A good friend is spending most of the month of May without his wife and daughter who are off in another country visiting relatives. "How's it going?" I asked him recently. "Not too bad," he answered, laughing. "Actually, I think I've gone a little feral."
It's interesting to notice who we become when no one is looking. Many of us revert to a slightly sloppier, more primitive version of ourselves, especially if it's a short term situation. We throw off the restraints of civilizing behavior and kick up a little fun in the absence of rules and the judging eyes of another. This comes up frequently in our Cooking for One columns, when people often admit that their diet changes quite a bit when their partner isn't around, usually to something a little closer to what a child would eat if left on their own.
But a longer bout of living alone means we have to rein it in a little and establish our own set of behavioral rules and boundaries. One of the things we learn is that the degree of joy when breaking out is often in direct relationship with how bound we were to begin with. So the pleasure of eating something junky for dinner begins to pale after a few nights, not just because we're bored with the tastes but because the pleasure of being 'bad' is fleeting at best. We need the boundaries of rules to experience the pleasure in breaking them.
I've been known to take a feral weekend at home now and then. I don't pick up after myself, eat corn chips for breakfast and watch reruns of Ally McBeal all afternoon. I have a blast all day Saturday, reveling in my indulgence and sloth. But by Sunday afternoon I start to get itchy and restless and I just have to do the dishes or make my bed. It's usually all over by Sunday evening, when I fix myself a nice salad for dinner. The tart vinegar of the dressing is a perfect medicine, cutting through the excesses and lassitude to bring about a kind of balance that feels just right.
I think it's great to go a little feral once in a while, like my temporarily bachelor-ed friend. It could even be necessary to shake things up, to see what happens when the forces of civilization have been disassembled. Having left pieces scattered about in a delightful abandon, we can reassemble ourselves a little differently this time, hopefully not losing a bit of what the wild had brought.
(Image: Mikhael Paskalev)