A place to dance around naked
My friend Margo and her husband are building a new house. Lucky them! They're at the fun stage now of choosing door knobs and paint colours. She's thrilled with the progress, but over cocktails with the girls the other day, she said if she could do it all over again she'd make one major structural design change: She wants a "transition room" for when she gets home at the end of the day...
…A room between the work day and the evening with her family. A chamber of sorts. A room that is hers alone, where she gets to spend 30 minutes upon arrival, before even saying hello to any children, husbands or house guests. The room would be stocked with a bar fridge for her chardonnay, up to date trashy mags, a fully loaded iPad, and cuddly clothes. We all had a good laugh at that one, mostly because we thought it was a great idea. Who can’t relate to wanting everyone to just GO AWAY for a few minutes?
Over the course of my life, whether I’ve lived with family, roommates, a boyfriend or a husband, I have needed that 30 minutes. Just half an hour before we speak so I can decompress. Don’t ask me what’s for dinner, what to do about the clogged drain and definitely do not ask me about my day. Just don’t speak to me. I’ll give you all the answers – just not for half an hour. This small thing can make all the difference for a happy evening ahead.
I have some other friends, Craig and Nuella, who are in their late 40’s. They have no kids and are getting married for the first time. They will marry this summer in a lakeside ceremony surrounded by supportive friends and family (including me, in a bridesmaid outfit). This is one couple who I think have things figured out. They are together for all the right reasons, so far as I can tell. They know who they are as individuals and they know who they’re marrying. They are both over the moon in love. And they have decided to keep separate residences.
Crazy? I’m not so sure. Sure there’s a bit of shuffling that has to be done, but toothbrushes and clothes are kept in each home. They spend several nights a week together – just not every night. One travels a lot and has a schedule packed with client dinners. The other is on a 9 – 5 schedule, likes a lot of sleep and doesn’t want to eat out during the week. Their weekends are golden time together. Holidays are delicious and time is never taken for granted.
All this has me thinking about the way we live. Now, more than at any other time in our past, more of us are living alone. The numbers in the past 50 years have skyrocketed: Globally, the number has gone up 80% in the last 15 years alone! (Euromonitor International)
And it’s not just kids with their first apartment or newly-widowed seniors. It spans the ages and personal circumstances. Some of it is simple circumstances – widowed, divorced, or what have you. But there is a greater social shift going on – or perhaps experiment is a better word.
The fact is that more of us are CHOOSING to live alone. People are marrying and having children later – or not at all – and that alone leads to more single living. Some statistics show solo living is associated with a higher rate of depression, but there’s a big difference between living along and BEING alone.
Most people who choose to live alone reside in urban centres, lead active lives and have diverse interests and wider social circles than those living in a more traditional set up. I’ve always been attracted to short men, partly because I think they try harder. Same goes for people living alone. I think we try harder to lead balanced lives.
My friend and colleague Heather has been married for 25 years. For most of that time she’s lived in the ‘burbs with her husband and two almost-grown sons. Then a couple of years ago she decided to take an apartment in the city. It’s her own space, where she stays during the week. For her, that apartment is a marriage helper and a personal oasis. She says she and her husband never love each other more than they do when they miss each other.
As humans we are predisposed to seek out contact with others. We are social animals and have always organized our communites around living together. But whether it’s a few minutes of alone time a day, or a few days a week or more than that, the traditional set up is waning.
Living alone requires a different sort of effort. When the quiet becomes deafening, one needs to know where and how to get out and interact, be it through visiting with people you know or just being amongst people at a coffee shop, running group, or neighbourhood park. It requires a certain shift in thinking and extra efforts in certain areas (and less in others), that’s for sure.
Living on your own also requires one to identify her weaknesses and then contract out. Are you a slob by nature? Get a maid. Not so handy? Find a house boyfriend (a guy you can hire by the hour to fix little things. Hopefully he isn’t handsome as it would be a mistake to sleep with this person. Good house boyfriends are very hard to find). And Skype is a wonderful tool when you need a little company.
The coming decades will tell if our social shift in living arrangements will take hold. But something tells me it will. Life just isn’t what it used to be and our original reasoning for marrying and procreating – to work on the family farm – are no longer.
Do not feel sorry for those living alone as some of us believe we’re living large. Consider this: Whereas once being pudgy with alabaster skin was a sign of wealth, now the opposite is true: We wear toned abs, sun kissed and wrinkle-less skin like a badge of the better life. Is choosing to live alone – simply because one can – becoming the ultimate luxury?
Nothing ever stays the same of course, and whether you’re living alone or together now, chances are good that’ll change at some point. And then maybe change again.
Kristina lived alone for the first time at the age of 38. She was nervous about the idea at first, but then she got a dog, looked around her very personally-decorated home with everything exactly in its place, took note of the fact that her boyfriend lives precisely 3 minutes away, and smiled.
There is no perfect set up, obviously. The ability to do whatever I damn well please does get tiresome. And wanting to be with someone so much that you’re willing to live with them ALL the time? Well who doesn’t want to be that much in love?!
That said, the Transition Chamber may offer the best of both worlds. It just might be the best idea I’ve heard in years. What would you put in yours?