Raven Smith on family values

An illustration of a man on a tiny desert island contemplating a football with a wi-fi symbol printed on it.

Our monthly columnist takes on community spirit, family values and Kevin McCallister

By Raven Smith   Monday 24 February, 2020

We rely on human connection in order to soar like Icarus; being well-rounded takes a village. We need communities – tessellations of people that look after each other – and links to other humans, they say, are important for our wellbeing (as well as intimate relations). I personally love going out and being among the masses: wining, dining, sixty-nining. The odd cocktail. A steak. All the time regaling the group with tales of urban swashbuckling. I’m engineered as an extroverted social creature; big laughs and big opinions that linger like perfume on a pillow.

In the day, we all smash together on the tube, morning-breathed and roasting to death, which reminds me that, yes, other people are fun – but they can also be hell. Truth be told, like the waiters in an Italian restaurant ready with a block of Parmesan, other people grate. The chaotic din of the collective can be disastrous: the invasion of personal space, the looking over your shoulder to see what podcast you listen to, the knowing looks, all the bloody smiling so you appear approachable. It’s a confused bedlam, like you and your partner’s phone alarms going off at the same time in the morning.

Come to think of it, maybe I don’t need communities. Maybe I just want peace. Not on earth. Not of the world variety. But, rather than a Brontë quality romance with melancholy landed gentry, where I’m objectified and heralded as a trophy wife, I’d quite like a few days on a desert island alone. Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, without the bumbling bandits. Just the empty house and access to pizza. Desert Island Discs minus the questions. Castaway without the tooth removal. Honestly, I really do like people. Promise. But I’m realising how much I love being alone, thinking sweet Raven thoughts without distraction.

Normally, when I’m on my own, it’s for leisure time on the toilet – but as a newly arrived castaway, I don’t think I’d have the patience to build a long drop. Too many coconuts to collect and a hammock to weave out of I don’t know what. Usually when I’m alone, I can wear anything I want, and I often turn up the heating and lounge in my Prada swim shorts of a Tuesday morning. I’m not sure how I got to the island, but surely I have a couple of cute outfits. A string vest, say. Or a bathrobe. And enough sunscreen, presumably.

The reality version of this fantasy is lack of internet. No devices. I’m convinced that being offline is the new Bikram, a transcendental meditation of focus on the self. The usual panic of watching my phone battery hit 10 per cent would dissipate without any electrical sockets. Although in a way I get off on being constantly connected and a bunch of my value systems are based on external approval, I’m sure I’d be fine. I could draw illustrations in the sand. I could chat to myself. I would get thirsty, but an enforced detox from city life would be somewhat welcome. I love the idea of self reliance, but is self-reliance that great? I would miss the cosmopolitans. I would miss the table service. I would miss the group gallivanting. Oh god, I’d miss the people. I would miss their noise and their tessellating community spirit. I would even miss them grating on me like an Italian waiter. Those persistent questions can be quite comforting, can’t they? I pray I’m in a Black Mirror episode when the characters have an awful time on a desert island with hardly any outfits and then wake up in a lab back in the real world with their family.

Illustration by Elena Xausa
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