THE lonely - or, more accurately, the solitary - are always under pressure.
They're under pressure from both themselves and their society. Even though they don't get what the problem is, they know that society demands they show themselves and join in. A few brave souls (but a growing number) resist.
Still, many people on their tod will feel their situation isn't ideal. It's not normal. They should be out there banging a tambourine and dancing the Cossack amidst a ring of laughing, clapping onlookers.
OK, maybe that's for extroverts only. You can be an introvert and still go oot. But only to the park or library.
For the lonely or solitary, the worst days of the year are the ones that have Day in them. Note the capital D. I'm not referring to everyday days, but special Days: Christmas Day, New Year's Day and, today of all days, Valentine's Day.
Today is the Day that tells you you're not wanted. You're rejected, overlooked. Not quoted. But, if you don't count married couples lying to each other, that's nearly everybody, so don't get your knickers in a twist just because nobody wants to twist them for you.
Still, despite these arguably vapid words of wisdom, we all know that, this morning, the lonely were bounding like eager spaniels towards the letterbox at the sound of the postman. Then, coming to the end of a pile of bills and cable TV offers, they retired to bed with their tails between their legs. Some may even have whimpered.
Lonely people of the world, do not be downhearted. For science is coming to your aid. Not, admittedly, with a solution, but with an analysis that says loneliness can be good for you.
Actually, I may as well say right away that I've sold you a bit of a pup here. For the scientists mean recognising that you're lonely can trigger your survival instinct and make you seek out company. Oh, right. Question: have the lonely not tried that? And wasn't it the case that it didn't work?
As Jodi Picoult says in her novel, My Sister's Keeper: "Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them."
Haruki Murakami says similarly in Norwegian Wood: "Nobody likes being alone that much. I don't go out of my way to make friends, that's all. It just leads to disappointment."
I've said before: seek truth in literature, not in science. For the lonely hordes, mankind is a collective nincompoop. It's been proven time and time again. So the loner locks him or herself in and communes with the only thing they can trust: their television.
Writing in the journal Cognition & Emotion - the newsagent didn't have my usual copy of Cutlery Today - researchers from the University of Chicago say loneliness "promotes behaviour change to increase the likelihood of the survival of one's genes".
They add: "The pain of loneliness served to prompt us to renew the connections we needed to ensure survival and to promote social trust, cohesiveness, and collective action." Survival: who's interested in such over-rated nonsense nowadays?
The fact is, the lonely are on the march, even if only around their own sitting-rooms. In advanced societies, single-person households are becoming the norm as folk say sayonara to the tribe.
Non-fiction bestseller lists are inundated with angry literature as sole citizens fight back against the "loner" label so beloved of a crass media, which never describes the vast majority of murders as being committed by the sociable nor, for that matter (little personal bugbear here), the clean-shaven.
The Chicago boffins say the non-lonely view lonely or solitary people negatively. Well, this news just in from the loners: back at ya! Let the sheeple bleat their bias. The lonesome doves are starting to, er, roar back.
True, as mooted above, there will be some whimpering today. But, remember it is just a Day. And Days are for those and such as those. Let them enjoy their cards and chocolates. The lucky sods.
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