.

    But my boyfriend has told me that he’s glad that I didn’t have to go through highschool like he did. He had a terrible time in highschool before he switched schools.

    I’m in college now and I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends. Some of them are nuttier than a squirrel on sugar, but I love them and they love me. Sometimes I want to be by myself (it’s impossible with four dogs in one house), but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-social. It just means I enjoy my own company. It’s the only way I can get intelligent conversation. XD

  51. katilda responded on 26 Apr 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    you may have seen this before or even posted it before (my memory fails me) and if i scrolled through all 50 comments i might notice that someone else has already shared this, but… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs&feature=youtu.be