Walter Freeman's mother called him the Cat that Walks by Himself. "I enjoy my own company," he said in his autobiography. For a long time it puzzled me that a man inherently so solitary should choose two professions -- psychiatry and teaching -- in which he would have to deal with people all day, that he should have six children, that he should devote his life to a surgical technique that required constant defending and promotion and more lectures and more newspaper interviews and that entailed the clinging attentions of hundreds, maybe ultimately thousands of patients and their families, all writing him these letters: Does Reserpine work? Did I make the right choice? Why haven't you written, are you tired of me? But I do know what it's like to want to be alone, and at the same time want desperately to be noticed. This was Walter's problem, I think: he was a narcissist, but also a loner. A narcissistic loner. How awkward!
As far as I can tell I am not as narcissistic as he was, fortunately for me and those around me. Like, with him I think it was a personality disorder. But similar opposing urges do make my romantic life difficult. I enjoy my own company too, very much; at the same time I enjoy affection, which requires someone else. Dating is therefore the precise activity guaranteed to generate in me the greatest possible amount of hatred, anger, and dread: because I'm not alone, and I'm not with someone I like, I am with this stranger spit out by the Internet as Jonah was spit out by the fish. How can I possibly get to know him under these circumstances? It is like climbing a sheet of glass. It's like being alone, only there's this guy there. And I'm wearing a dress shirt.