Me, Myself, and I

I'm terrible at being alone. Terrible. I like being around big crowds of people all the time. My high social needs are actually a family joke. More than a day or two by myself in this house writing and I'm calling up random people whining for a lunch date.  

Jonah, who is my genetic twin, complained that he didn't have any playdates last week. His friends went away on vacation, so the three of us were by ourselves for too long. A friend called him yesterday to find out how he liked his break. He said that he felt like he was in the middle of the ocean and his only friends were the whales. I guess Ian and I were the whales. 

Two recent articles consider loneliness and single life. 

The Atlantic has just published an in-depth report on the subject that starts with explaining how loneliness has become an epidemic, with more Americans than ever living alone (27 percent) and a staggering 25 percent of Americans in 2010 saying they have no one to confide in — an increase from 10 percent in 1985. The author, Stephen Marche, wonders whether Facebook is contributing our lonliness. 

In the New Yorker, Nathan Heller wonders why so many Americans live by themselves. 

Klinenberg’s data suggested that single living was not a social aberration but an inevitable outgrowth of mainstream liberal values. Women’s liberation, widespread urbanization, communications technology, and increased longevity—these four trends lend our era its cultural contours, and each gives rise to solo living. Women facing less pressure to stick to child care and housework can pursue careers, marry and conceive when they please, and divorce if they’re unhappy. The “communications revolution” that began with the telephone and continues with Facebook helps dissolve the boundary between social life and isolation. Urban culture caters heavily to autonomous singles, both in its social diversity and in its amenities: gyms, coffee shops, food deliveries, laundromats, and the like ease solo subsistence. Age, thanks to the uneven advances of modern medicine, makes loners of people who have not previously lived by themselves. By 2000, sixty-two per cent of the widowed elderly were living by themselves, a figure that’s unlikely to fall anytime soon.

I'm not sure that the growing single-ness of America is really a problem. I mean, for me, it would be a problem, but I recognize that I'm a freak. 


6 thoughts on “Me, Myself, and I

  1. I often fantasize about going off to a 1 room cabin on Cape Cod for the summer. As long as I have net access, I’ll be good–or so I think. What I really want to get away from is the constant *needing*. Everyone wants something from me. I just want to be away from all that sometimes. But people? I like people. I chat up people everywhere I go, much to my kids’ dismay.

  2. I tell myself that I am a total introvert and would love to spend weeks alone with no one to disturb me.
    In fact, I have no idea since I don’t think I’ve ever actually been alone for more than, say, a long weekend in my whole life — from living with my parents to college roommates to post-college roommates to marriage to marriage with children — put me in a cabin in Maine for a week and it may turn out that I’m a party animal.

  3. I grew up as an only child and have spent long periods of time living by myself in another country. I can happily go a whole weekend not speaking to anyone. I get antsy if I’ve gone a whole day without being able to be alone or be silent for 10 minutes. While this gets on my kids’ nerves, I think it means no one will have to worry about me when I am an old lady.

  4. The number of single households could also be an over-estimation, because I imagine not a few couples prefer to keep their own residences, even though they may spend most of their time together. As anecdata, my mother has a long-term partner who stays over 5-6 nights a week, however they both own separate residences. After being single for a long time and experiencing two deaths and one divorce of previous partners, my mother wasn’t willing to merge households and assets again, but she is basically in a permanent full-time relationship. I imagine among baby boomers with 2nd or 3rd (or more) partners this isn’t uncommon, and it might be common for young high earning professionals, particularly if they both already owned houses, or for couples for whom distance makes it easier for them to each have their own place. Maybe it’s not a huge number, but I bet it’s not completely insignificant.

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