I am sitting by the large window in my kitchen and sunlight is streaming into the room. The dining table has a gammy leg; it wobbles and one has to be careful not to disturb it. It is usually quiet in the kitchen because it is in the back of the house, away from the street, and so this is where I like to sit and think. Maybe write. I feel very happy with my neatly arranged tools – my laptop, a pencil, a book (in case I get bored), and a notebook. But let’s move on.
It is very difficult to find your own voice in the increasingly loud clamour of voices that want to be heard. This is droll but still relevant, I think. If I can’t hear my own voice how will I know if it’s my voice and not someone else’s? Life has become very tiring suddenly and it is much more difficult to find an unsaturated space of your own. I can always feel the presence of some great oppressive weight, like a carcass I have to carry with me constantly. But there has always been a kernel of, an identification with, the solitary woman. I can remember her for as long as I can remember. She has always been there, in the books I read or the films I saw or the people I read about. These were usually old books, written in the 19th century – like Jane Eyre and Jo, most obviously – and some in the 1950s. The women in these books did usually get married, though, and did not remain solitary women, but her spectre was there. If times had permitted I am certain that many literary characters and actual women would have gone on to lead solitary lives. People such as Dora Carrington, Susan Sontag, Patti Smith are examples of solitary women in my mind, despite having being deeply involved in many relationships. They are the new solitary women. They seem unfettered and fully-formed in the way that they are accepting of whatever flaws they might have which enables them to transcend their ‘women-ness’. They are not slaves to norms. Not just those of gender, but normal societal norms as well. People have to bind themselves with so many chains to please others. To be solitary is a relief and a joy. To be able to be solitary. Art cannot exist in a vacuum, that is true, but neither does it exist whilst being trampled upon by a herd of wildebeests.
Inanimate objects are the best friends for the solitary person. They are comforting and familiar and frequently take on a life of their own. Everyone’s kettle has a unique personality and a unique face for them. I know we are told repeatedly of the worthlessness of the material world but there is nothing as comforting as the safe and solid feel of an old wooden table. Or a book. Or your favourite blanket. When I weep my people may not weep with me, but the walls weep, with great tears rolling down their faces in the rain. My inanimate objects are loyal creatures – or objects, that is.
I have decided to try and cast off the need, the craving that makes us debase ourselves and grovel to other people and the simpering person I am sometimes reduced to while pursuing these ends. It will be hard because these are habits that are ingrained in me and I will have to learn to listen to my own voice as opposed to theirs. I have decided to become a solitary woman because I have a feeling that this might be the age to be one.