The Joys and Drawbacks of Living Solo

Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards: A kickass example of happy-living-solo life, TV style

Before I shacked up with my man three years ago, I lived by myself (and two cats) for more than a decade. The truth is, I loved every minute of it. Though I was sometimes lonely and slept with a can of pepper spray nearby, I also felt freer to be "me" than I'd ever been around family or roommates. Don't get me wrong — I also dig cohabitating. But if you're on your own, why not embrace it?

A recent NY Times feature, One is the Quirkiest Number: The Freedom, and Perils, of Living Alone, made me laugh out loud with its depictions of long-term solo dwellers. It's wonderful, the interviewees swore, but it can also lead to oddball indulgences known as "Secret Single Behavior." Example? Eating peanut butter from a jar at 2am. Naked.

Another recent expose on the matter, a new-ish book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, also details the perks and pitfalls.

For me, living alone meant writing until 3 or 4 in the morning without worrying about someone else's alarm clock going off at the crack of dawn. I talked to myself and my perplexed kitties a little too often. I'd spend an entire weekend organizing my closet, not caring that the rest of my teensy apartment was so messy that I couldn't see the floor. I also ate whatever was around for dinner and (I can't believe I'm admitting this in public) didn't put on pants half the time I was home (curtains drawn, natch). I never did the naked late-night peanut butter nosh, but I did plenty of other strange and embarrassing things. I had absolute freedom, after all.

Apparently, I wasn't alone in my happily solo status. According to recent statistics, one in four people lives alone in the U.S. In Manhattan, it's nearly one in two. Those numbers astound me. I wonder if even a fraction of those people appreciate what they've got.

These days, I'm sharing my Seattle bungalow with two cats, a dog and my future hubby. The latter has been extremely patient and understanding as I've learned to adapt to domestic existence around others. That's one of the obvious perils of living alone. Do it long enough and it can be really difficult to change your ways. Quirkiness can become detrimental when someone else has to deal with it.

I still get the occasional solo fix. My fiancé goes out of town a lot for work, sometimes for month-long stretches. One of my editors always sighs wistfully when I mention it. "When I'm alone I eat crackers and cheese in bed," she admits. "It's such a small thing, but it makes me so happy." I can't stand sheet crumbs, but when my man is gone, I tackle home projects with uninhibited zeal. One time I stayed up for almost two days straight to paint our kitchen and living room. I didn't care that I was coated in drips of blue and green or that there were empty bottles and pizza boxes scattered on the floor. Nobody was there to see it.

I enjoy those little interludes, but after a few days I miss my guy terribly. Why? Because I'm still plenty quirky and he wants to live with me anyway. When that's the case, two trumps one.

What about you? Have you ever lived alone for an extended period? If so, what were your guilty pleasures? Did you miss living with others?

(Image: screenshot via Active Rain)

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