An Unanswerable Question

Sep 10, 2009 at 5:09 PM
This last weekend I got to spend some time with my neighbor's kid's wife and her best friend. Long story short, the person I wrote about is a friend of the family of my neighbor, and her name is Joleen, like the song.

So Joleen is a sweet young blond, a few years younger than me, probably, with an eight year old boy and three girls all younger than that. Those three girls all look exactly like their momma.

My girls and her kids played together all weekend.

When I was down there, I got sick of listening to Joleen's husband Will cracking horribly crass jokes with one of the relatives who kept saying things like "who smelt it dealt it" and "boy, I oughta crack you upside the head" and the like. Neither Will nor the other guy are awful, but I wanted my solitude more than I wanted company that irritated me.

Joleen has been married twice, straight from high school on the first one. This one seems happy enough. They obviously love each other, even if Will is less than poetic with his words.

So, I started walking back home, and Joleen offered to come up with me.

Wel, OK. So up the hill we went. She cracked a joke about my hill being the perfect way for her to lose the baby weight, all she's gotta do is get one just like it and climb up it a few times a day.

When we arrived, I made coffee and we sat a bit.

She was watching me oddly, and so I got a bit uncomfortable.

She asked me plainly why I lived out here all alone. Wasn't I lonely?

I said yes, explained about the husband-thing not working out, but then I pointed out to her how much I loved it here, and that I was happy in my own skin, happy alone or with others.

I looked out the window and said "Look at all this. I have such a wonderful place to be."

I looked over to her looking for her response, and she was wiping tears away.

I left her alone with her tears and went to clean up a few things.

Why was she sad over my solitude?

I think it was either of two things, and I cannot for the life of me figure which of them is more likely...

Firstly, she might have felt sad for me being alone. Pity for me seems a bit harsh, but I could see why someone who has never been alone a day in their lives might feel it.

Secondly, she wishes she could say that she is happy in her own skin. Perhaps something in my life reminded her of something wrong with hers.

I have no idea which is correct.

On the one hand, I hope there is nothing wrong in Joleen's life that a simple conversation would bring up tears. But on the other hand, I find I'm not bothered at the idea that someone might not find my life to be enjoyable.

Joleen doesn't have to live it, I do.


  1. Hard to say really, as a guy I'm never sure what a woman is thinking.

    I personally think the quiet and solitude of nature would be quite relaxing, but also lonely. The problem is unless you find that perfect person that can create stimulating conversation or not speak at all and still be comfortable with could be disruptive to the peace and quiet.

  2. Kat Says:

    Desi, I'd bet money that if you'd asked, you'd find that it was the latter. Lots of people, I find, are not very happy in their own skin, and many just cannot stand to be alone. I'd bet she was feeling what she's missing there, as a result of your simple statement and it so clearly being true.

    A few years ago I sat alone at a restaurant for an hour or so, eating, reading, looking at people, etc. A guy was with his wife and stopped by my table on their way out. He said, "How do you do that?" "What?" I asked. "Just sit there by yourself. I was trying to figure out if you were just doing a good job looking comfortable, but I think you really are!" I said, "well, yeah. I guess I am, I didn't think about being uncomfortable..." It was an honest question on his part, and I thought it was cool that he came up and asked it. Point being that it was remarkable to him that I was sitting by myself at a restaurant, actually enjoying it...

  3. desi Says:

    The very worst part of this? I can't get the Dolly Parton song "Joleen" out of my head now.

    Joleen, Joleen, Joleen, JOLEEEEEEN.
    Please don't take him, even though you can.

  4. C.S. Perry Says:

    Some people will never grasp the difference between solitude and loneliness.

    In fact...that line gets pretty blurry for me more than I'd like to admit.