The freedom of solitude – is 1 really the loneliest number?


Amy Kennedy runs in place during TV commercials and talks to herself in French

If there is any doubt that we’re living in the age of the individual, a look at the housing data confirms it. For millenniums, people have huddled together, in caves, in mud huts, in split-levels and Cape Cods. But these days, 1 in every 4 American households is occupied by someone living alone; in Manhattan, mythic land of the singleton, the number is nearly 1 in 2.

Lately, along with the compelling statistics, a stealth P.R. campaign seems to be taking place, as though living alone were a political candidate trying to burnish its image. Two notable examples: Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University, recently published “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” a mash note to domestic solipsism, which he calls “an incredible social experiment” that reveals “the human species is developing new ways to live.” And last fall, an Atlantic magazine cover story examined the rise of the single woman, a piece in which the author Kate Bolick fondly invoked the Barbizon Hotel and visited an Amsterdam apartment complex for women committed to living solo…

True, the benefits of living alone are many: freedom to come and go as you please; the space and solitude to recharge in a plugged-in world; kingly or queenly domain over the bed…

In a sense, living alone represents the self let loose. In the absence of what Mr. Klinenberg calls “surveilling eyes,” the solo dweller is free to indulge his or her odder habits — what is sometimes referred to as Secret Single Behavior. Feel like standing naked in your kitchen at 2 a.m., eating peanut butter from the jar? Who’s to know?

Amy Kennedy, 28, a schoolteacher who has a two-bedroom apartment in High Point, N.C., all to herself, calls it living without “social checks and balances.”

The effects are noticeable, she said: “I’ve been living alone for six years, and I’ve gotten quirkier and quirkier…”

What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different — in ways big and small — from the self they present to the world. We all have private selves, of course, but people who live alone spend a good deal more time exploring them…

Ronni Bennett, who is 70 and writes a blog on aging, timegoesby.net, has lived alone for all but 10 or so years of her adult life. She said she has adopted a classic living-alone habit: “I never, ever close the bathroom door.”

The longer she lives alone, she said, the less flexible she becomes — and the less considerate of others’ needs…

RTFA. Beaucoup anecdotes and not a lot of conclusions. Some of these folks think they could re-socialize if they wished to, if it became necessary. Some don’t. Most don’t see any need to find out if they could. I can understand that.

One thought on “The freedom of solitude – is 1 really the loneliest number?

  1. miss joy onewo says:

    from research, i would like to conclude that 1 is not the lonliest number because it means existence of someone/ somebody.

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