In the latest edition of—whether you want it or not, you’re getting it—the AARP magazine—I read the article, “8 Habits That Are Raising Your Blood Pressure,” which got mine up from reading it, when I had hoped that it would give me tips on lowering it.
The first listed reason for high blood pressure details the harm of being “an antisocial woman or an overly social man.” It then goes on to talk about “socially isolated” women, and men who have too large of a network. (Maybe with all the talk of AI taking over the writing world, I’m back in teacher-mode, focusing on words and their usage, and why we still need people to see the not-so-subtle nuances). Why are they equating someone who is antisocial with someone who is socially isolated? These are not the same. In one case, you go out of your way to stay away from people; in the other, it’s not that you don’t want to socialize, it’s that connections aren’t there, for whatever reason, and that’s stressing you out (and, oops, there goes your blood pressure).
I also don’t understand how, in our extrovert-focused society, the author can say that someone who hangs out with lots of people is “overly social.” What does this even mean? Maybe it’s about lacking deep connections or downtime to process all the excitement you’ve been having, so that your blood pressure can have a breather?
Clearly, the article is meant to be helpful, with yet another list to help us live our lives. But it feels like judging is happening. It’s not healthy for women to be too alone or men to be too together, in relation to (only?) blood pressure. But what is a person supposed to do about that? It’s not as if lonely people haven’t tried to unlonely themselves, and the overly social have become used to that way of being. (I assume that they have heard of meditation, reading, and walks by a body of water, but perhaps there may be some realizations, insights, and thoughts that they prefer to keep at bay. And the lonely of us, surely, they have been defeated by multiple attempts at making enough lasting connections to keep loneliness from impacting their health.)
Which brings me to thinking of the things that we’re constantly told (even if we’re not seeking them out) that can help us be healthier and happier. I wonder, is the goal to be a better version of ourselves or to become a bland, generic version?
For a time, I was going to a fair number of meet-ups (for me it was a lot; for the social, a blip on their calendar) and each time there were the introductions that covered the usual condensed life story. After a while, I was tired of introducing myself repeatedly at each event. But it gets tough to rethink both the past and the present, which leads to a review, which leads to a critique, which leads to stress, which leads to, once again, high blood pressure. It was also dull to hear the same things from the people I was meeting. At times it felt that we had all hit the same milestones which resulted in our being in this bowling alley, restaurant, or walking path at this moment. It was as if a flattened version of ourselves was in attendance.
And who wants that? At a certain point, the potential for a life-changing meeting with the man of my dreams (do I even have one?) or even of making a new friend to go to brunch with (oh, how extravagant the desires) are too insignificant to bother. Better to be single dealing with high blood pressure than to be constantly presented with one’s failures.
Ok, I correct myself, these are not failures. These are the choices I have made as I try to lead a full and fulfilling life. And it’s still up to me, AARP suggestions or not, to figure out what degree of lonely and social is right for me. Perhaps today’s plan to go by myself to a museum I have never been to in a city I have never been to is part of that ongoing process.