Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am an only child who was raised by parents who were approaching 50 when I was born. There were no other children on the street where we lived. I attended a tiny religious school that was several miles away from where we lived. I grew up very alone, and I learned to like being alone. And that is my problem: I like being alone, yet everyone around me assumes that I am lonely because I’ve never been married and have no children or other social ties. I like people only in very small doses. I can enjoy being “interested” in a new person for an hour, but then I really have no desire to ever see them again. With considerable effort I can pretend to be interested in my co-workers’ lives for 10 minutes at a time, but really all I want is to do my job and then leave so I can go do the things that make me happy. My idea of a perfect day is to go hiking alone, and then eat solo at an ethnic restaurant that serves some type of food I’ve never tried before while socializing with the usually foreign staff, and then attending a lecture at a nearby university — or go home and read. I have done many activities with other people, but I find their company exhausting. I also find it too stressful to lie and pretend that I have family obligations or some other made-up reason why I don’t have time to be someone’s friend. So what do I do? Telling the truth that I’m not interested in even being social, let alone being someone’s best friend, ends up hurting people’s feelings. And telling polite lies leads people to just try harder to persuade me to socialize. How do I cope with a world that is focused on “social connection” when I am alone but not lonely?

Not Lonely Woman

DEAR NOT LONELY: First, you should read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (2013, Broadway Books).

This groundbreaking look into the life and motivations of introverts will help you to understand yourself — and also put into context your own relationship to the “noise” of the world. There is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing wrong with the way other people relate. It just comes down to a difference in the need (or desire) for human connection.

DEAR AMY: I’ve been living with my mom in subsidized housing all my life. I just turned 25 and am engaged to my girlfriend. She moved back to her hometown (out of state), while I finished my education. I’ve been excited about the idea of starting a new chapter in my life, but am worried on how to break it to my mom because it also means she will have to move out of the apartment that’s been her home for 16 years. I don’t want to make her sad.

Scared Son

DEAR SCARED: You don’t say what sort of subsidized housing you are in, but you might help your mother by researching (or assisting her to research, if necessary) the rules and guidelines for this housing. Go over the lease terms and check the HUD.gov website for guidelines.

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Break your news to her quietly, firmly and with compassion for her complicated feelings.

If losing you as a dependent means that your mother has to move into a different apartment, you can help her the most by understanding that this presents a stress for her. However, it is not your responsibility to never grow up and leave home in order to protect your mother from feeling sad. Your job is to obtain your education, find useful work, forge healthy relationships and go out into the world. Your mother’s job is to let you.

DEAR AMY: I disagreed with your response to “Frustrated by Family.” The woman who wrote to you had a much-younger sister (age 21) who wanted to bring a friend to visit the older sister. I think the younger sister wanted to bring the friend as “cover.” My much older sister was so judgmental toward me that I didn’t know how to relate to her, especially when I was a young adult. You should have advised Frustrated to be more understanding toward her.

Younger Sister

DEAR YOUNGER SISTER: The dynamic you describe could well be in play in this relationship, but “Frustrated” didn’t present any evidence.