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The Freedom, and Perils, of Living Alone
February 25, 2012 10:17 PM   Subscribe

"In a sense, living alone represents the self let loose. In the absence of . . . “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? . . . 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."
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear (100 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
I loved living alone, when I was single. I hated having roommates.
posted by maxwelton at 10:32 PM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ahh, yes. Living alone, eating ice cream out of the container with a large spoon for dinner, leaving the door open while in the bathroom, rocking out to my guilty pleasure dance music, letting the dishes pile up for a few days because seriously who cares, sprawling out in a queen-sized bed while I eat Girl Scout cookies and read trashy books -- these are the moments when I wish I could go back and inform 10 year old me how fucking awesome it is to be an adult.
posted by olinerd at 10:38 PM on February 25, 2012 [45 favorites]


It isn't necessary to live alone to experience this, living with a partner can be exactly the same if there is no judgement involved.
posted by HuronBob at 10:47 PM on February 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


It isn't necessary to live alone to experience this, living with a partner can be exactly the same if there is no judgement involved.


Which "this"?

There's tolerating peoples quirks, and then there's big wet sloppy farts at any time day and night.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:53 PM on February 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I find it absolutely fantastic to be at home alone and know that no one is going to come in needing your attention. The time is all yours to do with as you will. Dinner is your choice, work or not--your choice, entertainment--your choice. Sleep when you like, wake when you like, stay in or go out as you like. Well, that's retirement, as well as living alone but it's wonderful, also. Especially if you have furnished your mind and your life with many ideas, interests and friends.

I only learned after I had diligently tried the prescribed social path and totally failed at it that I really never wanted to live with other people. I only wish I had known sooner but it wasn't a question a girl asked herself back in the fifties.
posted by Anitanola at 10:55 PM on February 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


From the article:
“In the experience of Ms. Bolick, who has also lived with roommates and boyfriends, living alone breeds “a very indulgent work style.”

“I can work 24/7 for days on end, and I can let my whole apartment fall apart on me and not wash the dishes,” she continued. “And nobody cares.”

Ms. Bolick even has a home-alone outfit. “I have this pair of white flax bloomers that go down to my knee. They’re like pantaloons. They’re so weird,” she said. “If someone comes over, I change out of them.”

I know people like to make fun of the NYT’s lifestyle articles. But, I found this really struck a chord with me. Living alone, I find I can be crazy productive (leave piles of paper, notes, and books everywhere; get up at 3am, work for two hours, nap for an hour, and then go to the office), but I worry about becoming strange and annoying to other people.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


How To Be Alone
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:00 PM on February 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'll admit it - the primary difference in my lifestyle between when I've lived alone or with others has been with how stealth I need to be about when and where I watch porn.
posted by The Gooch at 11:01 PM on February 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh yes indeed.

I gave up roommates and what not, preferring to pay rent, just for the pleasures described.
posted by infini at 11:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


“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.

I don't mean to stereotype computer programmers, but based on the ones I knew in college, this does not sound like a consequence of living alone to me.

My experience was that roommates sucked, big time. Big time. In comparison, living alone is amazing, and feels totally freeing. There's nothing better than the door closing behind your crappy roommate while he leaves town for a long weekend.

But living with a partner kicks ass, and is way better than living alone. Alone, you can fart. With your partner, you can giggle at each other's farts. I couldn't agree more with HuronBob:

It isn't necessary to live alone to experience this, living with a partner can be exactly the same if there is no judgement involved.

I don't know about "no judgment," since I am plenty judgmental, but I know that my life gets worse whenever my partner goes on a trip. The first day is kind of fun, when I get to indulge in my habits that slightly irk her, but after than I pretty much just miss my best friend in the world and become aware of the million ways she makes my day to day life better.
posted by Forktine at 11:08 PM on February 25, 2012 [37 favorites]


Oh, when you're naked at 2 a.m., you EAT the peanut butter...

I need a shower now.
posted by Samizdata at 11:08 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


And I do miss having a partner around that's not four-legged and furry.
posted by Samizdata at 11:09 PM on February 25, 2012


I think the freedom to fart, loudly, is the crucial differentiator.
posted by infini at 11:11 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find that finding the right partner mitigates these concerns.
I am a lucky man.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:13 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, when you're naked at 2 a.m., you EAT the peanut butter...

(Someone hasn't discovered jelly and soft white bread yet.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:27 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am eating peanut butter as I read this thread at 2:30 a.m. but I am wearing clothes because it is pretty dern cold here.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:32 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


sebastienbailard: "Oh, when you're naked at 2 a.m., you EAT the peanut butter...

(Someone hasn't discovered jelly and soft white bread yet.)
"

Oh HELLS yeah! The snack orgy, baby!
posted by Samizdata at 11:33 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pulling a sweater, boots and tights from her dryer-slash-dresser one recent morning, she forgot to grab her skirt, and left the house without wearing one.

That's not a quirk of living alone, that's just stupidity.

