I recently caught up with him, partaking in his usual regimen: fleeing civilization.
How are you holding up during the pandemic?
Aside from evading an increasing number of mask-wearing hikers, my life is about the same.
I imagine many of them are tired of being cooped up in their homes.
I understand, but, there’s a reason why no one has ever taken a blurry photo of me sitting in their living room. I respect their space. I wish they would respect mine.
Speaking of photos, I’ve never seen a picture of you with anyone. Would you describe yourself as a loner?
That pretty much sums me up. But I’m not antisocial. It’s just hard for me to connect with people and other creatures.
I try to fit in. When peering at people from behind trees or bushes, I want to jump out and say, “Hey, that happened to me too.” or “I know how you feel.” But it just doesn’t feel natural.
I’ve never enjoyed being the center of attention, so living alone works best for me. However, it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally dream about kanoodling with a sexy young primate.
What advice can you give people for whom human interaction is normal and are currently struggling without it?
Non-stop socialization is overrated. I get it. You miss holding your grandchild or shaking hands with a car salesman. But you can’t tell me you haven’t dreamed about waking up by yourself on a crisp clear winter morning under a pile of leaves. If you feel you can’t go a few months without the familiar touch of a loved one, take a deep breath, close your eyes and embrace your inner hobo.
And that’s enough for you?
More than enough – especially if I’ve just been visited by a chipmunk won’t stop yakking about its vacation to the swamp.
I won’t lie to you. Being the world’s number one recluse is a stressful job. Sometimes I want to pour my heart out to someone, anyone. Most of the time, though, I’m at peace with myself. I couldn’t handle someone constantly asking, “What are you thinking?” or “When are you going to shave your body?”
What about people who, during these challenging times, feel desperate for any kind of intimacy?
I confess, on those rare occasions when I need some sort of human/semi-human interaction, I do online dating.
Really? I don’t mean to be insulting, but how do dates feel about your physical appearance?
I use a profile picture of James Franco, because I feel he best fits my personality. By the time my dates start to catch on, I’m usually exhausted from chatting about favorite Netflix series and 600-thread-count sheets. I’m ready to flee the cybercafe and head back into the wilderness.
To conclude, what is your number one advice for people accustomed to constant human interaction and contact, and are now struggling without it?
As the song goes, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, Love the one you’re with.” It can be your spouse, your partner or your old Farrah Fawcett poster. Even an annoying chipmunk that over-explains everything but has a cute smile.
Ben Alper writes for late night talk show hosts, comedians and things. He is the author of “Thank You for Not Talking: A Laughable Look at Introverts.”