Friday, February 24, 2012

Alone Again (Naturally)

Look how quirky and awesome, or awesomely quirky, people who live alone are.  That's the thesis of a recent puff piece from The New York Times titled "The Freedom, and Perils, of Living Alone".  The piece is heavy on the freedom, light on the perils, and uses the words "quirky" and "eccentric" when "slovenly" and "unhealthy" would be better suited.

Early on the writer says,"[T]he benefits of living alone are many: freedom to come and go as you please; the space and solitude to recharge in a plugged-in world; kingly or queenly domain over the bed."  One could add total control of the remote or the freedom to experiment with cooking new dishes.  There are a host of things others could add if one was so inclined.  But instead of continuing this thread, the writer talks to people whose ideas of freedom involve using your dryer as a makeshift dresser, talking to your pets, and using the toilet without closing the bathroom door. One of the people interviewed has a live-in girlfriend, but celebrates when she goes out of town by drinking champagne in the shower at 8 a.m. and eating three meals a day of French bread pizza.  One woman says she'll make "dinner" that's just a sweet potato...and nothing else.

What these folks do in the privacy of their own homes (and in these cases, they really are their own homes) is all fine and dandy, but do they really need vindication from The New York Times?  I've lived alone for a number of years, and, yes, I've done a couple of the things mentioned in the article.  Call me stuffy or anal if you will, but some of these "quirks" I can't stand.  If I don't eat a proper meal, I get hungry and graze (not to mention feel like crap).  When the clothes or dishes are done, I put them in their proper place right away.  I don't leave piles of bills and junk mail and clothes all over the place.  One of the things I like about living alone is that everything is squared away and I know where things are when I look for them.

What of the perils?  The article shares some of the common ones.  Amy Kennedy, a 28-year-old schoolteacher, says the longer she lives alone the less flexible she becomes. Steve Zimmer, a 40-something computer programmer, said he is also conscious of becoming too set in his ways, especially where sleeping is concerned.  But there's no mention of the higher rates of depression for those living alone.  The worries of never "finding someone".  The fact that you could fall, become injured, and not be able to get help for days.  A recent study showed that people under the age of 65 are 21% greater chance of dying, from any cause, than those living with someone.

An article about the pleasures of solo living (of which eating a roasted sweet potato and nothing else for dinner is not one) would be an interesting read.  But to write a puff piece about the joys of doorless bathrooms without either digging into life as an introvert or the downsides associated with living alone is dangerously counterproductive..

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