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One reader tackles Jen’s question: Should I live alone?
I don’t need to tell readers of The Single Diaries about the merits of living ensemble. The promise of spontaneous dance parties, someone to turn off the curling/flat/clothes iron when you forget, a shoulder to cry on after a bad day, a partner-in-crime when you want to take down a bottle of Shiraz and watch bad (ok, really bad) reality TV. All that and more make the decision of living with friends, family or fellas an alluring and easy choice.
And yet, even with all those in the plus column, I’m sure a few of you have thought, even briefly, about what it would be like to live alone. After a couple experiences, how long before you start yearning to live without an all-night Real Housewives marathon when you have to get up early in the morning? Crusty spaghetti sauce all over the stove after a roommate’s attempt to “make it like Giada does”? Waking up to a strange person in your kitchen, drinking out of your favorite coffee mug? A ghost finishing the last of the hummus… again?
For me, the realization that I was ready to graduate from living with my roommate (and best friend!) came pretty quickly. A large part of it was that she was working from home, so when I got back to our apartment, she was (understandably) craving real interaction and ready to play. After spending all day in a corporate office, I was not. Couple that with my compulsive cleaning ethos and her lackadaisical it’s-just-going-to-get-dirty-again-so-why-bother approach, and soon my passive aggressive attempts to not be bothered by the living situation were becoming detrimental to our friendship. So, as much fun as it was for us to live together, I was ready for my own space—to be the queen of my own castle. And two years later, it’s one of my favorite things about this time in my life.
Reasons to Love Living Alone
- Pretty high on the list is the Autonomy. Being able to keep your living space as clean (or dirty!) as you want, deciding how to decorate it, walking around naked because you just put self tanner/Nair on, is intoxicating. Perhaps I like to do a lot of unconventional (ok, weird) stuff that I prefer to do without anyone watching. Or maybe I just like things the way I like them. Not to worry, because when you live by yourself, there is… wait for it… no compromising! Maybe all of that doesn’t matter to some of you, but c’mon—this is your home and it should be exactly the way you want it, and nothing less.
- Sanctuary. I don’t know about you, but this whole adult thing is pretty exhausting. After working a full day, I want to come home, take off my work clothes (immediately. like in the living room on my way to my room) and decompress. When I walk in the door, I don’t have to talk, entertain, fix problems (except my own, which can surely wait until I watch an episode of Modern Family), or be in a good mood for other people. I can recharge and focus on what I need or want to do. Of course there are days when I want to be in a loud gastropub, enjoying a drink and catching up on the day’s gossip and, whenever I want that, it’s available. I can always go out to see people, and conversely, get away when I need to.
- Controlling your Destiny. When you live with people—whether you’re single or in a relationship—no matter who you live with, their lives will directly impact yours. If your roommate gets transferred to another city, or loses their job and has to move home, or decides to move in with their boyfriend, all of a sudden you’re faced with the decision to either fill their spot (a gamble), or to find another place to live (no small feat). Obviously this is all part of life, and part of this time is to roll with the punches, but the lack of control you may have over your own living situation is immediately apparent when you find yourself homeless because your roommate decided to traipse off to Alaska and try their luck at hunting Yeti’s.
Critical Decision Factors
As we start to outgrow sharing our living space with our friends, their boyfriends, friends of friends, and random people from Craigslist, a few things have to be in place before you make that decision.
- Financial Security. There’s no way around it: living on your own is more expensive. Even if you were able to find a tiny tiny studio, finding one that’s in a safe neighborhood (non-negotiable for the Single Girl), with the amenities you’re used to having in communal living, will cost a pretty penny. You’ll be paying for utilities, cable, Internet, cleaning supplies, late night Thai food… all on your own. Supposedly, you’ll be using less, so it should be an even trade, but it seems like it never is.
- Existing Network. When you’re living on your own, there’s lots of downtime. If you have a full social life, having that quiet time to yourself is a sanity-saver. However, if you’ve just moved to a new city, haven’t found a job yet, and don’t have any friends or family close by, living on your own would only further your isolation and make it that much harder to meet new people.
Why You’ll Love Living Alone Too
Like me, you probably lived with your parents (and maybe a sibling or two, just to add to the chaos), then moved to the dorms, perhaps to a sorority house, then off to “adult living” which was really just an extension of college and meant living with good friends—whether old, new, or off the pages of Craigslist. Living with other people teaches you a lot about yourself: what you need, what you like, and how you like to live. It also teaches you about how to deal with other people and compromise on some of life’s mundane but daily issues: “Whose turn is it to take out the trash?” “Is it really necessary to sleep with the AC on?” “Are you ever going to write me that check for the electricity?” “What are we going to watch on TV?” But once these magical, confusing, lazy, promising Single Girl days are over, you’ll probably live with a spouse, and the responsibilities will pile on from there. So take this opportunity to consider that this may be the best (and only!) time for you to do something just for you. Besides, who doesn’t want to be the queen of her own castle?
April lives in Santa Monica and enjoys pretending the electricity is out, lighting ALL the candles and watching Alias.