Thursday, March 04, 2010

Me as romantic recluse

When I was a very young girl, I remember reading a story in our Scholastic Weekly Reader about a man who worked in a lighthouse. His job seemed important -- remember, this was probably about 40 years ago -- because he kept the boats safe. He was also, for the most part, all alone up there. It seemed terribly romantic to me -- the middle child whose family never bothered to knock before coming in my room and often caught me lip synching into my hairbrush in front of the mirror. I even remember that the lighthouse keeper ordered his heavy winter socks from a catalog and would have to venture into town to pick up the package at the post office every once in a while.

What a fabulous life, I thought. I could write long stories, sing with the radio as loud as I wanted, converse with my cats and still serve mankind by keeping those boats safe.

The lighthouse keeper comes to mind a lot as I immerse myself into the world of Grey Gardens. I am mesmerized by the Beale ladies -- especially "Little Edie," the daughter. She is a "staunch character," a free thinker, a thwarted performance artist, living with her mother in decrepit gentility in East Hampton. Edie and her mother spend their days mostly in one bedroom of the big house, eating Wonder Bread and ice cream and keeping cats and raccoons … and bickering.

It's the toxicity of their lives that adds a melancholy pull of the heart strings because they really aren't suited to the solitary existence they landed in, due in part to finances and (mostly) their pathology.

Yet even now as I have passed the half-century mark, I still enjoy my alone time best. Tonight I'm having dinner with my friend, Kathleen. I will have a good time but ... part of me wishes I was just home, watching the American Idol results. This weekend my nephew and mother are going to an indoor carnival -- a special fundraiser for his winter soccer league -- and so we won't visit this Sunday as originally planned. I miss them -- I've been avoiding them because of this obnoxious viral thing I'm battling -- but I also look forward to a weekend of not having to do anything with anyone at any particular time. I also resent anyone who comes to my door because that means I have to straighten up for them. YUCK!

While there are times that I feel isolated in a bad, lonely way -- when I can't count on the people I'm closest to -- for the most part alone time is good for me. It refreshes me, recharges my internal battery. It's been a frequent topic of this blog almost from the beginning. For it's not the presence of people I long for, it's the company of certain people.

So the Beale ladies, born performers, ended up living a reclusive life that was ill-suited to them. And me, the moment I close my office door, someone knocks on it, with a need -- professional or personal, real or imagined. It reminds me of that Billie Holliday song, "Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose." Life may not be fair, but it is peculiar.


  1. Oh my this speaks to me...

  2. Are they romantic because they are living without the need for constant companionship that others need to have? Romantic because it's not a lifestyle that most would think they could live?
    I like my alone time more than I like being out with crowds of people.
    I just read your link for Grey Gardens, I knew that it was a recent movie, but didn't realize the story behind it. Isn't it strange that their life became so public when they had chosen to be reclusive?
    Enjoy your "downtime" this weekend, just stay away from the Wonder bread and don't even think of bringing in a raccoon for your cats!