For research lawyer White (Law and Society/Memorial Univ.), loneliness was not a transient mood but a life condition with crushing implications.
Loneliness affected the author early on in life, with her fears of empty places, especially her home after school—siblings out, mother at work, father a weekend dad through divorce. White experienced the afternoons as a frightening isolation, just when she was starting to define herself as an individual. The author approaches her sophisticated inquiry from a variety of angles: biological, cultural, social and psychological. In the medical world, loneliness is an ambiguous condition, only now becoming recognized as a distinct state of being. There have been studies about its genetic basis, as well as its physical debilitations, such as lowered immunity, premature aging and high blood pressure—all of which are easy to understand as White painstakingly sets about detailing her persistent sense of isolation, lack of intimacy and embarrassment. “Loneliness,” she writes, “at the start of the wired-up twenty-first century, was so totally nowhere, so crushingly uncool.” The author was both beseeching and incredulous at the existential absurdity of it all—“As my need for others intensified, I began to retreat from them.” When social situations presented themselves, she became stressed at interacting, so she would spend more time alone. The power of White’s story comes from the sweeping investment she has made in tracking and tackling her loneliness—an investment that has included Jungian analysis, hypnotherapy, bowling clubs, bike trips, Internet dating and much more.
White makes the case that loneliness deserves attention and respect as a legitimate condition.