I have recently got housemates after 6 years of living alone. I'm finding it surprisingly easy to adjust, although it is nice to know that I'll have the house to myself again in a few months. I do take a little more effort with my meals now, mainly because I don't want to be judged for eating predominantly cereal or toast for dinner. Other than that, I'm still as lazy as ever.
posted by Kris10_b at 11:35 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I found that when I was spending my time alone in my apartment, I'd often be doing things like smoking enormous amounts of weed, baking weed-related treats, staring at the fireplace until 4am with a DVD on the menu screen, and then falling asleep in a disheveled pile on the couch.

I'm a generally clean, tidy person. I'm the roommate that can't stand when the other one(s) leave common areas a disaster. I go the bathroom with the door closed even alone.

Of course I liked at certain times the freedom of my own space, but generally I like having an occupied house to come home to. I like a house with 'life' in it. And it took me some time to figure that out, because believe me all I wanted in my 20s was to have my own space. Then I got it and I really didn't care for it that way. It really can make you weird, to live alone.
posted by ninjew at 11:35 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find that finding the right partner mitigates these concerns.

Though, upon reflection, that may just coincide with the point the author is trying to make. I guess I should inform my partner that they are just another item in my invisible backpack, then.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:40 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Points gained: Referring to your partner with the non-gendered "they."

Points lost: Referring to your partner as just another object in your metaphorical backpack, hence objectifying him/her.

DECISION: Draw.

posted by joe lisboa at 11:46 PM on February 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


One of the major habits I have developed from living alone for years is
not wearing clothes. The first thing I do when I come home is take off all
my clothes. Getting dressed as become an unpleasant chore.
I no longer like the way clothes feel on my body. Putting on shoes
is the worst, I feel like the Frankenstein monster trudging down the street.
posted by quazichimp at 11:54 PM on February 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


I lived alone for a while, both when working and when at school. The first time was the first time I moved away from home, after university. I'm a huge neat freak, something that drives my wife crazy - but I'm also not one for being alone. I was monstrously depressed living alone the first time; fortunately I'd learned a few things about myself along the way such that the second time wasn't so bad.

A lot of these things that these people describe is, in my mind, something akin to depression or the dissonance which breeds depression. All of these things described I have done (including dropping at commercial breaks to do puships) and all of them I had done when I was in a bad, bad way. They didn't help. Not making meals and/or not planning what and when you're going to eat is removing all of the joy associated with cooking and eating. The drift in bedtimes, the using the dryer as a hamper etc - these are acts which do not instill a sense of pride or quality of life. It may be conscious or subconscious, but these are not the signs of a mentally and physically healthy person.

Being the neat freak, I love the fact that everything can have a place and that everything is as I left it when I get home. Now, I can go to work with a pristine kitchen and come home and my wife and daughter will have destroyed it - phone on the cutting board, plastic shopping bags strewn, crumbs (aargh) on the countertop, toys randomly abandoned etc. It drives me mad. It tweaks something in my brain.

On the other hand, if my wife isn't around my schedule is completely fucked up; this is part of the reason why I'm married I figure. If she's not there I don't sleep like I normally do - I go to bed and nobody's there so it feels weird and alien. I enjoy the companionship of others and it grounds me and forces me to do the little things that I know are good for me but that I often neglect to do if I'm alone.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:56 PM on February 25, 2012 [18 favorites]


I totally lapse into the grazing style of eating when I live alone. Virtually never prepare big meals for myself, and occasionally just browse on foodstuffs right out of the fridge, composing a meal on the go as I'm eating it.

Standing in underwear in front of open fridge:

"Hmm...a few cherry tomatoes. *nomnom* Those are good. A pickle? Sure, why not? *crunch, crunch, crunch* Oooh! A leftover bit of rice and beans! *scarf!* A few leaves of butter lettuce... *munch, munch* And don't forget the cheese, Gromit! *smeck smeck smeck* Ah! A dab of tangerine marmalade on some toast would make a nice dessert. *drool!*"

Aaaaand, scene!
posted by darkstar at 12:45 AM on February 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


While living alone definitely has its benefits, it also has its dangers: I've found that living by myself tends to reinforce whatever habits I bring to it, with a lowered ability to appreciate whether those habits are good or bad.

I'm very solitary by nature; having guests of any kind immediately puts me into a fixer-upper-state for a day or two before their arrival, correcting all the small things that have been tolerably out of place for me, but others might find frustrating or just strange. For that reason I've tried to make sure I have someone over at least once every few years... it's my version of a reality check, a forced perspective.

It's interesting how much our behavior tends to orbit around social expectation, even at home; being unmoored from that is freeing, but one's compass tends to spin wildly.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:03 AM on February 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


The first rule of living alone is not to tell people about living alone.
posted by stbalbach at 1:05 AM on February 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


Living alone is a form of self-imposed protective custody. In my experience, only snitches and cowards seek out punk city.
posted by three blind mice at 1:16 AM on February 26, 2012


so ..... where can I buy one of these invisible backpacks?
posted by mannequito at 1:16 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I totally love having my own place. I also love being with my boyfriend, and we've been together 10 years, so it was really time we lived together. We bought a house together, but we each have our own apartment in it. it is so. fucking. awesome.

all the company of a roommate, but we can still totally indulge our quirks. oh and we have quirks.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:27 AM on February 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


I sometimes think this (and Counter-Strike) is why I became a severe night owl. 12 AM to 5 AM in my teen years was very much like living alone, plus I didn't have to buy food.
posted by Pope Xanax IV at 1:34 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: There's tolerating peoples quirks, and then there's big wet sloppy farts at any time day and night.
posted by Renoroc at 1:46 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I lived with my parents straight through university and a couple years after that, even. In hindsight, I was pretty miserable having to live by their rules. (They weren't draconian or anything; I was just different than the rest of my family.) I moved in with a roommate and it wasn't a lot better: I found I spent a lot of time holed up in my tiny room crammed with all my stuff.

