Left Behind: Grumpiness, Underwear, And The Home Alone Paradox

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One of the strangest things about living with someone is when they're not there. Neither Frank nor I have ever really lived alone--both of us were too poor to not have roommates before we shacked up--so when one of us goes out of town and the other is left to his or her own devices, it's a little weird.

On the one hand, it's really fun to be home alone. You get to do all of the stuff you don't do when someone's around, like sit on the couch in your underwear and sing to the cats and fart loud. On the other hand, especially when you don't have anything lined up to do with friends, it's really lonely. I'm always amazed how strong the impulse to tell Frank whatever thought is currently passing through my head is, even when he's not there.

So anyway, this weekend Frank was home alone. I had to go to a funeral, and for some reason the convention seems to be that if you aren't married, you don't go to funerals together. Which, as a side note, is sort of strange. For weddings, it's totally normal to bring a date right? And while it certainly is good to have someone there chat with while you're both avoiding dancing, I'd much rather have someone around to hold my hand and be nice to me when I'm dealing with the sadness of a family member's sudden death.

But that is neither here nor there. From the times I talked to him on the phone, it seemed like Frank was having the typical by himself experience: screaming at the cats, staying up until 4 in the morning drinking beer, and being desperate to find someone to talk to (I heard an entire day's stored-up thoughts when I finally called.)

He and his friend toured a brewery, and he even cleaned up some of the crap left lying around from the holidays. Frank is definitely the clean one--it would never occur to me to pick up the house unless I was sure someone was around to notice what a good person I was.

So what I'm saying is that basically he was experiencing the classic home alone paradox, where you're excited to be alone but also anxious for your pal to get back, with the excitement shifting more toward loneliness the longer you're alone.

But, and here's the weird part, as soon as the other person gets back, instead of being relieved and happy, you bicker. Strange, right? This happens every time, and I'm not sure why. When it's me at home, I'll be rattling around the house, excited to see Frank, but the moment he walks in the door, I start yelling at him.

And that's what happened to me today. I hadn't even put down my suitcase before Frank got mad about some clothes I hadn't cleaned up. We're not big fighters, usually, so that makes it extra strange. After being angry for about 15 minutes, the grumpiness wore off and things were normal again.

I tell you, that home alone paradox is odd, though I don't think we're the only ones who get it. I have no idea what causes it, except that I'm pretty sure annoying cats are a factor. Science? Any ideas?

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