How to Tell If Someone Had a Lonely Childhood: A Guide

Reading people can be difficult. Shelves upon shelves in bookstores are dedicated to the fine art of understanding those around you, but I’m going to give you an edge for free.

1. The Collector

It might be books, records, geodes, baseball cards, mid-century sunglasses, or something else entirely, but people who’ve had to spend a lot of time alone because they find it difficult to interact (or difficult to find anyone to interact with) will likely construct walls to justify their lack of contact. Sure, lots of those walls are going to be emotional, but some will be artfully constructed out of action figures or model trains. They create a perimeter and then have to themselves a world where they know how to deal with things. Generally as people grow up, they find that other people collect similar things and then can use that to branch out and make friends, but it’s hard.

Still from "Ghost World," dir. Terry Zwigoff.

If you have a pal who is really knowledgable about the different kinds of glass bottles that can be found in riverbeds, but has no clue what a Kardashian is, take your time with bringing them out of their conversational comfort zone. You’ll learn a lot.

2. The Forgiver

Making friends is hard. Keeping them is even harder. A person who’s not used to having friends stick around will forgive almost any wrong done to them by somebody who declares themself a kindred spirit if it means they won’t have to be alone. You mightn’t even realize you’ve hurt them because they’re worried confronting you on it might scare you away.

Buddy Christ from "Dogma," dir. Kevin Smith

Try not to take advantage of this.

3. The Code

Having a code to live by is honorable, tidy, and can be a delightful plot point when the time is right. It can also be a coping mechanism. Noticed that your new buddy has a particularly polar moral compass? It’s likely come from years of trying to make sense of the world and their place in it. My knee-jerk response to anytime somebody asks, “Why?” is, “Because we’re alone in an unkind universe,” but that’s hardly any comfort to a sensitive soul. People give themselves rules to live by so that they can at least see clearly their own path.

NCIS

Sometimes you friend’s rule against fruit on pizza might seem a bit intense and unnecessary (especially when pineapple’s in season), but that just means it’s time to go halfsies.

It could be that you’ve read through this little guide and thought of scores of people to whom it might apply. Maybe it even hit home. Well, duh. Childhood is lonely for everyone: you’re learning to be a person and doing everything for the first time, so it seems interminably long. And nobody really outgrows it despite all the bildungsromans on the standard reading list. Just treat everyone a little kinder and with a little more compassion on the daily and see where it takes you.

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6 thoughts on “How to Tell If Someone Had a Lonely Childhood: A Guide

  1. As an only child number 1 is a big with me, I collected baseball cards, medieval history books, model airplanes and antique video cameras. I also have a code but it’s not so rigid.

  2. Wow! Thank you for posting this, you hit ALL THREE with me! Do you have more articles you’ve written about this? This is very true and I want to hear more!! Thanks again for this site!

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