I'm living alone now and it comes so completely naturally to me. I haven't for a moment thought I'd want it to be any other way. Like the people in the article, I'm kind of worried that I'm such a loner I could never live happily with someone, even though I know that others find great joy in it. But hey, I figure I'll enjoy this stage of my life while it's happening, and maybe sometime in the future I'll be ready for a change.
posted by mantecol at 2:11 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really only like to be around people if there is a good reason for it; at school requires classmates and teachers; work requires people to assist; parades and riots require lots of people doing ridiculous shit, etc.

Being me definitely does not require being around people, and I feel much less like me if I have to live with people. Animals are another story. I could probably live with a herd of deer in my house and be just peachy.
posted by moneyjane at 2:11 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


One year of living alone during college was all I could stand. I rented a small apartment in one of these student apartment complexes that schools build for seniors and graduate students unwilling to locate off campus. The benefits of solitary living were all there – at-will nakedness, loud annoying music, dishes can pile up for days. My apartment transformed from a living space into a libidinous wasteland of sloth. Visits from friends became strangely violating experiences, as people I admired saw me at my worst. The deluge of filth unleashed in the absence of some judging other began to consume my place of rest. I had become my own terrible roommate.
posted by deathpanels at 2:28 AM on February 26, 2012 [30 favorites]


How apropos, my wife and daughter went to Italy for three weeks.

I think my biggest quirk is doing a lot of cleaning that couldn't be done with a toddler running around. Also the no meals thing rings true - so much easier to graze while solo - though I do miss my family dinners.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 2:39 AM on February 26, 2012


That's not a quirk of living alone, that's just stupidity.

Well, let's agree on careless.

My solo living is not that different from living with a roommate, except my "common space" tends to get a bit more cluttered (or that may just be a function of my recent lack of closets in my apartments -- wtf New England?). I am a fairly clean person, so I do the dishes before going to bed, sweep and mop and do laundry regularly, etc.

What I do find interesting is the holiday gatherings over the last few years have gotten less -- not enjoyable, really, I generally like my family -- but there is a layer of stress having to pay attention to other people's needs all the time. There are times when, after a long day, I get home and decide "fuck it; it's peanut butter toast for dinner; I can't bear to cook." You can't do that when 4 members of your family have to be fed as well. I can't just throw on episode 42 of a 50-part Chinese martial arts TV series, since explaining what the hell is going on will take longer than the running time.

Thank heavens they all sleep in, so I can get up at 6am and have some solitary time, or there would be blood in the water by nightfall. I'd feel bad afterwards, of course, I like my family. But too much togetherness is, well, too much.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:23 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


During the one year of my life that I lived alone, I somehow fell into a habit of arranging all my belongings in what looked like little decorative shrines all over the house. As in all the pieces of a broken plate I had dropped accidentally arranged on the living room floor in concentric circles around a little dish of salt with a single dead beetle propped upright in it, for example.

It didn't help that I was living on the attic floor of this very isolated Victorian house midway between the two towns I needed to be in, so nobody ever ever visited the place but me. It wasn't until someone came over to help me move out that I really looked at the place and made the realization that that was sort of, you know, wrong.


Also there turned out to be teeth marks in the brick of ice cream in the freezer.
posted by ook at 4:50 AM on February 26, 2012 [29 favorites]


I'd imagine forgetting your skirt makes an argument for the comfort of skirts over pants. I'd never forget my pants, but you know it when your wearing pants.

There is also the fact that pants contain wallet, keys, and phone, which skirts do not. I've never understood why women don't buy skirts with pockets more often.

I should buy a kilt since I've recently moved to Scotland, but preferably a kilt with pockets, a sporran goes too far.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:57 AM on February 26, 2012


And obligatory forever alone.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:07 AM on February 26, 2012


Living alone, I found I lapsed into every possible bad eating habit there was. As a student, I had limited money, so I had to buy frugally and make it last the week - in Ireland, that meant living mostly on potatoes, hummus, toast, eggs and soup since those things were cheapest. As a working person, living alone, I could buy whatever the hell I wanted and eat it, knowing that I could always go back to the store.

After Bonehead and I moved in together, suddenly cooking a meal, packing lunches, etc., became a much bigger deal and I was forced to think healthier. I'm now (slowly) starting to come around to smaller portions at dinner time, which means less impulse buying at the grocery store and judicious fruit and vegetable purchases.

