Home » A secret society of ‘Hermettes’ is reclaiming and celebrating female aloneness

A secret society of ‘Hermettes’ is reclaiming and celebrating female aloneness

by Narges Mohammadi

Risa Mickenberg lives in a stylish New York City apartment, but she prefers to call the dwelling something else: Her “cave”.

Despite being in close proximity to around eight million other people, Ms Mickenberg shuns many social connections and relationships. Instead, she enjoys time in her cave or experiencing the world outside alone.

And she’s not the only one living like this. Ms. Mickenberg is the founder of “Hermettes”, a secret society of like-minded women who are reclaiming and celebrating female aloneness. “Female aloneness is such a taboo … [But] I think this lifestyle needs to be idealized,” she said.

‘Nothing more precious’

For much of her life, Ms Mickenberg was very sociable. She’s an accomplished writer and director, working in film, TV, theatre and advertising.

Also on her CV: Being the lead singer of an eight-piece power pop band called Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse

But Ms Mickenberg’s outlook about the world and her place in it changed as she got older. “I was afraid of being alone. I wanted to be married and I wanted to have children,” she says.

“[Then] I had a few different experiences where I realised how much I loved to be alone … These experiences made me realise that there was nothing more precious than the time I spent with myself.” So Ms Mickenberg decided she’d become a hermit.

The hermit lifestyle, or living in total seclusion, stretches back thousands of years. It’s played a role in different religions, seen as a road to spiritual betterment. In more modern times, it’s been a way to leave the social and economic structures of a community.

“Hermits have always had a place in society [but] it’s usually a male ideal … [So] the idea was to feminise the word,” she says.

Ms Mickenberg says she “summoned a bunch of people who I thought were fellow Hermettes” and launched the group — or what she proudly sums up as a secret society of antisocial, deep thinkers. With that, the group went their separate ways and the Hermettes were born.

“I’ve [since] seen, there are so many women who really love being alone,” Ms. Mickenberg says. “Instead of it being a shameful or embarrassing thing, or a secret, I think it should be something that we really want to do.”

The life of a Hermette

So what does the life of a Hermette involve? Risa believes there’s much to be gained from experiencing the world alone. The way Ms Mickenberg describes it, it’s not about entirely severing yourself from the rest of the world, but rather a choice to experience it alone, on your own terms.

Ms Mickenberg says the lifestyle can involve, “going into your shell and deciding how you really feel about things, what you really want, what you really want to say”.

When experiencing the outside world alone, “it actually makes you connect in a deeper way to other places … you find things, you run into things, when you’re not trying to continually connect to the same old four people [for example]”.And Hermettes don’t have to be confined to one town or city.

“I think part of the Hermette lifestyle is travelling all over the world, and being alone in new places, because you connect with people and places differently when you travel alone.” But it’s not all serious: Hermettes also get creative, even subversive, in their aloneness. 

Wooden phones and an (occasional) magazine

Some Hermettes choose to be less reliant on certain technologies than the rest of the population. In this vein, Ms Mickenberg developed special Hermette mobile phones, which are described as “phone-shaped hunks of wood that get zero reception no matter where you are”.

According to material from (not-an-actual-telco) “Hermette Wireless”: “Your phone does not get Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Parler. You won’t get texts, calls or emails. No meditation apps. No productivity apps. No apps at all. No podcasts. No maps. No games. No camera. Nothing.”

What, at first glance, seems totally useless, these wooden faux-phones are a symbol of the movement — a proud disconnection from the social networks many of us rely on.

And although it may sound like a contradiction, there’s a thriving Hermette network, connected through Ms Mickenberg’s Hermette Magazine. It’s described as “a publication that only comes out when it feels like it”.

“I think magazines come out much too often. I don’t know what this [every] month thing is, or this weekly thing, or the daily thing … So why not publish a magazine when you really feel like you have something to say?” Ms Mickenberg says.

Only a handful of issues have come out, with articles including “News for the modern recluse” and “Why the post office Is even more awesome than you think it is”.

Not just women

Since launching, the Hermettes have expanded beyond New York City and now have dozens of members all around the world.

While much of the group’s philosophy is centred around women’s experiences, Ms. Mickenberg insists anyone can be a Hermette. “People of all genders can be Hermettes,” she says, adding that even a family can adopt a Hermette lifestyle.

“It’s aloneness for people who may have felt a bigger obligation to connect with other people … [And] people who give their lives over to other people too easily — it’s even more important for them to treasure their aloneness.”

Ms Mickenberg hopes one day societies can become more accommodating of aloneness, for example, “having restaurants where everybody sits individually, even if you go there as a group”.

“You might meet other people,” she says. “There are a lot of successful things that could happen in the world if we treat everybody as an individual,” she says.

And whether the Hermette lifestyle is for you or not, Ms. Mickenberg says we could all benefit from rethinking aloneness. “I think that [we can all] connect to our aloneness in a good way and know that people don’t need to be with each other all the time,” she says.


You may also like

Leave a Comment

All rights of this website belongs to Jahan Banou News agency. There are no obstacles in re-publishing the contents of this platform by mentioning the reference.