Dear Pepper: Alone, but not lonely

Dear Pepper is an advice column by Liana Finck. If you have any questions for Pepper about how to handle difficult situations, please send them to dearpepperquestions@gmail.com. Questions can be edited for brevity and clarity.

Dear Pepper,

I think I enjoy my own company a little too much.

I realize this when I'm eating alone, knowing that I have friends a few blocks away who I could call and ask if they want to join me. But I prefer to be with myself and my thoughts rather than engage in social talk.

Woman sits alone at the table and eats.

Is there something wrong with me? Well, I don't know if you understand this because as a dog, your sole purpose is to keep your human company. . .

A person's hand pats a dog's head.

Still, I hope you can help me. This feeling is relatively new, a few years old at most. As I wander the streets of Toronto at my own pace, without complaints, delays or itinerary changes, I feel unstoppable. Maybe this is because I'm a control freak. I always was. I was just in denial.

Woman walking down the street.

Will I be a loner for the rest of my life? Should I loosen up a bit? Oh, please, column writer, tell me you have a solution for my solo way of being.

Only in Toronto


Dear Alone,

There's nothing wrong with enjoying being alone. In my experience, some people (and dogs) just do that. When we are alone, in some ways we are better able to connect with others, through books, art and emails, and our own thoughts – and also to connect with ourselves.

Pepper the dog who covers her face with her front paws and avoids people and dogs staring at her.

For those who are made anxious by other people—with their needs, surprises, and frantic physicality—being alone feels like a calm, neutral state in which we can take a break from being vigilant and worried. At least, that's how it is for me.

Pepper the dog.

There is something particularly wonderful about being alone in public. It's a way to be among people without interaction. I do it a lot. I think a lot of introverts have been empowered by the pandemic. You say you were in denial before. I wonder if the pandemic has allowed you to be honest about your love of solitude.

The downside of loving being alone is that it is lonely, and this may have happened even more since the pandemic. I care about my friends very much. But given that most people aren't as overwhelmed by others as I am (I think), my desire to be alone is often misinterpreted as me not wanting anyone in my life. The more I embrace my love of quiet, the more isolated I feel. Not because of the silence itself, but because of people's lack of understanding of it.

Person running away from Pepper the dog.

So I compromise. I give myself some alone time, but I also force myself to see people – not because I don't want to, but because I want to show the people I love that I love them. I made a lot more compromises when I was single because I was lonelier and needed more friends. But I still make a lot of concessions.

Pepper the dog, a pig and a woman sitting together at a table.

I'm not sure if you should do the same. Everyone's situation is different. But maybe.

The next time you go out for dinner alone, if you call your friends, find another way to maintain the peace and quiet you crave. It's part of who you are.

Honestly,
Pepper

PS I used to have a human companion – a whole family, actually – but I ran away. I hope they don't miss me too much. I hope they can feel that I am still very much alive. I hope they know how much I love them. This regret is the price I pay – for being who I am.

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