Living alone was worse for my waistline than pretty much anything else in my life.
posted by LN at 5:08 AM on February 26, 2012


I have to admit, I'm more like Chad. Since 1981 I've spent about a year and a half living alone. I need my space, but living alone just didn't work for me.
posted by freakazoid at 5:32 AM on February 26, 2012


The mention of solo eating reminded me of Laurie Colwin's essay "Alone In The Kitchen With An Eggplant," her ode to solo cooking. It's not a "buck up, little camper, you can make duck a l'orange for yourself just like grownups!" kind of thing -- it's a memoir about the completely weird meals she made for herself while she was single and just out of college, and the freedom she felt to spontaneously decide, "hmm - I've got an eggplant....I've got peanut butter....maybe a peanut-butter-and-eggplant sandwich? Let's see what that's like."

I've had roommates, but the last couple have often left me alone for long stretches of time to go visit boyfriends; so I was often free to make my own dinners out of leftover rice and weird cheese and random condiments. I've made lots of meals out of "I have these two completely separate leftover dishes that technically don't go together, but who cares." I've also baked eggs in all sorts of weird things, made odd soups, and sometimes eaten nothing but a pound of raw peas (they were FRESH peas from the CSA which i'd just gotten that day which means omigod so fresh and i don't want to taste anything else because FRESH PEAS OMIGOD YAY). And no one looks at me funny when I do. I don't do the living-on-cereal thing at all (okay, once in a blue moon), but I do love the freedom of listening to my own self and what I want for a given meal (nothing but peas!) rather than worrying about whether it's proper (oh, okay, I guess I can get some meat and rice too...sigh...)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 AM on February 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I lived alone for a summer during college when my roommate couldn't find a subletter for his half of the apartment. Things I enjoyed: not wearing pants, showering with the door open so as not to fog up the mirror, cooking the same thing for dinner almost every night -- scrambled eggs with a bit of goat cheese, a whole green pepper, and a sweet potato.


Things I did not enjoy so much: You know that 30 Rock episode where Jack says, "I would think that the single woman's biggest worry would be choking to death in her apartment"? That struck a little close to home because I thought about that at every meal.

Also, I lived in a creaky old apartment and with no roommate around to blame the strange night noises on, I was constantly jumpy about burglars and vampires. (I watched a LOT of Buffy that summer.)
posted by coppermoss at 5:34 AM on February 26, 2012


I wish the author had explored gender differences in living alone. Interesting that it is mostly women interviewed for the article. I remember reading some studies a few years ago, that stated something like that women's health did not change when living alone - whereas, men's well-being descreased.

I sometimes think women's joy in living alone is our secret rebellion - stemming from years and years of being forced into relationships.
posted by what's her name at 5:48 AM on February 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


I haven't had roommates since 1993--and the situations that some of my younger co-workers describe, with their multiple housemates, make me realize how lucky I am. In the last 20 years, my primary live-in partner was my now-ex husband, but he moved out in 2006. Most recently there was a disastrous 18-month live-in trial (and I mean it was a goddamn trial) with a man whose lifestyle pretty much had nothing in common with my regular-to-bed, regular-to-work, bike-oriented life.

I now have a hard-won appreciation of the joys and even the occasional sorrows of living solo. After a day of constantly ringing phones, and other chaos, in a office where there is no alone time, no privacy whatsoever (other than the bathroom), coming home to my apartment is a relief. Unlike many of the people in the Times story, I cook, I keep regular hours, and I clean. The shoes tend to gather by the hallway, but I herd them back into the closet periodically.

Or on preview, what what's her name said.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:00 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My apartment transformed from a living space into a libidinous wasteland of sloth. Visits from friends became strangely violating experiences, as people I admired saw me at my worst. The deluge of filth unleashed in the absence of some judging other began to consume my place of rest. I had become my own terrible roommate.

Oh my god, you've been in my house, haven't you??!?
posted by gjc at 6:04 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember reading some studies a few years ago, that stated something like that women's health did not change when living alone - whereas, men's well-being descreased.

Wasn't it more that mens' health and life expectancy went up if in a long term, living together relationship?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:11 AM on February 26, 2012


God, I have the opposite experience from a lot of you. I function so much better when I can do every single thing my own way.

I get up early instead of staying in bed to hide from everyone. I eat properly, make elaborate feasts for myself any night I feel like it, and then clean the kitchen and wash all the dishes before bed - and enjoy it, too, because everything is according to my insane little rules (e.g. having 3 different sponges in rotation at all times - absolutely no benefit to explaining what for). I organise my spices, lipsticks, and underwear in ways I would be ashamed to try to articulate. I sweep, mop, and recycle. I get down on my knees to defrost my minifridge and scrub my shower. I always, always take my makeup off at night. It's awesome.

I really love my family, they're wonderful, but when we live together, it's a disaster. My apartment is clean, and I've noticed that when I go home after having been away, my mother's house is gorgeous. But once I've been back for a week, the place is a mess. We just end up getting in the way of each other's doing whatever it is we do to keep things/ourselves in order. And we get fat, because even though when we're apart, we only eat occasionally, her occasionally and my occasionally stack up so there's always food around. (Plus, I confess, I sometimes end up eating food when I don't really want it just in case she gets to it first.) Then my sister comes home, and everything gets twice as bad because though she is a darling, a beauty, and a genius, she is a genuinely untidy human person. Living apart from them feels like the only way for me to be an adult. I have no idea what will happen if I ever try to live with other people.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:13 AM on February 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Visits from friends became strangely violating experiences, as people I admired saw me at my worst.

