Independent, or antisocial? Readers respond to an excerpt from "Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto," by Anneli Rufus.

Published August 21, 2003 4:19PM (EDT)

[Read "One Is (Not) the Loneliest Number," by Annelli Rufus.]

I loved this piece by Anneli Rufus. Particularly this paragraph:

"The mob wants friends along when doing errands, working out at the gym, at the movies. The mob depends on advice. Eating alone in decent restaurants horrifies the mob, saddens the mob, embarrasses the mob. The mob wants friends."

I can't describe the pleasure I take in spending time alone, going to a film alone. Being left alone with my thoughts.

Though I am not a purebred loner, I enjoy clubs, dinner parties, walks and talks with friends. All of this is balanced by my love for the time I spend at home alone. And it is the best time there is. Able to read whenever I want, as much as I want. The most delicious luxury in this world is the chance to be alone, away from others and advertisements and simply breathe.

I'm so pleased there are others who understand the value of being alone.

-- Anthony Johnson

In her essay, Anneli Rufus writes: "After what others would call a fun day out together, we feel as if we have been at the Red Cross, donating blood."

To me, that is a perfect characterization of a loner. In that vein, personally, I've always preferred the Myers-Briggs definition of an introvert as someone who expends energy by interacting with other people, and gains energy by engaging in solitary activities; in contrast, an extrovert gains energy by interacting with other people, and expends it while engaged in solitary tasks.

-- Ocie Hudson

Thank G-d! I really thought it was just me. Well, just me and Unabomber types. I'm so tired of defending myself. When I'm with people I feel drained. When I stay alone I recharge. I NEED time alone. I don't get lonely. I don't get bored.

I do have to say, though, I worry about when I'm 75 and not in great health. Will I be lonely then? Should I start "collecting people" now, in case?

-- S.H. Cook

Oh please. Is this going to be the Next Big Thing? "Loners"? "Introverts"? Discussions on Slashdot, this article on Salon -- there's something in the post-post-ironic air, all right.

Frankly, it all just sounds snobbish and pretentious to me. "Let's all be like Thoreau!" Never mind the fact that he had dinner at the Emersons anytime he could and went shopping for groceries all the time while he was on Walden Pond.

"I don't like other people! I must be as smart as Einstein!" Really? What about those countless "loners" who are just that -- loners? For every Newton there must be thousands of guys like Robin Williams' character in "One Hour Photo."

Don't get me wrong: I admire individuals who dare to be individuals. I enjoy eating in a restaurant by myself, and will even order dessert despite the looks I get from other people. I have no qualms about spending a Saturday night reading at home and enjoy visiting the cinema alone. But I for one don't need to dress up my contempt for people who go to Six Flags or think those big foam-rubber hands are witty by pretending to be engaged in philosophy all the time, or pathologizing -- excuse me: idealizing -- my behavior.

Anneli Rufus seems blissfully unaware of the absurdity of a "Loners' Manifesto" (note the position of the apostrophe!). But it's good that she knows she's sane -- after all, somebody else told her so.

"Loners" evidently think of themselves as special, unique snowflakes; I just think of them as flakes.

-- Edo Marinus

As I get older (and loner-ier), my family gets more aggressive in painting me as a loony. Because, outside of work, I prefer to spend all of my time alone. They would have no problem with this if I were alone and hating it. It's the fact that I love being alone that perturbs them.

I was starting to give their stance a bit of credence; I certainly knew of no one else who lived to be alone, who found people disturbing (on so many levels), who went to movies without a thought to being alone (except to savor it over going with others). But I'm much better now. Thank you.

-- Lissa Loadholt

Thanks for the excerpt from Anneli Rufus' book. While I find the tone of the writing perhaps a little needlessly harsh, she hits it on the head when she describes the exhausting life of ladies who don't lunch. While every introvert who survives in the world has learned to understand and read the signals of extroverted people with some success (much like dogs are a success at living with humans because they have learned to read human signals), I've never met an extrovert who really comprehends that there is any other personality type out there except their own. Indeed, some of the ones I have met don't even seem to understand the nature of their own needs.

I once had an extremely extroverted dorm advisor at college who puzzled over how to best involve "quiet people" at picnic games. I suggested that perhaps being allowed the opportunity to watch the games from the sidelines, or keep score in a creative way, might be a very fun and enjoyable way for those "quiet types" to participate. Mumbling something about those with "personal space issues," she looked at me like I was nuts, and instead resolved that they should be placed in the center of the action -- as if it were for their own good.

Along with a working knowledge of the ways of the extroverts, introverts need to have a sense of humor and humanity that is above and beyond the call of duty. That sense of humor and humanity is tested daily throughout the endless demands for blood donations. Every introvert is a survivor.

-- Ellen

By Salon Staff

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