Thursday, March 21, 2019


The Adventures of the Single Life
If there is any doubt that we’re living in the age of the individual, a look at the housing data confirms it. For millennia, people have huddled together, in caves, in mud huts, in cottages and condos. But these days, 1 in every 4 American households is occupied by someone living alone; in Manhattan, the number is nearly 1 in 2. 
Eric Klinenberg recently published “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” which he calls “an incredible social experiment” that reveals “the human species is developing new ways to live.” 
True, the benefits of living alone are many: freedom to come and go as you please; the space and solitude to recharge in a social media world; complete control over the bed. In the seminary, we slept in single beds. As a priest, I have to have either a king or queen size bed, even though I usually use only one side! 
Still, the single-occupant home can be a breeding ground for eccentricities. In a sense, living alone represents “the self “ let loose. In the absence of what Mr. Klinenberg calls “surveilling eyes,” the solo dweller is free to indulge his or her odder habits — what is sometimes referred to as Secret Single Behavior. Feel like standing naked in your kitchen at 2 a.m., eating peanut butter from the jar? Who’s to know? Personally, I have the habit of putting on clothes to go downstairs in the middle of the night, just in case I fall down the steps and people find my unclothed body a few weeks later! 
A 28 year old schoolteacher calls it living without “social checks and balances.” The effects are noticeable, she said: “I’ve been living alone for six years, and I’ve gotten quirkier and quirkier.” 
What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different — in ways big and small — from the self they present to the world. We all have private selves, of course, but people who live alone spend a good deal more time exploring them. Personally, I have a two-floor condo. The upstairs, where people come in, is always clean and tidy. The downstairs, where I spend a lot more time, not so much! 
I read about one man who said living-alone indulgences center on his sleep cycle. A 40 year old record producer said he’ll go to bed at 2 a.m. one night, and then retire later and later by increments, “until I go to bed when the sun comes up.” These days, personally, I often stay up past midnight. I love to write late at night. Even after I go to bed, I sometimes get up and go downstairs to work on the computer about 2:00 am and then go back up around 3:00 am and go right back to sleep – so far without a problem. 
A 70 year old woman writes a blog on aging,, has lived alone for all but 10 or so years of her adult life. She said she has adopted a classic living-alone habit: “I never, ever close the bathroom door.” 
Leaving it open “is one of those little habits that makes no difference most of the time,” she said. But when guests visit her two-bedroom apartment outside Portland, Ore., she added: “I have to make huge mental efforts to remind myself to close the door. 
Like many, she also talks to herself — or, rather, to her cat. “I’ll try things out on him when I’m writing,” she said. “He’ll look at me like he’s actually listening. I wouldn’t discuss what I’m writing with my cat if someone were around.” I don’t have a cat, but I do ask myself questions, out loud, when no one is around! 
Other people say their greatest eccentricities emerge in the kitchen. Eating can be a personal, even self-conscious act, and in the absence of a roommate or partner, unconventional approaches to food emerge. 
“I very rarely have what you would call ‘meals,’ ” said Steve Zimmer, a computer programmer in his 40s who lives by himself in a Manhattan loft. Instead of adhering to regular meals or meal times, he said, he makes “six or seven” trips an hour to the refrigerator and subsists largely on cereal. As for me, I cannot go to sleep with knives on the counter in the kitchen. They have to be out of sight so that an intruder cannot find them so easily. 
The founder of the Web site, is a kind of unofficial spokeswoman and lobbyist for singletons. She has had roommates in the past but now lives alone. She said that rather than cooking a big meal for one, an unappealing prospect, she fashions dinner out of “discrete objects”: “I’m often, like, here’s a sweet potato! Let me throw that in the oven with aluminum foil and eat it.” Personally, it’s not a problem for me to eat a piece of cake followed by a salad - and popcorn, if I am still hungry! 
One woman noted that the longer she lives alone, the less flexible she becomes — and the less considerate of others’ needs. “If I go on vacation with a group of friends, I feel a little overwhelmed,” she said. “I’ve got to share this room with other people? We have to organize showers?” Personally, I would rather stay home than share a room with someone on a vacation – even if it were a "free "vacation! 
A computer programmer said he is also conscious of becoming too set in his ways, especially where sleeping is concerned. “I just do not sleep as well with someone else,” he said. “A lot of homes have double master bedrooms. I can really see the value of that.” Personally, I cannot imagine sleeping with someone else in the bed with me! No way! 
My “single habits” are many. I clean my house before the cleaning lady comes every couple of months. I cannot go to sleep unless my car keys are next to my bed “in case of an emergency” during the night. I have to turn off the water and check the stove before I leave the house overnight. Before I go to sleep, I have been known to check the door several times in a row “to be sure I locked it!” 
It is aggravating sometimes to have to “do it all” when you live by yourself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!  
watch this video for a laugh

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