Oh god, this. I've lived alone before, but had girlfriends/friends that visited at least and that kept me from going where i am now. Eight years or so now and i dread anyone coming in. When you go years without anyone else (couple repair people as needed though) stepping through the door, and have depression, lets just say things get, awkward. Four years ago a very good friend visited for a couple days, and it was kind of a disaster. I kept feeling i had to "entertain" her, break my "eat when hungry, what i want" thing, and all that. She was my best and closest friend, and it was rough, even without the major stuff she was going through. When i hear someone is coming, i get panicky, even my parents, who know me at my worst anyway. Even worse is when other family comes with kids, gotta remember to hid "inappropriate" materials, and no matter how much i try, i keep missing at least one.

I know people who have never lived alone, and i think that's worse, not having experienced each side. You never know how you will react in those situations.

I sometimes think women's joy in living alone is our secret rebellion - stemming from years and years of being forced into relationships.

My ex was the opposite of that i believe. She talked about that a lot, but never lived alone a day in her life. Serial live in relationships, live with parents mostly between that or several roommates (never just one other, but several). Not making a judgement here, just noting that there are sometimes more things going on than what they feel their reasons are.
posted by usagizero at 6:35 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"fuck it; it's peanut butter toast for dinner; I can't bear to cook." You can't do that when 4 members of your family have to be fed as well.

Let me intrroduce you to a little something I call "franks and beans."
posted by escabeche at 6:35 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


A place where you live, but cannot fart at will, is not actually your home.
posted by escabeche at 6:36 AM on February 26, 2012 [25 favorites]


"Don't tell anyone how i live!'
posted by empath at 6:49 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am drawing a blank on the mystery (or police procedural) novelist whose hero was a bachelor and he ate all of his meals alone at home standing over his kitchen sink.

The weirdest thing I do is I keep all my garbage in the freezer to discourage cockroach infestation.
posted by bukvich at 6:50 AM on February 26, 2012


I've lived alone for about 16 years. I was just joking with friends yesterday (also longtime singletons) that I have totally spoiled myself for ever living with a boyfriend. I do eat regular meals - although I've gone for long periods relying on takeout. I have a theory that if I lived with someone, I'd be skinnier because there'd be someone to look askance when I go back for a second helping or sit down on the couch with a bag of chips. Of course they would probably also judge me for all my comic books.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:57 AM on February 26, 2012


While I long for alone time on a frequent basis these days, living alone always stopped being fun around the two month mark for me. I get bored with myself and a clean quiet apartment loses its appeal.
posted by emjaybee at 7:01 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My best friend has lived alone pretty much all his adult life, and usually works from home on a sporadic timetable, and I have worried about him for as long as I have known him ("But what if you slip and get trapped under something and die and no-one finds you until the smell gets horrible?"). I should probably stop that.
posted by subbes at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2012


I haven't truly lived alone, but have had many periods in time where I had the whole place to myself. In fact, I just recently had a friend move out and finally spent my first night alone in a long time. Best.fucking.thing.ever! It was awesome! I made a frozen pizza, I had nothing to do as far as school work was concerned, and enjoyed my evening smoking pot on the couch while catching up on tv shows.

While I really do enjoy being alone, living with people is an enjoyable exercise/experiment. It can be nice to socialize, and have someone share responsibilities of a place. Its also refreshing to have norms imposed based on a communal area. Another thing is learning about other peoples quirks. I don't think anyone knows someone until they have really lived with them. My friend who just moved out for example had some very odd, and somewhat antisocial behaviors, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Soon my periods of alone will be hampered for a time being, another friend is moving in, and the whole social experiment starts again.
posted by handbanana at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2012


Okay, there is something I don't understand here: why does living with people (other than children for whom you are responsible) mean that you can't eat what you like? Surely you aren't living with housemates who get really judgey about what you eat? And these would be grown-ups? Plus, I have three housemates and I barely even see them because we all have slightly different schedules.

Seriously, I've found that establishing firm boundaries with housemates and selecting only introverts (plus renting a whole house together rather than an apartment) gives many of the benefits of living alone plus the "someone to make sure you get to the ER rather than dying on the floor" aspect.

I was puzzled by this whole article, in fact, because of the low level of eccentricity described. If I had to live by myself to sing in the shower, occasionally burst into a foreign language and have toast for dinner when I felt too beat to cook...I'd, I'd...well, my life would have become a sad little thing.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yeah, for some of us it's definitely good that we don't live alone. I know that I would end up spending virtually all of my time sitting fully clothed in an empty bathtub chain smoking, eating General Tso's chicken, and playing Heroes of Might and Magic III on my laptop (honestly this sounds totally awesome to me but it's probably not good for it to be the ONLY thing I ever do).

As it is living with my amazing husband (and we have a very tolerable roommate who is a good friend) I have someone who cooks me meals, cleans up/does laundry, cheers me up when I am down, ensures that I only smoke outside so it doesn't smell like hell in here, and listens to my ridiculous theories (I know why I married HIM; I have asked him why he married me and what I bring to the table but so far I have not yet received a satisfactory answer).

