Note – this post is more personal and introspective than usual. You should read it fast before I have second thoughts and delete it.
A friend on Facebook shared an article this weekend that said the biggest threat facing middle aged men is loneliness. While I am surprised that people think it is the biggest threat facing middle aged men, I’m not surprised that middle aged men are lonely. I am a middle aged man. I think I was born a middle aged man. Loneliness has been a constant in my life. I can be in the middle of a crowd, at a party, etc and still feel alone. I have many acquaintances and not many actual friends. I talk to people at work and then to the two people who live in my house and that is the extent of my social life. I do occasionally have a text conversation with my brother.
In person, I pretend a lot of times that I think I am someone that everyone loves, but really, deep down, I always assume I am someone that people don’t really think about at all. I’ve always felt that way. I was part of a social group in high school, but felt that I was the one who didn’t really belong. I felt the same with groups in college and I feel the same today. In every group, I feel like I am the expendable one. I have social anxiety when it comes to parties and other gatherings, so I would rather just not go. This leads to the life referenced above. I spend most of my life isolated from the world. It’s OK now while my family is there, but I am looking toward a lot of alone time when my daughter leaves for college next year.
Another problem is that I have always had more female friends than male friends. I now work in a world that is predominantly women. In the one group I socialize with on a regular basis(I am the expendable one) I am the only man. This also is a limit to developing close friendships. It is harder and more complicated when the friendship is across genders. You always have to be aware of any impressions of impropriety and there are limits on what you can discuss from your personal life.
So, no, I’m not shocked that loneliness is a problem for middle aged men. I would like to say that since I am aware of the issue that I can take steps to do something about it, but that would be a lie. I will continue to spend my time watching TV and reading books when my family is not around. It just seems easier that way.