Going it Alone

As I’ve mentioned before, Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together started what is now a year of non-fiction reading. I received Turkle’s book as a gift for my last birthday, and this year, I got Eric Klinenberg’s Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. I heard about both of them in TIME magazine, and later in other sources. Going Solo appeared in The New Yorker as well as a few other prominent publications in the past few months. The premise intrigued me: a book written about people called Singletons who choose, for one reason or another, to live by themselves.

As a part-time singleton, I wondered if I would find a mirrored image of myself in Klinenberg’s book. My roommate has taken to only sleeping here a couple of nights a week, so most of the time, it really is like I’m living alone. The thought is tempting to me, to continue living alone after we both officially move out of our duplex this summer. I love not living with a TV and being able to sit in silence in the evening. I can run my life on my own schedule, and I never feel like I’m disappointing or disturbing anybody else. I have the freedom to travel without worrying about how my absence will affect anyone else, and I don’t have anyone to fight with about doing the dishes or cleaning up the place. 

Klinenberg profiles several different types of Singletons including young professionals, middle-aged divorcees, and the elderly. For young professionals, he says, living alone is a matter of status, an indication that one is financially successful enough to be on his or her own. For others who are a bit older, there are more elements about being able to maintain a self-reliant lifestyle that is customized to one’s personal tastes and pleasures. As I am reminded by some of our food bank and energy assistance clients at work, the elderly truly are vulnerable to many challenges of life when they are alone, but they would rather have their own place than suffer in a rest home where they typically have little control over their day to day lives.

One argument presented in this book is that since we are all so connected via modern technologies that it is less necessary to interact with people in person, and that time alone is actually a great way to step back from the noise and business of life. Though many people who do not live alone are concerned about Singletons feeling isolated and lonely, the satisfaction that comes with the freedom of living alone tends to erase most of the lonely feelings that might arise. Feeling lonely? Not to fret. Singletons can volunteer, take classes, go to the gym, invite friends over, and go to groups organized via Meetup.com. I thought that it would be much more difficult for me emotionally to be alone so much, but at this point, stepping inside a quiet house in the evening is like taking a deep breath of fresh air. I love having the place to myself, and while I love my friends and family members, sometimes it’s nice to come home and discover that I have the time and space to be alone with my thoughts, my well-stocked kitchen, and my stacks of books waiting to be read.