Monday, April 28, 2008

By Myself

The party's over, the game is ended,

The dreams i dreamed went up in smoke.

They didn't pan out as i had intended;

I should know how to take a joke.

Those are the lyrics of the little-known intro to a song famously sung by Fred Astaire. Recognize it? I didn't either, but they are the words leading up to Fred's jaunty take on being alone: "By Myself." He sang the ditty in The Bandwagon (and on many other occasions, I suspect), as he sauntered through town on his own, feeling relieved that no one in the world had a claim on him. (Of course, he was about to meet Cyd Charisse and fall madly in love, so the song has an ironic tinge.)

That song has been running through my head lately, as I have been reminded how very single I am.

"We travel single-oh, " Fanny Brice tells Nick Arnstein in "Funny Girl,"

"Maybe we're lucky. But I don't know..."

I don't know either. I've always "Traveled Single-Oh", though I don't ever remember making a conscious decision to do so. I am a self-centered man, and I admit that without judgement attached. I mean that, because my life has always been lived alone, I have naturally put myself at the center of it. Any occasion which comes up, any emotion which reveals itself, any event which occurs, I am likely to experience it as it pertains to me.

My dear friends Scott and Drew, about whom I have written as members of my chosen family, are about to celebrate a quarter of a century together, and the success of their relationship lies in the fact that they put each other at the center of each other's lives. Who am I to argue with that? They have proof: relationships flourish when the participants are self-less, rather than self-ish.

I believe that hypothesis put forward by Scott and Drew is correct. I'm sure I never made a conscious decision to put myself at the center of my life, but that is surely how I have lived it. And because I have done so, has my life not really been open to being shared with another? I may very well have brushed up against someone who would have turned out to be my soul-mate, particularly in my younger years, but I didn't give him much leeway to prove it. I was busy taking care of myself; making my own choices, pursuing my own goals, living my own life.

No one has a claim on my life. I still revel in being alone, I have to admit. To quote Scott, I get to have beer and toast for breakfast if I wish.

But I also have to admit that, as I've entered middle age, I feel more loneliness than I used to. I am not sure that means I regret anything I did as a younger man. But I do wonder if things might have been different, had I not put myself at the center of my life.

I'll face the unknown,
i'll build a world of my own;
No one knows better than i, myself,
i'm by myself alone.