The Downside of Living Alone
By Tom Purcell
The number of Americans who choose to live alone continues to grow.
So finds a recent Current Population Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to The Washington Post, the survey found that "the proportion of Americans who live alone has grown steadily since the 1920s, increasing from roughly 5 percent then to 27 percent in 2013."
The Post reports the number of men living alone doubled to 12 percent from 1970 to 2012. Some 15 percent of households are comprised of women living alone. In large urban areas, such as Manhattan and Washington, "about half of households have single occupants, and in some neighborhoods the proportion is two-thirds..."
And why are more people living alone? Because they want to. The more their economic means have allowed it, the more people have chosen to get their own digs.
As someone who lives alone, I'm just not so sure this is a good thing.
I compare the way many single people live today with the home in which I grew up. I lived with five sisters, two parents and a dog. Until I was 12, we had only one shower. We had to share and be considerate of others.
This was during the '70s and '80s, when the shag haircut — the long, full Farrah Fawcett hair — was all the rage, which meant my sisters were spending a lot of time washing, conditioning and drying their hair in our only full bathroom.
My poor father spent many of his adult years sitting on his bed in his robe, waiting to get a shower so he could go to work or to the store. His bedroom was at the far end of the house, however. No sooner did he hear the bathroom door open and begin heading down the hallway than he'd hear it slam shut again — someone else going in to get a shower.
The only way I ever got in was by threatening to use my sisters' toothbrushes.
Our house was a chaotic place. Friends, family and neighbors were always coming and going. The doors were never locked. If you set anything you owned on a table, somebody would relocate it and you'd never see it again. And when something broke, which was about a dozen times every day, my sisters blamed me and everyone was happy.
Well, unlike the way I grew up, I live alone now and have total command over my little world. This is not good. Because there is no one to tell me to clean, I follow the P.J. O'Rourke school of thought: I clean my place about once every girlfriend.
You see, because I live alone, most daily activities are all about me and only me. And because so many people are living as I do, I wonder whether more of our population is becoming more isolated and insular.
More of us are coming home to orderly little worlds that have not been disturbed by the presence of other people. We don't hear the sound of a baby crying or a stereo playing. We don't know the scent of cookies being baked as a gift to us. We don't know the chaos or uncertainty that always occurs when you live with creatures as unpredictable as human beings — people who help us escape the narrowness of ourselves.
No, instead we know an orderly little existence. We have total control over every piece of furniture, every ounce of shampoo in the bathroom and every scrap of food in the refrigerator — though I admit I don't toss things out of my refrigerator often enough.
Much like comedian Blake Clark, I had one milk carton in my refrigerator so long, it had a picture of the Lindbergh baby printed on the back of it.
© 2014 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.
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