ALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA

Sacred surgeons of Parnassus' library,

I've been single for a long time and I want to be happy being actively alone. But I can't get away from a compulsive need to affirm my existence and worth through other people, particularly sexual-romantic relationships. I have lots of friends and a wide and supportive social circle, and have been successively interested in various people, who all say, 'You're rad! But I just don't like you "that way."' Arguably, my desperate need to be validated by others might be what's putting them off, so I'm concerned that I only want to be happy alone so that I can actually end up with someone, if you see what I mean, What can I read to be truly, deeply happy being in a single state? Or - what can I read to teach me to be attractive in 'that way'?

With clingy hugs,
'alone on a wide, wide sea'
Dear Alone,
For encouraging happiness in solitude, there are few novels that beat True Grit by Charles Portis. This slim, spare, honed novel is great company, and inspires your own grittiness to win through in getting where and what you want. The heroine of the tale, Matti, does not see beyond getting justice done for her father's death, and once this is done, she keeps her own company. Thinking about Matti and justice leads us to contemplate the excellent Harper Lee, single throughout her life, and describing herself as 'profoundly happy'. Atticus Finch, her hero in To Kill a Mockingbird, is singel because his wife has died, but he sets a great example of a man who knows exactly what to do in any situation, and having a relationship with a woman is not one of his goals. We have yet to read Go Set a Watchman, but suspect that this book may add fuel to the fire of active solitude. One of our favourite recent reads, which significantly questions both friendships and sexual dependency, is Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth. This hard-drinking party of a book shows two friends who live together, depend on each other for everything, but begin to crumble when one of them has a serious sexual relationship. The choice the heroine has to make is a fascinating one for a modern woman. It's a great read, and by the end of the novel you feel you've lived through several years of alcoholism, but come out the other side with your synapses sizzling with new clarity.
If you're still feeling the need to find your inner attractiveness that appeals to potential partners 'in that way', we suggest that you read The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber. Enjoy the seductiveness of Sugar, the prostitute who all men find irresistable, despite her strange skin quirk that gives her body the look of a cat. Faber transports you back into 19th century London, where Sugar is determined to rise above the poverty of her unfortunate beginnings. Sugar is certainly the woman to give you back your mojo, as she has it in spades. Then, to give yourself a laugh, read Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, and cackle over the mad ways that women behaved in the sixties. You'll find yourself feeling glad to be contemplating your options now. 
Then take your boat and sail it like a Moomin into the wide, wide sea...
Oh, and pack a few Tove Jansons for company. You might well meet a Snufkin on the way. And he too, likes his own company, but hey.
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - True Grit by Charles Portis
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
Fair Play by Tove Janson

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A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITYABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ENDED, LEAVING SCARSADULT ACNEAFRAID OF FAILUREALCOHOLIC DAUGHTERALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEAAlways wanted to be a writerANOREXICANXIOUS ABOUT SINGLE FRIENDAT A FORK IN THE ROADAVID READER, LACKING BOOKBEREFT OF A CATBORED IN ALABAMABOTHERED AND BEWILDEREDBRAIN SHRINKING MOMMABROKENBROKEN HEARTBROKEN HEARTED - TORN BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BEST FRIENDSBROKEN UP WITH GIRLFRIEND; FEELING BURNT OUTCAN’T MOVE ONCANDIDA REVOLTAIRECan’t afford to go on holidayCAST ASIDECHEATEDCHRONIC PAINCOLD HANDS AND FEETCONCERNED ABOUT DAUGHTERCONFLICTED PARTNERSCRAVING FOOD CULTURECYNICAL STEPSONDAILY ABUSEDARK NIGHT OF THE SOULDEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READDEPRESSED DURING CHRISTMAS, AND LONELY NOWDESPERATELY WANTON GIRLDIRECTIONLESSEASILY BORED WITH NOVELSEMOTIONALLY SABOTAGED BY MY MOTHEREMOTIONS IN EXTREMEEVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNEREXTREME ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONFADING AWAYFALLEN OUT WITH MY FRIENDSFALLING IN LOVE WAY TOO FASTFAZED AND CONFLICTEDFEAR OF CONFRONTATIONFEAR OF GETTING OLDFERTILITY PROBLEMSFOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)FORGING A BRIGHT NEW FUTUREFRIEND WHO HAS LOST A CHILD LATE IN PREGNANCYFRIENDS DAUGHTER LOST TO SUICIDEFrightened of lifeGAPING HOLEGetting over a break-upGIRL OF UNCERTAINTY, BOUND BY RULESGIRL WHO DOESN’T FIT INGRIPPED BY LOSSGUILTY FRIENDHOPELESSNESSHOUSE AND LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FIREI love music more than booksI no longer commute – and therefore I no longer readI PEEK AT THE END OF NOVELS BECAUSE I WORRY THE CHARACTER MIGHT NOT MAKE ITI wish I were famousIN MOURNING OVER LITERARY DEATHSINABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETYINCONSISTENT AND NON-STUDIOUS- BUT AMBITIOUS NONETHELESSINDECISIVEINSECUREINTERESTED IN EVERYTHING BUT ACHIEVING NOTHINGINVISIBLE WOMANITALIAN NOVEL CURESJILTED AND UNSUREJOB IN LIBRARY UNDER THREATKICKED IN THE HEADLEADENLIVING ON THE MARGINSLONE RANGERLONELY AND DEJECTEDLONELY IN LOVELONELY IN MONOTONOUS JOB, LOSING SANITYLOOKING FOR A SENSE OF PURPOSELOOKING FORWARDSLOSS OF A SISTERLOSTLOW WATTAGELOW-ENERGY PESSIMISMMAD SCIENTISTMARRIED TO A MAN, ATTRACTED TO WOMENMISSED THE BOATMISSING MY MOTHER-IN-LAWMUM GOING BACK TO WORKNEED TO LET GONEW CITY, NEW LIFE -BOOKS FOR 12 YEAR OLD BOY?NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORNIGHTMARISH COLLEAGUENOMADIC FLANEURPOST NATAL DEPRESSIONPREGNANT AND ALONE