The Art of Living Alone

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Candlesticks. Photo by Amy Main, at her house, 2010

I’ve lived alone for nine years now. That’s nine years of leaving the door open when I go to the bathroom, of letting dishes accumulate in the sink until I can smell them, of doing lingerie pilates in my living room while watching Game of Thrones at unreasonable volumes. It’s almost a decade of coming home from nights out to nothing but my fridge and my computer, and crying or dancing or Reese’s Peanut Butter cup eating by my lonesome at 2 in the morning. It’s nine years of paying bills solo, of grocery shopping for one, of having no one to blame but myself for the dead grass and wilted plants in my yard. It’s a third of my life spent sleeping alone under a roof, of having quiet when I want it, of not having to answer to anyone. It’s nine years of learning to live with myself, and only myself.

In the beginning, living alone wasn’t so much of a choice as something I fell into. In fact, my time in LA actually started off with a flurry of roommates. First, there was the chronically high chick I shared a bunkbed with at a USC fraternity for a summer. This was just as awful as it sounds: three months of being accosted with inane questions like “Have you ever tried Flaming Hot Cheetos?” and being kept awake by bros cheering over beer pong victories at 4am.* This was followed by my freshman year roommate, a lovely laid back Hawaiian girl I occasionally hung out with and easily co-existed with in a spacious “dorm” room at the Radisson. After I dropped out of USC, I temporarily couch crashed with a fellow film student in West Hollywood (an experience I pray never to have to repeat, although she was wonderful), and subsequently found one of those ugly, white, wall-to-wall carpeted 2br/2ba apartments near the Rock ‘N Roll Ralph’s. This ended up being a boring, complicated disaster, but suffice it to say this living situation lasted less than two months and ended with me getting screwed out of a refrigerator and mattress. Finally, I ended up down at an incredible two story townhouse on the Promenade with balconies and a view of the ocean for a criminal $500 a month, only to have the girl who invited me into this heavenly situation move out a week later. Luckily for me, her parents decided to hold onto the place a year longer with me essentially playing house sitter, and thus after 15 months and 5 moves, I was introduced to the joy and simplicity of not having roommates. The rest is nine years of history.

* * * * * *

When people find out how long I’ve been living alone, I’m usually met with one of two responses: “Wow, that must be so wonderful” or “Ugh, that must be so lonely.” I tend to lean towards the first, obviously, or I wouldn’t have chosen bachelorettedom for so long, but there are pros and cons to this style of living. As with so many things in life, each positive can also be a negative, each weakness a strength. For instance, living alone has taught me to be fiercely independent and comfortable in my own skin, but it’s also made me uneasy navigating other people’s spaces. I often find myself unsure of the etiquette when staying at someone else’s place, or even hosting a guest at my bungalow. Growing up in a house with my parents and my brother and only one full bathroom I certainly knew how to share space, but it’s an art I seemed to have lost (and one I will need to relearn if I am to achieve a couple of key future goals).

For me, the biggest pro of solo living is the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want, without the distraction of another human being within my space. I find this especially important as a writer and artist, because my creativity necessitates solitude. Yes, I work in a collaborative medium (film/tv/commercials), but most of the hours I put into my craft are spent in the confines of my own mind. I write and work on stories almost exclusively at my house, and I find it exceedingly difficult to get anything done when other people are around. Other advantages include but are not limited to: being able to scrub the kitchen floor naked; not having to rely on another person to get a rent check in on time; being able to leave underwear everywhere; not having to remember what stuff in the fridge belongs to you; not having to listen to somebody else have sex.**

Judging from people’s responses, the biggest con of living alone would appear to be loneliness. While I occasionally feel lonely, it’s not because of a lack of a roommate, but rather a longing for intimacy, mostly in the form of a healthy romantic relationship. Conversely, I’m around people so much in my day to day activities as an Angeleno that I find the solitude essential, a respite from the constant social bombardment of 4 million counting. No, I would say the biggest downside is not having a larger space. Two or more people = more rent money = more square footage. I love my bungalow, but I wouldn’t mind being able to host a dinner party, or walking into a closet, or installing a pole in the living room. By the same token, it would be nice to have someone to split the bills with (I might actually consider getting cable) and to divide up the chores (maybe I would still have grass). And of course, there’s the socialization aspect I mentioned above: I feel woefully ill-prepared for any future co-habitating (apologies in advance, Mr. Right.)

* * * * * *

October 1st marks my 8 year anniversary in my Hollywood guest house, longer than most celebrity marriages (my landlady considers me a surrogate granddaughter). I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ll be reaching my 10 year anniversary of residing solo next year without much difficulty, and I feel like that milestone deserves some sort of award- perhaps a PhD in Bachelorettedom, or a radio dedication of “Independent Women.” At any rate, recognition or not, I’ve mastered the Art of Living Alone, and am proud to have achieved this in my 20s. But as I barrel headlong towards my 30s, I have to admit, it might be time for a change. For something just a little less solitary. For just a bit more companionship. Yes, folks, that’s right. It might finally be time for…

A cat.

* Thinking back on that experience now, it seems only natural that I’ve ended up where I have, like something Freud could have predicted in his sleep.
** I realize for some this last one may be a disadvantage, if you’re into that sort of thing. Again, two way streets.

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