Cup of Jo editor Caroline shares an apartment with her books, her dog and no other people. Here are five (weird) things she’s learned while living alone…
I live alone. I am not a bumbling woman tripping over my shopping bags while waiting for a man (or anyone else) to save me. I am not covered in cat hair. I do not purchase frozen, single-portion meals. I am not a sad cliché.
In recent decades, the “single woman living alone” has a) become more common and b) morphed into something of a punchline. Think: Carrie Bradshaw, Liz Lemon, Peggy Olson. Centuries from now, if the “single female homo sapien” were on display in the Museum of Natural History, what might she look like?
If you live alone…you’re not alone! One-person households are far more common than they used to be. According to recent U.S. Census data, approximately 32 million Americans live by themselves, 55% of them women.
The truth is, I actually love my current dwelling situation. I can decorate however I want, be messy or neat, quiet or noisy based on my mood. I have one-woman dance parties, eat cold leftovers and watch endless 80s rom-coms without judgment. Solo living has forced me to grow in a myriad of ways, intentional or otherwise…
Being a party of one
It’s nice to share things—the remote, the guacamole, the details of your day. You want someone to laugh when you make a pun or to confirm whether an Instagram caption is funny. But somewhere along the way, whether you notice it or not, you become your own best friend. Living alone, you learn to laugh at yourself, and for that to count just as much. (I have a special song I sing on Wednesdays, to mark the middle of the week. I made it up, and no one else knows how it goes, and I very much prefer it that way.)
Learning to be courageous…
Without the presence of another human, my illogical fears grow wings. Sometimes, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and see the Grim Reaper (my robe) hovering near my bed. Or shriek when a terrifying demon (my dog) jumps on me in the wee small hours of the morning. I have been known to—very occasionally—leap into bed from a few feet away, to avoid the underbed alligators. Thankfully, the things that once seemed frightening fade away with time. I leap far less than I used to.
…and more empowered
When you live alone, you reap all the benefits. You also shoulder all the burdens. There is no one to share the expenses or the housework or to fix a broken toilet. Nonetheless, it’s empowering to know I can do all of the things on my own.
Living alone makes me more in tune with myself, which is (mostly) a good thing. Solo habitation has inspired me to create beloved rituals that are just for me. I’ll go for a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ll cook something (ah-hem, quinoa) that guests might not appreciate. There’s more time for books, for contemplating, for stretching out on the floor with the dog. Nowadays, it feels easier and more natural to create these moments for myself.
Sometimes, I feel like that proverbial tree in the forest. If I fall, will anyone hear me? What’s more, will anyone care? For real, though—I am short, and there are many things I simply cannot reach (high kitchen shelf, smoke detector, impractically placed lightbulb). Every time I climb up on my trusty ladder, I think to myself, “If I fall, how long will it take until they find me?” I’d like to say there’s a lesson for this one, but maybe there’s not. There are less-than-ideal things about every living situation, and that’s okay.
Will I want to live alone forever? I don’t know. But I’m grateful for this time of flexibility and reflection. As Einstein once said, “I live in that solitude which is painful in youth but delicious in the years of maturity.” I’ll savor the deliciousness. At least, for now.
What’s your living situation right now? Roommates? Cats? Dogs? Children? Do you live alone? Do you like it? We’d love to hear…
P.S. Married couples who live in separate houses (and swear it’s the best thing for their marriage), and would you travel alone?