To be or not to be … alone

“After Pfizer sees this article, I’m sure they will find a way to pathologize this phenomenon and quickly move a drug to market to cure it.”

That’s one of my favorite comments accompanying an article from yesterday’s New York Times, “One Is the Quirkiest Number: The Freedoms, and Perils, of Living Alone.” An interesting read if, like me, you live alone. Perhaps more interesting to those who don’t and wish they did.

According to the story, 1 in every 4 American households is a single-person household. I’d imagined far fewer than that. More surprising — it’s 1 in 2 in Manhattan. How do people afford that?

I realize that I’ve lapsed into a lifestyle I could not and would not maintain with a spouse or roommate. I’ve become a slob, clotheswise. T-shirts, sweats, etc. Definitely sloppy, but the standard now is comfort. I can and do “neaten up” when I need to — all the way up to a polo shirt and jeans. (So sue me. Denver is a cow town and neat jeans are acceptable almost everywhere.)

As far as developing the sort of quirks the article describes, I’m not. At least not yet. True, my laundry room functions as my closet and I only do laundry when I’m out of clean towels or clean clothes. Ditto the kitchen; I only do dishes when I run out of clean ones. I go to bed when I want and get up when I want, but the times rarely vary by more than an hour. On those rare days when I have to set the alarm to ensure I make it to an appointment, I feel very abused. I suppose that means I’m becoming set in my ways and reluctant to change, and I’ll admit to that. But I will stubbornly defend it as a right I’ve earned after all these years. It’s one of those “entitlements” the politicians keep talking about.

I’m certainly not like the eccentric folks in the article who stay up till all hours, talk and sing out loud, or walk around the house naked. I could if I wanted to, of course, but I don’t want to. I very much enjoy my solitude, privacy, and independence. The flip side, obviously, is there being no one else here. No one to share with, no one to help out when two hands aren’t enough, no one more nimble with a ladder or tools. And of course, no one in case of an emergency.

As for my living alone being part of some “incredible social experiment,” as sociology professor Eric Klinenberg described it, that’s ridiculous. This is not rocket science. The increasing number of single-person households is obviously the result of more divorces, more people choosing to remain single, and a burgeoning population of aging widows and widowers. It’s not an experiment and it wasn’t planned. It’s just the way society is evolving. I didn’t start out with the intention of living alone. It just worked out that way. And I’m not sorry it did. Not yet, anyway.



Categories: Personal, Society

8 replies

  1. I allow myself the occasional fantasy of how much “better” my life might be if I had a live-in companion – either from the romantic “improvement” of having a lover, or the economic “improvement” of having a roommate paying for that 2nd bedroom I keep closed up to save on heat. Fortunately, the “play that thru” philosophy I’ve picked up along the way comes to my rescue before I do something stupid. Been there. Done that.

    The funny thing is that attitudes like ours would be considered “selfish” by today’s standards, even though none of the self-absorbed young people and egotistical politicians who’d say that could spend a week alone without cracking up!

    • Also been there, done that, and won’t do it again.

      As for what others think, I keep telling myself that the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind. My family understands me, or at least accepts and loves me regardless. That’s more than a lot of people can say.

  2. Wow. What a topic. I am swept away by your candor and am very moved by it, probably most because I know death in inevitable and can not imagine life without my life’s companion of 51 years. That is my worst nightmare and I can barely imagine it. I don’t even want to try to imagine it. Yet, you Pied are evidence that life is possible living alone, and I thank you for that. I admire your strength, your grit. Good for you.

    Love the image – you have a gift.

    • Jim, if I’d been happily married for a long time like you have, I’m sure I’d feel as you do. But I lived alone for 15 years after my first marriage and got used to (had to get used to) being alone with just me and my work. It was nice, really, leaving a stressful, hectic day to go home to solitude and tranquility. And It was very satisfying to make it on my own. My second marriage was brief for a lot of reasons, but a big one was both of us being so set in our ways after many years as singles. Whether your senior years have been mostly as a single or as a married person, change is sure to be difficult. I’m not being strong or brave. Staying single is easy; it’s the coward’s way to live after too many bad encounters.

      • You are clearly a strong, intelligent and resourceful person, PT, and I admire your grit. Your reasoning is good and it gives me reason to be very thankful for my good fortune. Looking back I realize that finding the right mate is not a scientific problem to be solved, but largely a matter of pure luck. You’re not cowardly at all, just realistic about the odds and realities.

  3. PS – just read your NYT link – bizarre, insightful, terrifying, amusing even. I’m wondering who I am and I don’t think I want to know. 😆

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