In some ways I would like living along and I totally see how it's great for a lot of people but it also works nicely to live with people who support you when you decide, at 10:30 on a Saturday night, to watch all the Star Wars movies or play Mortal Kombat until seven am or whatever. Having a partner/roommates doesn't necessarily mean living like a traditional grownup, it can just help you curb your worst impulses and support your awesomest ones.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:39 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The article implies that indulging ones eccentricities is a "peril" of living alone. It's not; it's a perk.

The real peril of living alone is the social isolation. This may not be such a big deal if you get up and go to an office every day, or if you have an active social life. But if you live alone and work at home and aren't generally sociable... that seems to be a recipe for depression, even for loners.
posted by kira at 8:00 AM on February 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


why does living with people (other than children for whom you are responsible) mean that you can't eat what you like? Surely you aren't living with housemates who get really judgey about what you eat? And these would be grown-ups?

There are some eccentricities about us that we consider so private that even if you intellectually knew that the people around you would be okay seeing it, you...still don't want them to see it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


why does living with people (other than children for whom you are responsible) mean that you can't eat what you like? Surely you aren't living with housemates who get really judgey about what you eat? And these would be grown-ups?

Oh hell yes. Think of the people who glare at you for eating cake at work, except now you live with those people. Ugh. Now, the worst of my judge-y roommates were when I was in the dorms so cooking at home wasn't an issue, but they would still dissect the caloric content of every meal in great detail to the point where you wanted to shoot them. I literally DID NOT COOK if other people were at home when I had roommates. If I was starting to get hungry and then a roommate came home, I wouldn't eat. Hell, there was the occasional Moment Of Embarrassment when a roommate came home after I'd screwed up a meal and saw the burned pots soaking in the sink. The last one I had is the only one who saw me use a microwave. So yeah, some people can be really judge-y about your food.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:21 AM on February 26, 2012


In almost fifty years, I've never managed to live without a roommate, spouse or kid around the house to keep me sane. This thread made me think of the line from the Odd Couple, "Oscar, when I first came to live with you I found you huddled in the kitchen eating gray spagetti with tweezers!"
posted by octothorpe at 8:32 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me intrroduce you to a little something I call "franks and beans."

Eh, when my family gets together, it turns into a sort of extended cooking contest -- definitely cooperative, but the goal is to impress with deliciousness and technique. This pretty much means:

a) The day's cycle becomes prep, cook, eat, clean up, prep, cook, eat, clean up...

b) If you are at someone else's house, you are constantly trying to figure out where things are (or, at my mom's, since she has considerably simplified her life, worrying about whether you need to stop and clean something in the middle of cooking). This may mean deputizing a nearby family member (we are mostly willing to help, thankfully; there may be a new technique or recipe to learn).

c) If they are at your house, you never get any peace because they are always asking where stuff is when your kitchen is laid out with perfect logic.

It's a hard life, but there is often some cake.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:33 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Re: the fart comments

I'm pretty sure my mother has never laughed as hard as when after 1.5 years of living together I broke up with the guy I'd been dating since college and struck out on my own, and after a couple of months on my own when she asked me how I was adjusting to living alone, I said "my GOD is it nice to be able to fart in my own bed!"
posted by olinerd at 8:52 AM on February 26, 2012


Being me definitely does not require being around people

This may be the best definition of an introvert that I've ever seen.
posted by entropyiswinning at 9:03 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of the reasons I stayed in a bad marriage far longer than was good for me was I feared I couldn't deal with living alone. Now, after 25 years of marriage I have been on my own the last few years and I LOVE it. I can't imagine ever living with someone again. I own a duplex and rent out the other side to a dear friend who is practically my sister and her husband, and I find that's as close to living with someone as I want to get. We can socialize, eat dinner together,etc, then everyone goes home and closes their own door. Perfect!
posted by pbrim at 9:10 AM on February 26, 2012


oh god people touching my stuff DO NOT WANT GO AWAY STUFF TOUCHERS. I can barely let the Fresh Direct delivery guys into my house and they are bringing me noms.

thb this has little to do with being single or not and more to do with the fact that I hate people.
posted by elizardbits at 9:17 AM on February 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


I like a house with 'life' in it.

I just realized that I have made some tiny efforts at adding this component to my happy, solitary, domicile (in a pet free apartment). I can actually take care of plants now, and do. And I have put some effort into making the place look warm and fun to be in. But I had not thought of my habit of putting heroclix figures, paper models and toy cars in (hopefully) clever places around the place as an attempt at adding 'life' to it. But it may well be just that.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:29 AM on February 26, 2012


One thing that bothered me about roommates was how they always left their goddamn dirty dishes in the sink. Why couldn't they do all their dishes after every meal, like I did?

