If you Google “loneliness,” you will be flooded with articles published in the last month or so in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. VICE informs its readers “How to Be OK With Being Alone Right Now” and a headline from Psychology Today reads, “The New Pandemic: Loneliness.” In The New Yorker, “The History of Loneliness” examines the evolution of loneliness and posits, “You can live alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely without living alone, but the two are closely tied together.”
But even before the global health crisis forced the world to close its doors and a great silence settled in, social media and the various technological tools that are currently serving as lifelines were fostering feelings of loneliness. In 2019, for instance, a wave of articles described a contemporary, technologically induced “loneliness epidemic.” A decidedly 21st-century scenario that has caused me painful pangs of loneliness in the last few years is seeing Instagram stories from pals who are at shows or hanging out with other friends while I’m lying on my couch.
Rose Cousins wrestles with the multi-dimensional beast that is loneliness on two mirrored tracks from her latest release, Bravado. On the album opener “The Benefits of Being Alone,” Cousins celebrates her freedom; she lives alone without being lonely. The bouncy piano rhythm mirrors a stroll on the sunny side of the street as she lists off all the great opportunities being alone has given her: “I replay my favourite saddest song to remember how it goes or pick up where I left off with last night’s episode,” she sings with a smile.
Even when the song dips into darkness as Cousins sings “if I don’t end up with anyone, could be six days to find my body gone,” she quickly follows it up with a hilarious counterpoint: “but think of all the space I get to roam.” By the end of “The Benefits of Being Alone,” you will be planning the decor of your solo living quarters and fantasizing about opening the fridge and seeing that everything is exactly where you left it.
Towards the end of Bravado, after reflecting on bravery, casual romance, love, and death, Cousins returns to meditating on being alone. On “The Reprise (The Benefits of Being Alone),” Cousins sings the exact same words of “The Benefits of Being Alone,” but the mood is completely transformed. The bouncy piano is now despondent and plods like depressed steps from bed to couch and back again. Cousins is no longer chipper but quiet and weighed down by loneliness. The once funny line — “if I don’t end up anyone, could be six days to find my body gone but think of all the space I get to roam” — is now devastating and echoes off the walls of the empty rooms you occupy. What if your home was filled with the cherished objects of others? What if the fridge was full of ingredients for a meal that somebody was going to make you?
Many of us present ourselves in one way while feeling the complete opposite on the inside. Cousins expertly presents this dichotomy with “The Benefits of Being Alone” and “The Reprise (The Benefits of Being Alone)” while also tapping into a deep need for connection. There isn’t one way to feel about being alone — or about anything really — and you’re not alone in feeling that way.