The number of single-person households is rising sharply in the UK. I know why this might be, says Guardian subeditor Paul Fleckney
” Hell is other people ,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre in 1944- a quote whose entailing has been the subject of hot debate ever since. Some say it should be taken literally; some clever dicks say it’s more about the loss of identity we suffer via the company of others. But are we absolutely sure he wasn’t referring to his chambre -mate who feed the last of his Cathedral City? Because that is seriously annoying.
We may never know what prompted his existential zinger, but what we do know is that the number of people living alone is rising fast, at least in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, the figure ran up by as much as 16% between 1997 and 2017, and will make 10.7 million people by 2039. That’s a lot of unanswered” honey, I’m home” s. But as someone who lives alone I can attest to the joys of such an arrangement. And so, with apologies to the genuinely brilliant housemates I had for many years, who could reasonably see this as a needlessly passive-aggressive revenge article, and with apologies to my temporary cohabitee, Dan, who is clean, considerate and coherent (” the three Cs “), here are six reasons why living solo is easily the best thing I’ve ever done, bar none 😛 TAGEND
Peace and quiet
Hear that? Exactly. The sound of stillnes. The front door is closed. Now, you can sit back and relax, and listen to the tick-tock of the clock. No responsibilities , no one to answer to. So long as you don’t check your email, your texts, your Twitter …
Houseshare scenario: why is your bag of porridge oats abruptly lighter? Will the culprit cough out the 20 p per 50 g fine as agreed, or will you have to send one of your emails? Why has the CCTV stopped working? These questions are stressful, but they can be eliminated simply by living alone. Plus, you’ll save a fortune in Post-its.
No bad compromises
You want to watch Hollyoaks, they want to watch Morse. You settle on Bergerac. The evening is wasted.
You can truly be yourself
This is where things get really interesting. Who are we really behind closed- door? Exactly the same as out in the big, wide world? Come off it. Kick off your shoes and unleash the full suite of ballads, kitchen jigs, catchphrases and whatnot, safe in the knowledge that, if you’ve got your slants right , no one can see you.
The joy of pets
A wiser man than me said that, with people, you share yourself; with pets, you share your solitude. OK, it may have been a Hallmark card, but either way, it’s pretty good. Living alone is the perfect excuse to get a pet- in my instance, Zelda the cat. And with a pet comes everybody’s favourite type of conversation: the one-sided one.( Quick diversion, but what’s all this about cats knowing what they’re called? Zelda’s a 10/10 cat but there’s absolutely no way she knows her name. Let’s just say she … isn’t overly blessed with cognitive prowess .)
Padding about in the buff is one of life’s great pleasures, don’t@ me. What a dishonor that your average houseshare denies people this. Admittedly, Dan and I like to hang out outside the bathroom and discuss politics or our fantasy football teams, wearing nothing but towelling, but it would be nice to go the whole hog. I’ll have a word with him tomorrow.
But it’s not all rises. And this is where the subject gets necessarily serious. I admit I am in an extremely fortunate position here. I can afford to live alone, and after being in London for 15 years I’ve got absolutely loadings of friends, anything between three and five. The broader reality is that rent is taking ever bigger chunks out of our wage packets, and work is increasingly insecure. So how many trainee curmudgeons like myself would love to live alone but simply don’t have the option?
More important is the issue of isolation. The rise in solo living is only among those aged over 45, in part because of more people being divorced and/ or single. Meanwhile, loneliness among older people is at distressingly high levels, and it appears that knowing your neighbours is a thing of the past. Without wishing to build trite jibes about “the government” and” the modern age”, this is a massive indictment of the government and the modern age. So if anyone comes to mind who accommodates this bill, it may be worth popping round sometimes. Better still, volunteer for Age UK.
There is also a knack to living alone that are applicable to us relative young’ uns too. At what phase does that sweet, sweet independence tip over into isolation, and withdrawal? This sort of thing necessitates constant vigilance and renegotiation, and for people who aren’t strangers to mental health problems, the stakes can be high.
So to describe living alone as a minefield is an understatement. But at least you can watch Morse in peace.
* Paul Fleckney is a Guardian subeditor. He tweets at @fleckaz
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