Then I got my own apartment... and somehow the sink usually had dirty dishes in it. I owe those roommates an apology.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:31 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've lived alone for years and I'm quite bonkers there. It seems right and proper.
posted by Decani at 9:49 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find it totally worth it to pay the extra rent to be able to live alone, and I agree with a lot of what the other people have said, except for the 'becoming a sloth' bit.
When you have your own place, you own it. I do my dishes because I created the mess (no cleaning other people's stuff), I sweep and do laundry and tidy up because it was me that caused the mess. But most of all, I keep my place clean because it encourages me to invite people over, as not to become a total hermit. Have people over whenever you want! But they don't stay. Noooo, they go home.
I've never been cleaner than when I started living alone.
posted by hillabeans at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


A theme song for all of us who have ever lived alone.
posted by Philofacts at 11:09 AM on February 26, 2012


The allusion to peanut butter reminds me of a particular instance of an awkward moment which has occurred with every woman I've lived with, when they start to realize how much I am actually eating.

The woman in question, who is now my best friend and business partner more than 25 years later, brought it up just last week after I was complaining about food prices: 'don't whine to me, jamjam-- I know you. I'll never forget coming down the stairs in the middle of the night and finding you sitting at the kitchen table with a jar of honey, a jar of peanut butter, and three baguettes!"

It was only two baguettes and a little after midnight, and I counted myself fortunate she hadn't noticed the cube of butter, but I didn't correct her, possibly because I was missing baguettes and peanut butter too intensely, neither of which I can eat any longer.
posted by jamjam at 11:26 AM on February 26, 2012


I love peanuts and hate peanut butter. Maybe I do not know what the right brand is. I know it ain't jif or skippy.
posted by bukvich at 11:40 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, living alone has an impact on diet. Living alone means I can cook fish with impunity. I can eat all manner of stinky, fermented foods. I can combine the two with all the garlic in the world, covered in fish sauce, soaking in shrimp paste.* That is the smell of happiness.

*For demonstration only. Do not actually do this.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:55 AM on February 26, 2012


This article was just insane. These eccentricities people describe seem to come out of a kind of 1950's morality. "When nobody is around, I pee with the door open!" That's your big secret??!?! Solitude brings out a lot worse in those of us who don't have the amazing New York lives of the people in this article. How about something like "I live alone, so nobody criticizes me when I drink two bottles of wine on a Friday night and eat two pints of ice cream out of the container." To reveal that the most naked part of yourself, the part that you wish to hide from others is so absolutely tame is a kind of bragging. "I live alone, so nobody can criticize me for bringing home prostitutes...for watching porn all day." Gad. That is what living alone is for many of us.

"I live alone because I can't get my life together and I'm embarrassed to be around anyone else." "I live alone because I'm 35, I don't have a partner, and having a roommate is too sad." What about something like this? Living alone as a symptom of depression, failure...withdrawing from life.

Bah. That they're writing this article about how living alone is OK in 2012 is just nuts. There was a time where there enough housing available for single people in most neighborhoods. This article seems more to fit this time period more appropriately.

AND: “I literally have zero self-control" is a dodgy use of the word 'literally.' I wish the Times would take a firmer stance against the use of the word.

Sorry for the rant, folks, something about this article just inspires a multidirectional bugout.
posted by shushufindi at 11:55 AM on February 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


This peanut butter, it vibrates?
posted by infini at 11:56 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love peanuts and hate peanut butter. Maybe I do not know what the right brand is.

Get the type with just peanuts - quite often it's marketed as 'old fashioned style'. The regular Skippy etc. has tons of sugar and stuff added. The stuff with just peanuts is exactly that - just crushed oily peanuts. Quite different and much more peanutty. I think all the major brands make one.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:09 PM on February 26, 2012


The biggest thing I've noticed after a dozen years of living alone? My apartment has two levels of clean:

Friends Are Coming Over clean, and Mom Is Coming Over clean.
posted by Cyrano at 12:26 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


You forgot the third "Nobody's due to come over this weekend" "clean"
posted by infini at 12:27 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


This may be the best definition of an introvert that I've ever seen.

I agree...and I think there's a big misunderstanding about introverts and living alone. I would describe myself as being quite introverted, in that I often have to step out of my comfort zone around people that I don't know - a big nightmare for me is the 'business mingler' where I know nobody and I'm forced to make small talk and introduce myself to others.

I do, however, get along very well with others when I know even some people around me well. I'm happy to share space with people I feel comfortable with. With people you know well, there's no need for you to be anything other than yourself. When you live alone, I think you need much more to reach out to people more often. This can be much harder for an introvert to do, which is why (in my case) I didn't like living alone.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:29 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Also, as much as I think people who wear cell phone earpieces in their ears all day long are total asslords, their emergence has made Those of Us Who Talk To Themselves A Lot Because We've Lived Alone Forever look plausibly less silly as we ramble on to ourselves in our cars. Because, hey, the earpiece might be on the ear you can't see...)
posted by Cyrano at 12:31 PM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


This article was a weird read for me. I've never lived alone in my entire life and have no plans to start, but I do a lot of the supposedly eccentric things these people do. I feel like a lot of them have never lived with a long-term partner and don't realize that when you're with someone around whom you're comfortable, you can still leave the door to the head open even when they're home. Sure, you may be razzed about the ghastly smell of the project you've been working on in there, but who cares?
posted by troublesome at 12:49 PM on February 26, 2012


I never know what to make of these sorts of people and articles like this. There's this weird, unspoken "so THERE!" to their excited discussions of drinking milk from the carton or peeing with the door open. "Tee hee, I don't pick up my clothes and you can't make me!"

