Dear Pepper: Alone but Not Lonely

Dear Pepper is an advice-column comic by Liana Finck. If you have questions for Pepper about how to act in difficult situations, please direct them to Questions may 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 sitting, having dinner by myself, knowing that I have friends a few blocks away whom I could call and ask to join me. But I’d rather be with myself and my thoughts than engage in social chatter.

Woman sitting alone at table and eating.

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

Person's hand patting a dog's head.

Nevertheless, I hope you can help me. This feeling is relatively new—a couple of years old at most. When I wander the streets of Toronto at my own pace without complaints, delays, or itinerary changes, I feel unstoppable. Maybe this is because I am a control freak. I always was. I just used to be 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-writing pup, tell me that you have a fix for my solo way of being.

Alone in Toronto

Dear Alone,

There’s nothing wrong with liking being alone. In my experience, some people (and dogs) just do. In aloneness, we are in certain ways more able to connect with others, through books and art and e-mails, and our own thoughts—and to connect with ourselves, too.

Pepper the dog covering her face with her front paws and avoiding people and dog staring at her.

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

Pepper the dog.

There is something particularly delightful about being alone in public. It’s a way to be around people without interacting. I do it a lot. I think a lot of introverts were emboldened by the pandemic. You say you were in denial before. I wonder if the pandemic is what allowed you to be honest about your love of aloneness.

The flip side of loving being alone is that it is lonely, and has perhaps grown more so since the pandemic. I do care for my friends, a lot. But considering that most people aren’t as overwhelmed by others as I am (I think), my desire to be alone is often misinterpreted as not wanting anyone in my life. The more I embrace my love of quiet, the more isolated I feel. Not by the quietness itself but by people’s misunderstanding of it.

Person walking 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 demonstrate to the people I love that I love them. I compromised a lot more when I was single, because I was lonelier and needed more friends. But I still compromise plenty.

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

I’m not sure if you need to do the same. Everyone’s situation is different. But you might.

If you do end up calling your friends next time you’re eating dinner by yourself, please figure out another way to hold on to some of the quiet you crave. It’s part of who you are.


P.S. I used to have a human companion—a whole family, in fact—but I ran away. I hope they don’t miss me too much. I hope they can sense that I’m alive and well. 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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