I mean sure, it's exciting when you first move out of your folks's place, but eventually you just are who you are. Watching cartoons and eating cereal for dinner when you're 30 isn't unique and rebellious, it's not a sign of being 'pathetic' either, it's just different shit people do. I guess I'm glad that people eventually figure out that the judgment of others isn't all that damning or important, but when it takes the form of a 40 year old buying a Batman shirt like "WHO'S GONNA STOP ME?!" it just makes me wonder what their upbringing was like.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:56 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure, you may be razzed about the ghastly smell of the project you've been working on in there, but who cares?

#1 is generally a door-open experience around people you're comfortable with. For aesthetic reasons alone, though, #2 should be a closed-door experience for all involved.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:57 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Friends Are Coming Over clean, and Mom Is Coming Over clean.

no way dude. there's "my landlord wants to show the apartment before i move Clean" and "i don't want bugs so i will clean every once in a while Clean".
posted by elizardbits at 2:32 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


shit people do. I guess I'm glad that people eventually figure out that the judgment of others isn't all that damning or important, but when it takes the form of a 40 year old buying a Batman shirt like "WHO'S GONNA STOP ME?!" it just makes me wonder what their upbringing was like.

I actually am wearing a batman shirt today. And am 39. Are you watching my house?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 3:12 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am. And so long as we're being honest, you should stand up straighter- your posture is atrocious!
posted by hincandenza at 3:52 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would end up spending virtually all of my time sitting fully clothed in an empty bathtub chain smoking, eating General Tso's chicken, and playing Heroes of Might and Magic III on my laptop

This paints a repugnant and frankly unlikely picture. HoMM VI has shipped and you're still playing III? Where did you even find a laptop that would run it?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:50 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


joe lisboa: "Points gained: Referring to your partner with the non-gendered "they."

Points lost: Referring to your partner as just another object in your metaphorical backpack, hence objectifying him/her.

DECISION: Draw.
"

FINISH THEM!
posted by Samizdata at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


escabeche: ""fuck it; it's peanut butter toast for dinner; I can't bear to cook." You can't do that when 4 members of your family have to be fed as well.

Let me intrroduce you to a little something I call "franks and beans."
"

Yup. And here they are...

(zipping noise)

Need more sauce?
posted by Samizdata at 7:03 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Happiness is about hearing your partner snore, or yell at the Oscars...

Not farting in a studio apartment by yourself!

This article goes against the conception of happiness that have humans have basically held since the beginning of recorded history.

The lies The Times dares to print!
posted by shushufindi at 8:18 PM on February 26, 2012


On the plus side, they deserve huge props for not using the word "quirkyalone", despite interviewing Sasha Cagen.
posted by No-sword at 10:01 PM on February 26, 2012


The first thing I do when I come home is take off all
my clothes. Getting dressed as become an unpleasant chore.
I no longer like the way clothes feel on my body.


I actually just joined a gym, after spending quite a long time exercising at home (where I live alone). It's weird as hell to have to put on clothes to exercise now, and get that fabric all sweaty and gross instead of just letting my perspiration evaporate into the air like the gods intended. The ancient Greeks had it right, man; dicks out, raw as hell, sippin straight hemlock.

NYTimes I am available for interviews
posted by Greg Nog at 5:10 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've lived alone for the 60-70% of my adult life, I love it, and I don't really get why this is a big deal. I'm equally tidy, healthy, and not-depressed either way. It's just weird to me to need other people around to keep tabs on your nutrition or cleanliness (or if you're wearing a skirt/pants before you leave the house - wtf?) or entertain you in day to day life...I mean, as an adult, aren't those things something you can do without outside interference? If anything, it seems like you need to live alone *longer* until you can self-regulate these things and enjoy your own company.

Of course, now that I've typed that, I've realized that this is exactly how I hate extroverts to talk to me, but in reverse..."What do you mean parties and crowds are draining? You just need to go to more of them and interact with more people and be more like me!"

(Disclaimer: I currently have an unwanted roommate and am probably overly bitter over the loss of privacy and minor annoyances. Then again, to get away from my not-my-own-any-more house, I go stay in busy, people-filled houses, so, eh. I am not all that logical.)
posted by wending my way at 8:12 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


So when I posted earlier in this thread I expected there were going to be a bunch of stories here, in contrast to the article, of people turning really weird or eccentric while living alone.

But seriously? Staying up late, smoking pot and playing video games, exercising naked, eating peanut butter out of the jar, porn, and peeing with the door open is as adventurous as people get? That's not eccentric... that's Tuesday.

please someone reassure me I'm not the only one who went kinda unabomberish when living alone; this is not doing good things to my sense of self
posted by ook at 10:02 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


ook: I don't suppose pretending you've just won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and rehearsing your speech in your living room counts?...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2012


That depends: did you dress up for it?
posted by ook at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


NYTimes I am available for interviews

Greg Nog, I think I speak for most of Metafilter when I say that regular interviews with you would pretty much save the New York Times for me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:08 AM on February 28, 2012


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